Black Croaker, Cheilotrema saturnum
The Black Croaker, Cheilotrema saturnum, whose common Spanish name is corvinata negra, is a species in the Croaker or Sciaenidae Family, known collectively as berrugatas and corvinas in Mexico. Globally, there are only two species in the genus Cheilotrema, one of which is found in Mexican waters of the Pacific.
The Black Croakers have high oblong compressed bodies. Their upper body has a dark gray to purplish black coloration with coppery patches and their belly is silver with dark dots. In freshly collected fish, there is a pale bar mid-body below the first dorsal fin. The upper portion of their gill cover has a wide black band. All their fins are a uniform dark gray color. Their head features an oblique profile, a pointed snout, and a mouth that opens underneath the snout. Their gill cover is finely serrated and they do not have barbels. Their anal fin is short and has two spines, the second of which is robust and equal in length to the first anal ray and has 6 or 7 rays; their caudal fin has a straight margin; their dorsal fin has 10 spines followed by another spine and 25 to 28 rays with a deep notch between the two parts; their pectoral fins are short and do not reach the tip of the pelvic fins. They have 14 to 20 gill rakers and their body is covered with rough scales.
The Black Croakers are found demersal over sandy bottoms in open bays, coastal waters, and within caves and crevices at depths up to 330 feet. They reach a maximum length of 45 cm (18 inches). They are a poorly studied species and very little is known about their behavioral patterns.
The Black Croaker has a limited distribution in Mexican waters being found from Magdalena Bay southward along the south west coast of Baja and in the extreme northern portion of the Sea of Cortez. The collection photographed below, made 40 miles north of Cabo San Lucas in the Pacific, documents a small southerly range extension for this species.
The Black Croaker can be confused with the Spotfin Croaker, Roncador stearnsii (small second anal spine) and the Vacuoqua Croaker, Corvula macrops (gradual head profile; narrow black band on upper half of gill cover).
The Black Croaker is fairly rare and of limited interest to most. They are, however, retained by subsistence fishermen.
Black Croaker, Cheilotrema saturnum. Fish provided by the commercial fishermen of Bahía Kino, Sonora, January 2015. Length: 33 cm (13 inches). This is an extraordinarly elongated fish with a body depth of 28.6%; normal Black Croakers have body depths of 35 – 38%. Photo courtesy of Maria Johnson, Prescott College Kino Bay Center, Kino Bay, Sonora. Identification reconfirmed by H.J. Walker, Jr., Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA.
Black Croaker, Cheilotrema saturnum. Fish provided by the commercial fishermen of the greater Los Cabos area, Baja California Sur, June 2007. Length: 38 cm (15 inches). Identification reconfirmed by H.J. Walker, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA and Milton Love, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA.