Greater Sand Perch

Greater Sand Perch, Diplectrum maximum

The Greater Sand Perch, Diplectrum maximum, whose common Spanish name is Serrano de Altura and known locally as Arcadia, Babosa, Currita and/or Qual, is a member of the Sea Bass or Serranidae Family, known collectively as “serranos” in Mexico. It received its common name from its size it being the largest of the Sand Perches by factor of almost two.

The Greater Sand Perch has an elongated body with an overall tan coloration, white belly, and the upper two-thirds of the head are dark gray brown. The head has a narrow, round pointed, bony cheek spur (preoperculum) with four to eight large spines (as pictured below), whose shape is a key to identification. The lower jaw is strongly projecting. They have a dark blue-gray blotch on the upper edge of the gill cover and the second and third dorsal spines are of equal length. The anal fin is gray, the caudal fin is grey-brown, the dorsal fin is banded with blue-gray and red-brown bands and red-brown margin, the pectoral fins are translucent yellowish-brown and the pelvic fins are dark gray.

The Greater Sand Perch are found over sandy bottoms at depths between 200 and 400 feet. They are the largest of the nine Sand Perches found in Mexican waters of the Pacific and reach a maximum length of 45.0 cm (17.7 inches), documented by a fish that we caught and can weigh up to 1.5 kg (3.3 pounds). The Greater Sand Perch is found in all Mexican waters of the Pacific but were thought to be absent from the Sea of Cortez; however, they are actually very abundant along the southeast coast of Baja and documented by numerous fish that we have caught. They are a deep water species and not much is known about their behavioral patterns.

The Greater Sand Perch is difficult to correctly identify because there are eight very similar Sand Perches, all of the Diplectrum Genus, that live in Mexican waters of the Pacific. The key to a correct identification is the unique shape of the peroperculum. In addition to the Greater Sand Perch we present five additional Sand Perches: the Bighead Sand Perch, Diplectrum euryplectrum; the Bridled Sand Perch, Diplectrum rostrum; the Highfin Sand Perch, Diplectrum labarum; the Mexican Sand Perch, Diplectrum macroproma; and the Pacific Sand Perch, Diplectrum pacificum. There are two additional Sand Perches found in Mexican waters of the Pacific that we are seeking: the Orange-Spotted Sand Perch, Diplectrum eumelum (maximum length 31 cm – 12.2 inches, preoperculum wide with eight to fourteen long spines, face large covered with orange spots and stripes, caudal fin with bars of orange spots); and the Squirrel Sand Perch, Diplectrum sciurus (maximum length 17 cm – 6.7 inches, preoperculum square with five to ten large spines, body with two dark stripes and eight to ten dark bars, dorsal fin with two to three rows of yellow spots).

The Greater Sand Perch is one of the very best eating bottom fishes caught in Mexican waters. They are sold extensively in local fish markets. They are the only Sand Perch that we are aware of that when hauled up from the deep will return to the deep on their own. They consume a variety of small fishes which are frequently regurgitated and found on the panga floor or in the fish box.

Greater Sand Perch, Diplectrum maximum: Fish caught out of 250-foot water off Point Palmilla, Baja California Sur, December 2010, on cut squid utilizing traditional bottom rigs. Size: 36 cm (14.2 inches).
Greater Sand Perch, Diplectrum maximum: Fish caught out of 250-foot water off Point Palmilla, Baja California Sur, December 2010, on cut squid utilizing traditional bottom rigs. Size: 36 cm (14.2 inches).
Greater Sand Perch, Diplectrum maximum: preoperculum.
Greater Sand Perch, Diplectrum maximum: preoperculum.
Greater Sand Perch, Juvenile, Diplectrum maximum. Size: 20 cm (7.9 inches). Note the black spot between the first and second dorsal spines.
Greater Sand Perch, Juvenile, Diplectrum maximum. Size: 20 cm (7.9 inches). Note the black spot between the first and second dorsal spines.
Greater Sand Perch, Pugheaded, Diplectrum maximum. Size: 36 cm (14.2 inches). A fish with a rare condition known as "pugheaded."
Greater Sand Perch, Pugheaded, Diplectrum maximum. Size: 36 cm (14.2 inches). A fish with a rare condition known as “pugheaded.”