Fish Facts: A Red Grouper from the Sea of Cortez

Anglers cleaned and cooked this tasty fish, learning later it would have been an IGFA record.

Sea of cortez gulf coney
Sometimes snapper fishing turns into grouper fishing when jigging. This unknown bottom-dweller was a surprise catch for the crew fishing in the upper Sea of Cortez. Capt. Fernando Almada

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“We jigged up this fish from around 270 feet of water,” wrote Capt. Fernando Almada (Catch 22 Fishing), based in San Carlos, Mexico, at the upper end of the Sea of Cortez. “We had been jigging up smaller fish, mostly snappers, and suddenly hooked this grouper. It fought hard at first, then became dead weight.”

Almada said they do encounter these fish, which are called baqueta locally, “but we usually see them smaller than this, often brown, not with the deep red color.”

“What species is it?” Almada asked Salt Water Sportsman.

So we consulted an expert on fishes of California and Baja, Dr. Milton Love.

He said: “That looks like a very large gulf coney (Epinephelus acanthistius), which, as you noted, are usually called baqueta in the Gulf of California and points south. ‘Acanthistius,’ by the way, means ‘sail spine’ in Greek, an apt name for that big dorsal fin.”

World record gulf coney fish
George Hurchalla’s all-tackle record gulf coney weighed 32 pounds, 5 ounces, caught in Huatulco, Mexico, in 2012. IGFA

They’re seldom caught north of Baja, but are fairly common on both sides of the peninsula. “These are solitary, rocky reef dwellers,” Love said, which probably don’t travel over a large area. “Unfortunately, gulf coneys are very heavily fished wherever they are found and are clearly overfished in the Gulf of California.”

Almada said that they did not weigh the fish, but figured it topped 40 pounds, closer to 45. That, Capt. Alamada, means your anglers ate a likely IGFA all-tackle world record. For the gulf coney, the record stands at 32 pounds, 5 ounces, taken off Huatulco, Mexico, in October, 2012.

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