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May 09, 2011

Dr. Bob Shipp

The bigeye earns its name.Q: Guess my kingfish jig dropped too close to a reef off Fort Lauderdale last winter, 'cause it came up with this beautiful little fish hanging on. I understand it's something called a "bigeye," but that's as much as I could find out. What is a bigeye? How big does it get? The oversize eye suggests deep-water and/or nocturnal lifestyle, yet this was taken in only about 60 feet of water and during a bright day. What's up with that? - Moon Yoki, St. Louis, MissouriA: It is indeed a bigeye; more precisely, it's a short bigeye (Pristigenys alta).
Q: During a recent trip to the Bahamas, my husband talked me into going fishing with him one day on the reefs. It was a blast. This lovely little grouper was just one of many interesting species we caught, and I noticed how many were brilliantly colored. That led me to pose a question that no one - not my hubby, the skipper, nor anyone on board - could definitively answer: Do reef fish see color? - Bambi Fleggum, Hartford, ConnecticutA: Most definitely, Bambi, fishes see colors.
Q: While rummaging through some old photos my granddaddy took on a long-range trip off Baja many years ago, I came across this shot. He's written on it, "hawkfish." This is one strange-looking critter, odd in shape and full of scrawled markings. Is it really a hawkfish? If so, what is a hawkfish? I'd like to know more about it and the family it's in. If not, then what is this thing? -Rufus DeVine, Jackson, Mississippi A: Rufus, your granddaddy was right on.
Q: On our trip to Marsh Harbour in the Bahamas last fall, we fished the reefs of Guana and Elbow cays, deep dropping to 400 to 600 feet for red snapper. After limiting out each day for a week, on the eighth day my wife noticed our sinkers were very warm when we brought them up, and we caught no fish. We had a similar experience three days later, about 8 miles to the east. We have mentioned this to several people at Marsh Harbour and in the States, and they urged us to inquire about this phenomenon. It seems impossible that water that deep could warm that quickly.
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Q: I have fished the Sea of Cortez for the past 25 years and continue to be confused regarding the difference between a mutton snapper and a mullet snapper. We have taken many snapper, called pargo lisa in Spanish; I believe these are mutton snapper, but your identification and the difference would be appreciated. - Ted Howell, Longview, WashingtonA: Well, Ted, if it came from the Sea of Cortez, it's not a mutton snapper. The true mutton snapper, Lutjanus analis, is a wide-ranging fish (Massachusetts to Brazil), but only in the Atlantic.
Q: This spring I have planned to take a trip to Cancun, Mexico. After reading your magazine, I have decided to go fishing offshore while I'm down there. Although I've been there once before, I know very little about the sport. I was wondering if you could tell me what kinds of fish would be around Cancun and the Gulf during early March, when I am taking my trip.
Q: In May 1998, I caught an 86-pound billfish off the coast of Omoa Cortes, Honduras. Many of my fishermen colleagues contend that the fish shown in the enclosed picture is not a blue marlin but a spearfish. Being a subscriber and avid reader of your magazine I would like you to confirm what kind of billfish it is and put an end to our argument. - Capt. Favio Icaza, HondurasA: Captain, it's indeed a longbill spearfish, Tetrapterus pfluegeri - but it's a big un', and that's probably what led to the confusion.
Q: My, what big teeth this little feller has. I caught him with my daddy, who knows just about everything in the world except what kind of fish this one is. Can you help us? -Travis Clarke, Winter Park, FloridaA: Indeed, this fish has some formidable teeth. This little guy is an inshore lizardfish, Synodus foetens, and if you ever saw one of these explode from the sand to snatch a small, passing anchovy or glass minnow, you'd know why the dental work is so impressive. Lizardfish are classic "ambush predators" unable to sustain a chase.