Bermuda Chub, Kyphosus saltatrix
The Bermuda Chub, Kyphosus saltatrix, whose common Spanish name is chopa blanca, is a species in the Sea Chub or Kyphosidae Family, known collectively as chopas in Mexico. Globally, there are fourteen species in the genus Kyphosus, seven of which are found in Mexican waters, three in the Atlantic and four in the Pacific.
The Bermuda Chubs have moderately deep bodies that have body depths that are 43 – 47% of standard length. They are dull gray with longitudinal stripes on their body and two dull yellow horizontal bands on their head that run from the snout to the gill covers with the lower band running under the eye. Fish found in shallow waters are darker than those found in deeper water. Juveniles have pale spots on their head, body, and fins, which are similar in size to the eyes. Their head is short with a distinct bump in front and above the eyes and a small horizontal mouth very close to the tip of the snout. They have regular rows of close-set teeth that are in a peculiar hockey-stick shape. Their anal fin has 3 spines and 10 or 11 rays, their dorsal fin is continuous with 11 spines and 11 to 13 rays, and their pectoral fins are short. They have 16 to 19 gill rakers. Their body is covered with small scales.
The Bermuda Chubs are found in shallow coastal waters over grasses, sand or rocky bottoms adjacent to coral reefs at depths up to 40 feet. They reach a maximum length of 76 cm (30 inches), but are most common around 30 cm (15 inches), and 13.2 pounds (6.0 kg) in weight. They feed on benthic algae and small invertebrates. They are a gregarious species known to follow boats.
The Bermuda Chub has a wide range in the Western Atlantic from New England south to Brazil and in the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea with new interest from the scientific community based on recent collections in Greek waters. In Mexico they are found in all waters of the Atlantic.
The Bermuda Chub can be easily confused with the only other Chub found in the Atlantic, the Brassy Chub, Kyphosus vaigiensis (anal fin with 3 spines and 12 or 13 rays; dorsal fin with 11 spines and 13 to 15 rays; convex head profile in front of and above eyes).
The Bermuda Chubs are considered an excellent food fish; they are caught primarily by nets and marketed fresh. On light tackle with small hooks they can be a quality game fish. Care in cleaning is essential to avoid contamination with their foul smelling guts.
Bermuda Chub, Kyphosus saltatrix. Fish caught off the Grand Mayan Pier, Riviera Maya, Quintana Roo, March 2012. Length: 33 cm (13 inches). Catch, photo and identification courtesy of George Brinkman, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.