Pacific Mutton Hamlet, Alphestes immaculatus
The Pacific Mutton Hamlet, Alphestes immaculatus, whose common Spanish name is Guaseta del Pacifico is a member of the Grouper or Epinephelidae Family, known collectively as “cabrillas” and “garropas” in Mexico.
The Pacific Mutton Hamlet is either rusty brown appearance, with a red eye, darker brown blotches forming irregular bars on the sides and covered with numerous pale and dark brown spots on the head and body or are red in color with similar markings (as pictured below). They have deep strongly compressed bodies (body width 36-43% of body length) with large eyes and a short snout. The pectoral fins have rows of dark spots, a key to identification.
The Pacific Mutton Hamlet is a non-migratory shallow water species that are found at depths up to 165 feet and reach a maximum length of 30 cm (11.8 inches). They are found hiding in rocky crevices, seagrass weed patches or partially covered with sand during the day and at night become active predators. They rely on camouflage to escape detection. They feed primarily on benthic crustaceans.
The Pacific Mutton Hamlet is an easy species to identify with one exception. They are very similar to and almost identical to the Rivulated Mutton Hamlet, Alphestes multiguttatus (broken brown spots along its sides which coalesce to form interrupted stripes; thinner, body width 32-37% of body length). The Pacific Mutton Hamlet is found from Cedros Island south along the west coast of Baja, in the lower half of the Sea of Cortez and along the coast of the mainland south to Guatemala.
The Pacific Mutton Hamlet is usually too small to be of interest to most. They are normally a “catch and release” however they immediately attract and are consumed by sea-birds since they seldom are able to return to the deep on their own.