Q: I caught this fish in the Florida Keys but haven't been able to identify it. I hooked it on a shrimp-flavored Berkley Gulp! while fishing the flats around Pigeon Key for bonefish. The fish's first dorsal spine is quite sharp and is longer than the rest when extended. Its rubbery mouth has no teeth. Do you have any idea what this is?
Hopewell, New Jersey
A: You caught a yellowfin mojarra, Gerres cinereus, Ted. This species, common in shallow, sandy areas adjacent to reefs and sea-grass beds, also inhabits mangrove-lined channels, brackish water and freshwater habitats. It's found in the eastern Pacific Ocean, as well as the western Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. This mojarra's scales, like those of bonefish, reflect light, making the fish difficult to see from above the water. The yellowfin mojarra's highly protrusive mouth allows it to pick up food below the sediment while maintaining a somewhat horizontal body posture, which may help prevent predation. Although the fish reaches a length of only 16 inches or so, it makes pretty good table fare. - Ray Waldner