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June 29, 2004

Sea of Cortez Mystery

Recently, while fishing in the Sea of Cortez from the beach at Bahia de Kino, Sonora, Mexico, I caught a fish the locals called a corbina.

Q: Recently, while fishing in the Sea of Cortez from the beach at Bahia de Kino, Sonora, Mexico, I caught a fish the locals called a corbina. It looked an awful lot like the sea mullet (whiting) I used to catch in North Carolina. They have similar feeding habits and meat of a similar texture. Is this the same fish? If not, how closely are they related?

-- Joshua Smith, Glendale, Arizona

A: They are very closely related, Joshua. The reason your Sea of Cortez fish looked an awful lot like the sea mullet from North Carolina is because they belong to the same family, Sciaenidae, and genus, Menticirrhus. Common names vary from place to place, and sometimes there are multiple common names for the same fish. North Carolina hosts three species in this genus, variously called sea mullet, whiting, or kingfish. The "official" name of the fish from Mexico is "California corbina," Menticirrhus undulates.

-- Mike Fahay