Spotted Sand Bass, Paralabrax maculatofasciatus
The Spotted Sand Bass, Paralabrax maculatofasciatus, whose common Spanish name is cabrilla de roca and whose local name is pinto and/or cabrilla, is a species in the family Serranidae, the Sea Basses, known as serranos in Mexico. Globally, there are only nine species in the genus Paralabrax, of which five are found in Mexican waters, all in the Pacific.
The Spotted Sand Basses have moderately elongated bodies and are characterized by an overall white appearance. They are covered with numerous orange, black, and brown spots that coalesce to form dark vertical lines along the rear of their belly. They have a dark line that runs from their eye to their gill cover and six or seven faint dark lines on their sides. Their anal, caudal, and soft dorsal fins are densely spotted. A key to identification is the third dorsal spine, which is very elongated and three times longer than the second dorsal spine. They have pointed heads with large mouths.
The Spotted Sand Basses are found in sand adjacent to rocky structures at depths up to 300 feet; this depth was established by a fish that we caught. They reach a maximum length of 46 cm (18 inches) and weigh up to 2.2 kg (5 pounds). They are a eurythermal species and are therefore able to tolerate water temperatures in excess of 90oF (32oC) and as low as 45oF (7.5oC). They feed on small fish during the day and are a significant predator of reef fish. In Mexican waters they are found along the Pacific side of the Baja, throughout the Sea of Cortez, and along the coast of the mainland south to Guatemala.
The Spotted Sand Bass is similar to and can be confused with the Barred Sand Bass, Paralabrax nebulifer (dark blotches on upper two-thirds of body and tail base; third dorsal spine two and a half times longer than second spine); the Goldspotted Sand Bass, Paralabrax auroguttatus (dense orange spots covering head, body, and fins; third dorsal spine three times longer than second spine); the Kelp Bass, Paralabrax clathratus (yellow spots covering forehead; third and fourth dorsal spines of equal length); and the Parrot Sand Bass, Paralabrax loro (orange spots and lines covering head; seven dark bars on the sides; third dorsal spine three times longer than second spine).
The Spotted Sand Bass is an important component of the recreational catch in the northern portion of the Sea of Cortez and is considered to be an excellent food fish. They are exceeding rare in southern Baja.