Fish Facts VI

Another look at some angling anomalies caught by Sport Fishing readers.

September 20, 2011
Male blue parrotfish, Scarus coeruleus, like this one modeled by Katie Bajrak and caught by fellow Islamorada, Florida resident, Andy Newman, can reach a length of more than three feet. Although “herbivorous” fishes, blue parrotfish will also consume animal material and are commonly caught on shrimp. Blue parrotfish can be good to excellent table fare, but aren’t the most pleasant fishes to clean due to their large, tough scales and often sediment-filled digestive tracts. There have also been reports of them causing ciguatera poisoning. — Ray Waldner, P.D., Palm Beach Atlantic University, Florida Andy Newman/Florida Keys News Bureau/HO
This sailfish was seeing red when Capt. Fernando Almada of San Carlos, Mexico, brought it to the boat for a quick photo, but the hook was nowhere near the eye. Its bright-red color clearly indicated recent damage, whether a product of Almada’s catch-and-release or a result of some previous injury — it’s hard to know for sure. Billfish can suffer injuries like as the result of concussive collisions with the side of a boat during a fight. Whether such damage proves permanent or temporary depends on how much pressure the excess blood creates on the eyeball and nerves. — Eric Prince, Ph.D., courtesy of NOAA Fisheries Lab, Miami Capt. Fernando Almada
Boston Harbor lobsterman Daniel Hechevarria cradled this very young lumpfish, Cyclopterus lumpus in the palm of his work glove after rescuing him from a lobster trap. The fish can grow as large as 20 inches and have pelvic fins modified into a suction disk. Lumpfish eggs are large for marine fish species, with diameters up to nearly an inch. Your grocery store might offer small jars of lumpfish roe, next to the caviar and sardines. This cold-water species occurs on both sides of the North Atlantic, from Greenland and to the west as far as the coasts of Labrador, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, rarely making it as far south as the Chesapeake Bay region. — Mike Fahay, Sandy Hook Marine Lab, New Jersey Daniel Hechevarria
“We call them sol because of the depth and beauty of their eye color — it’s as if their eyes are infinitely deep,” says Capt. Fernando Almada. He catches these popeye catalufa, Pristigenys serrula, on a jig every other week or so in his native fishing grounds near San Carlos, Mexico. The species name, serrula, is Latin for “little saw” and refers to this species’ large, rough scales. These fish are found from central Oregon to Chile, but mostly in tropical waters. They are found at depths of 120 to 200 feet, always around rocks, and usually tucked away in crevices. — Milton Love, Ph.D., University of California at Santa Barbara ( Capt. Fernando Almada
Shell-less snails like this California sea hare, Aplysia californica, found by Andrew Chang in Huntington Harbor, California, are found in nearshore waters (including tide pools) of California and Baja. They feed on algae and so are harmless, although when harassed, they produce copious amounts of purple ink. Sea hares can get to be the size of basketballs, live for a year and are hermaphrodites. — Milton Love, Ph.D., University of California at Santa Barbara ( Andrew Chang
Upon first glance, this local sea bas caught in South America may look more like a grouper than a sea bass. Yet groupers are actually members of the sea bass family, Serranidae, so there’s really no distinction between a grouper and a sea bass other than the common name. This particular specimen is an Acanthistius brasilanus, commonly referred to in English simply as sea bass. The species ranges from Brazil through Argentina, along the southwestern coast of South America, to depths of around 300 feet. It grows to a max of about 2 feet. — Ray Waldner, P.D., Palm Beach Atlantic University, Florida Antonio Varcasia
Spewing sailfish: It is a normal reflex reaction of sailfish to regurgitate when they feel a hook in an attempt to dislodge it, just as fish expel spines/bones of consumed prey that they can not pass through the digestive system. Such fish with stomachs everted retract them after release, so nothing needs to be done in terms of pushing the stomach back in. Just release the fish for others to catch in the future. — Eric Prince, Ph.D., courtesy of NOAA Fisheries Lab, Miami Mary Peachin
Most anglers are familiar with frigate birds (Fregata spp.), but did you know they lack the ability to dive below the ocean’s surface or even land on the water to obtain food? The birds have atrophied uropygial (preen) glands located at the base of the tail. These glands in other seabirds produce oil that the birds apply to their feathers with their beaks, to waterproof them. However, lacking this ability, water clings to the feathers of frigates, which would prevent them from flying. Frigates use their superb flying abilities to gather food in situations that don’t require immersion, often resorting to kleptoparasitism — taking food away from other birds — to supplement their food intake. They are also remarkably adept at plucking items from the ground or ocean while remaining in flight. — Ray Waldner, P.D., Palm Beach Atlantic University, Florida Pat Ford
Spotted stripey: The large, dark stringy organisms at the base of this Cabo striped marlin’s pectoral fin and its dorsum are the common copepod Pennella filosa … And the darkish items on the underside of its pectoral fin appear to be another species of copepod. But the heavy infestation of white, tumor-like growths is more likely to be tunicates or some other uncommon fouling pelagic invertebrates. Fishermen should save odd specimens of these copepods in alcohol (like rum, vodka or Everclear) and submit them for research. — Dr. Robin Overstreet, Gulf Coast Research Lab, Ocean Springs, Mississippi Brad Shifrin, Livingston, New Jersey
Sport Fishing readers Dave Arbeitman, of Reel Seat Tackle Shop in Brielle, New Jersey, and Justin King of North Bruswick, New Jersey, helped respected Fish Facts experts by submitting catch information on this brilliantly pigmented swallowtail bass, Anthias woodsie. Before their reports, swallowtail bass hadn’t been seen farther north than South Carolina. Now what Ray Waldner, Ph.D., and Bob Shipp, Ph.D., really need is a specimen in order to publish an article describing its color, size and morphological characteristics; anyone who has an opportunity to freeze one whole can contact the biologists via [email protected]. Justin King
The mackerel that misplaced its teeth: Wong Kai Zhee of Singapore submitted this pic of a toothless narrowbarred Spanish mackerel (Scomberomorus commerson) that was caught off Rompin, Malaysia. This absence of teeth does not seem to have been recorded previously by science of this species of mackerel or any other. Whether because of developmental abnormalities occurring in larvae or due to a problem with the “wave train” tooth-replacement process all mackerels undergo, Ben Diggles, Ph.D., of The Love Lab in Queensland, Australia, wants to know if you’ve seen a fish like this. If you catch one of these edentate mackerels, freeze the fish whole (or failing that, take length/weight data and freeze the head), and then contact Diggles ASAP at [email protected]. Wong Kai Zhee

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