Black Snook

Black Snook, Centropomus nigrescens

The Black Snook, Centropomus nigrescens, whose common Spanish name is robalo negro or robalo redondo, and known locally as robalo, is a species in the Snook or Centropomidae Family, known collectively as robalos in Mexico. Globally, there are twelve species in the genus Centropomus, and all twelve are found in Mexican waters, six in the Atlantic and six in the Pacific.

The Black Snooks have elongated compressed bodies. They are silvery fish with a prominent black lateral line. Their fins are dusky with the exception of their pectoral and pelvic fins, which have touches of yellow. They have a straight shovel-shaped upper head profile and a large protractile terminal mouth, a protruding lower jaw, and widely separated eyes. Their second and third anal spines are short and of equal length; their first and second dorsal spines are exceedingly short; their third and fourth dorsal spines (a key to identification); their pectoral fins are very short; and their pelvic fins are a little behind the pectoral fin base.

The Black Snooks are found in bays, estuaries, the lower parts of freshwater streams, and where dry river beds meet the ocean (presumably due to subterranean water flow) at depths up to 80 feet. They are one of two large snooks found in the Pacific Ocean and reach a maximum length of 1.17 meters (3 feet 10 inches); the IGFA world record for weight stands at 26.3 kg (57 pounds 12 ounces) for a fish caught in Costa Rican waters.

In Mexican waters the Black Snook have a limited distribution being found from Magdalena Bay southward along the southwest coast of Baja, in the southern half of the Sea of Cortez, and along the coast of the mainland south to Guatemala. They are more abundant in the southern portions of this range.

The Black Snook is almost identical to, and very easily confused with the White Snook, Centropomus viridis (thinner and lighter body; small gap between eyes, less pronounced lower jaw protrusion, third dorsal spine longer than fourth).

The Black Snooks are esteemed recreational targets normally taken on fly-lined live bait. Due to their white meat, they are considered an excellent food fish.

Black Snook, Centropomus nigrescens. Fish caught off the beach at the San José River mouth, San José del Cabo, Baja California Sur, September 2003. Length: 1.27 meters (4 feet 2 inches). Weight; 23.4 kg (51.5 pounds). Photo courtesy Eric Brictson, Gordo Banks Pangas, La Playita.

Black Snook, Centropomus nigrescens. Fish caught off the beach at the San José River mouth, San José del Cabo, Baja California Sur, April 2003. Length: 1.11 meters (3 feet 8 inches). Weight: 18.2 kg (40 pounds). Photo courtesy Eric Brictson, Gordo Banks Pangas, La Playita.

Black Snook, Centropomus nigrescens. Fish caught on fly fishing tackle at Magdalena Bay, Baja California Sur. Length: 78 cm (31 inches). Catch, photo and identification courtesy Gary Graham, Baja On The Fly.

Black Snook, Centropomus nigrescens. Length: 1.22 meters(4 feet 0 inches). Photo courtesy Tracy Ehrenberg, Pisces Fleet, Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur.

Black Snook, Centropomus nigrescens. Fish caught off the beach at the San José River mouth, San José del Cabo, Baja California Sur, August 2002. Length: 95 cm (37 inches). Weight: 10.4 kg (23 pounds). Photo courtesy Eric Brictson, Gordo Banks Pangas, La Playita.

Black Snook, Centropomus nigrescens. Fish caught off the beach at Piedras Negras, North Mazatlán, Sinaloa, March 2011. Length: 1.00 meters (3 feet 4 inches). Weight: 10.2 kg (26 pounds). Photo courtesy of Jason Potts, Mazatlán.