Sport Fishing's Mysterious Fish from the Deep in May Fish Facts

Once again, Sport Fishing readers try to stump the experts with strange catches.

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FAT 'N' BRASSY

(This gallery is adapted from the popular _Fish Facts department in the May issue of Sport Fishing.)_ Q: While fishing the Andaman Islands, I caught this trevally. I don't believe it's a giant trevally, so if not, what is the species and what can you tell me about it? Dave Lewis (davelewisfishing.com) -- Wales, United Kingdom A: That looks like a very nice specimen of the brassy trevally, Caranx papuensis _. Brassy trevally differ from giant trevally mainly by having a less-steep head profile and a less-compressed body shape. They also differ from the closely related blacktip trevally (_C. heberi) in that they lack the black tip on the upper tail lobe, and they do not retain yellow pectoral, anal and lower tail fins as adults as do black tip trevally. Juvenile brassy trevally can also have a darkish upper tail lobe and slightly yellow fins, but these colors fade as the fish matures and the adults are left with basically uniform gray to brassy coloration with the sparse speckling on the flanks you can see in your fish. Brassy trevally occur in tropical coastal regions throughout the Indo-Pacific region; in northern Australia, we see them regularly 3 feet long and 20 or more pounds. The tropical trevallies are not well studied, and many species are very closely related, so they can be hard to ID at times, especially if any hybridism occurs. — Ben Diggles
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SEE-THROUGH SURGEON

****Q****: We netted this little fish while scooping flyers on a recent big-tuna charter trip to the Hurricane Bank off Baja. We carefully placed it in the bait tank, though later it was released by some caring angler who was unaware that the crew had been thinking Hubbs Seaworld would want to have it. So we weren't able to ID it, but some of us speculated it might be a baby opah. Any thoughts? Larry Brown -- Playa Del Rey, California A: Larry, I was kind of stumped by this one, although it did look kind of like a transparent surgeonfish. So I turned to tropical fish guys H.J. Walker and Ross Robertson, both of whom identified it as a larval surgeonfish. While the larvae of many fish species are small and tend to look like strings of snot with eyes, a surgeonfish larva (called an acronurus) is, as you can see, quite large and really rather handsome. H.J. noted that this was the largest larval surgeonfish he had ever seen — usually by this size the fish would be on the bottom, living over corals and rocks. As to what species you caught, it could either be an Achilles Tang (Acanthurus achilles) or the Whitecheek Surgeonfish (A. nigricans), both of which live over that tropical bank. — Milton Love
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SLOW POKE

Q: We caught this guy in 110 feet of water off Cape Fear, North Carolina. I have asked a few commercial fishermen around town about its identity and have gotten different opinions. Can you help me out? Billy Smeltzer -- Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina A: Billy, you caught a spotted scorpionfish,Scorpaena plumieri. This species is common over much of its range, which extends from Massachusetts into Brazilian waters, including Bermuda, the Bahamas, the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. Like other members of the family Scorpaenidae, the spotted scorpionfish has venom-producing tissue associated with its fin spines, and can deliver a very painful jab. This species can grow to a maximum length of about a foot; despite its rather unappealing appearance, it makes a tasty meal. Like most other members of its family, the spotted scorpionfish usually lies motionless on or adjacent to reefs, waiting for prey items to come within striking distance. The spotted scorpionfish's excellent camouflage makes it difficult to detect, and accidental — and extremely unpleasant — encounters by fishermen or divers who come into contact with scorpionfish are not uncommon. — Ray Waldner
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GROW UP, JACK

Q: A speckled trout that we boated coughed up this little critter, and I have no clue what it is. We caught the trout in mid-June over an oyster reef in the Mississippi Sound south of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. My best guess is a juvenile pinfish, but I’d welcome any thoughts as to what this fish might be. Capt. Sonny Schindler (Shore Thing Fishing Charters) -- Bay St. Louis, Mississippi A: Sonny, what your speck coughed up is a juvenile jack, either a blue runner (Caranx crysos) or crevalle jack (C. hippos[BOLD]). The darkened area on the opercle (gill cover bone) is what makes me zero in on these two species, but without counts of fin rays or gill rakers, I can't be sure which one it is. Both these species are extremely abundant as juvies in nearshore waters in summer, especially around river mouths and in sargassum weed. Many jack species have a pattern of bands when juveniles, which they lose as they grow. Both of these species form huge schools over their range, from Canada to Brazil. The crevalle jack can reach 30 pounds, about three times the maximum size of the blue runner. And although both are great fighters, neither has found much favor as a food fish. Around the northern Gulf, where you picked up your specimen, crevalle jacks are especially unwelcome among tarpon fishermen, because they favor tarpon habitat and are far more likely to grab a bait before the tarpon can, resulting in an exhausting but (for those targeting silver kings) unrewarded battle. — Bob Shipp
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FLAT OUT

Q: I’ve been fishing the eastern shore of Virginia for more than 30 years during the spring flounder run, but I’ve never come across one of these guys! We caught it in the same depth and manner as we would a summer flounder (fluke); however, this guy had different features, including the lack of teeth and weird eyeball features! He was 12 inches long and nearly the same in diameter. I’m sure it’s not a traditional winter flounder — maybe a distant cousin? Rich Watts -- Kent Island, Maryland A: That gorgeous flatfish is a windowpane flounder, Scophthalmus aquosus, a left-eyed flounder in its own family, but closely related to other left-eyed flounders. Hold it up to the light, and you'll discover how it got its common name. Possibly because of its extreme thinness, the windowpane has never attracted a commercial fishery or had much value. Nor is there a directed recreational fishery for them; most are caught incidentally by fishermen targeting summer flounder. They are certainly edible, but the effort expended slicing off a fillet might not offset the calories required. The species is common in the Middle Atlantic Bight (especially between Cape Cod and the Chesapeake Bay) and rarely as far south as Florida. It is usually found in coastal waters, mostly on sand bottoms. Despite the rather large mouth, most of its diet consists of small invertebrates it finds in or on sandy substrates. — Mike Fahay