Barred Pargo, Hoplopagrus guentherii
The Barred Pargo, Hoplopagrus guentherii, whose common Spanish name is pargo coconaco and whose local name is coconaco, is a species in the Snapper or Lutjanidae Family, known collectively as pargos in Mexico. This fish is also known as the Mexican Barred Pargo. Globally, there is only one species in the genus Hoplopagrus, this species which is found in Mexican waters of the Pacific.
The Barred Pargos have deep moderately compressed bodies; they are the widest of the snappers with a depth that is 44 to 46% of body length. They have a reddish-brown coloration with a brown head, a white chin, and six alternating wide and narrow horizontal white bars on their sides. These bars are quite pronounced upon collection but fade quickly over time. Their anal fin has a strong second spine; their dorsal fin is continuous and has ten spines; and their pectoral fins are long and extend well past the anal fin origin. Juveniles have closely paired bars on their sides and a black spot at the base of their dorsal rays.
The Barred Pargos are found within heavy rock structures and caves at depths up to 330 feet. They reach a maximum length of 92 cm (36 inches). They are nocturnal predators consuming crustaceans and small fish. They shelter in rocky reefs and caves during the day.
In Mexican waters the Barred Pargo are found from Magdalena Bay southward along the southwest coast of Baja, in the southern two-thirds of the Sea of Cortez, and along the coast of the mainland south to Guatemala.
Due to its unique markings, the Barred Pargo is a very easy fish to identify and cannot be confused with any other species.
The Barred Pargos are not considered quality food fish and thus are mostly used for soup. They are normally caught close to shore and are accessible from the beach predawn, however, they are rare and seldom caught by hook and line. Catching a large fish is a great feat due to the rocky structures and caves they inhabit. They are targeted by spear fishermen and are not very mobile during daylight hours thus becomes easy prey.
Barred Pargo, Hoplopagrus guentherii. Fish caught from coastal waters off Mazatlán, Sinaloa, April 2015. Length: 38 cm (15 inches). Catch and photo courtesy of Michael Verdirame, Markham, Ontario, Canada.
Barred Pargo, Hoplopagrus guentherii. Fish caught from within Magdalena Bay, Baja California Sur, February. Length: 40 cm (14 inches). Catch, photo and identification courtesy of Brad Murakami, Surrey, British Columbia, Canada.