Black Margate

Black Margate, Anisotremus surinamensis

The Black Margate, Anisotremus surinamensis, whose common Spanish name is burriquete and whose local name is zapatero, is a species in the Grunt or Haemulidae Family, known collectively as burros in Mexico. Globally, there are ten species in the genus Anisotremus, six of which are found in Mexican waters, two in the Atlantic and two in the Pacific.

The Black Margates have deep compressed tapering bodies with a high back and a notched tail; their depth is 39 to 43% of standard length. They have a silvery gray coloration with a wide dark band just behind their pectoral fins. Their scales have dark spots on the upper body. Juveniles have two black stripes and a black spot at the base of their caudal fin. All their fins are dusky with the anal and ventral fins being darker. Their heads are sloping with a relatively large mouth, thick lips, strong pharyngeal teeth, a blunt snout, and serrated gill covers. They have 3 anal spines (the second being thick) and 8 to 10 rays. Their dorsal fin has 12 spines and 16 to 18 rays.

The Black Margates are found inshore preferring steeply sloping rocky bottoms or rocky reefs in the first 65 feet of the water column. They often shelter in caves, ledges, and wrecks. They are the second largest member of the Grunt Family reaching a maximum length of 76 cm (30 inches) and up to 5.8 kg (13 pounds) in weight. They are found as solitary individuals or in small groups. They feed at night on crustaceans, mollusks, smaller fish, and urchins.

The Black Margate is found in all Mexican waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

The Black Margate is a fairly easy fish to identify due to its large rubber lips, deep body, and the wide dark band behind its pectoral fin. It is similar in body shape to the French Grunt, Haemulon flavolineatum (white coloration with numerous yellow stripes) and the Margate, Haemulon album (silvery white coloration).

The Black Margates are targeted by recreational anglers, primarily during spawning season in the spring, when they form massive schools in shallow water. They are caught via drift fishing using cut clams, squid, and fish for bait. They are unfriendly to approaches by divers. They are an important commercial fish and are marketed fresh as a light, moist, white, and sweet fish.  They are also sold to the aquarium trade on a limited basis.

Black Margate, Anisotremus surinamensis. Fish caught out from coastal waters off Key West, Florida, August 2014, Length: 25 cm (10 inches). Catch, photo and identification courtesy of Dean Kimberly, Atlanta, GA.

Black Margate, Anisotremus surinamensis. Fish caught off the Grand Mayan Pier, Riviera Maya, Cancun, March 2012. Length: 28 cm (11 inches). Catch, photo and identification courtesy of George Brinkman, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.