Bluestriped Grunt, Haemulon sciurus
The Bluestriped Grunt, Haemulon sciurus, whose common Spanish name is ronco carite or ronco amarillo, is a species in the Grunt or Haemulidae Family, known collectively as burros in Mexico. Globally, there are twenty one species in the genus Haemulon, and all twenty one are found in Mexican waters, fourteen in the Atlantic and seven in the Pacific.
The Bluestriped Grunts have moderately elongated deep bodies with an elevated compressed back and a depth that is 34 – 38% of standard length. They have a yellow head and body and numerous narrow horizontal blue stripes. The line under their eyes has a large arch which allows for easy identification. Their anal fin is a dusky yellow, their wide caudal fin and soft dorsal fin are yellow with wide dark bands at their base, their spiny dorsal fin is yellow, and their pectoral and pelvic fins are transparent. The inside of their mouth is bright red. Their anal fin has 3 spines and 9 rays; they have one dorsal fin with 12 spines and 16 to 17 rays.
The Bluestriped Grunts are a subtropical species found around inshore mangroves, seagrass beds, drop-offs, and coral reefs at depths up to 100 feet. They are a schooling species that travels with the French Grunt, Haemulon flavolineatum, with schools of up to 1,000 Grunts being common. They reach a maximum length of 46 cm (18 inches), but are more common at lengths of 20 cm (8 inches) to 25 cm (10 inches) and weigh just under 1 kg (2.2 pounds). Spawning occurs from January to April and their lifespan can reach twelve years. They feed primarily on shrimp but also consume annelids, bivalves, and crustaceans. In turn they are preyed upon by large fish including groupers and sharks.
The Bluestriped Grunt is widely distributed in the Western Atlantic Ocean. In Mexican waters they are found throughout the Gulf of Mexico.
The Bluestriped Grunt is very easy to identify and cannot be confused with any other species, however, it is similar in appearance to the French Grunt, Haemulon flavolineatum (smaller and narrower horizontal stripes).
The Bluestriped Grunts are very accessible via hook and line and caught off the bottom in 25 feet water utilizing small hooks tipped with cut squid. They are considered quality food fish and are marketed fresh commercially, however, they are also known to contain Cigua Toxin. They are generally unfriendly toward divers and are used extensively in the aquarium trade.
Bluestriped Grunt, Haemulon sciurus. Fish caught in coastal waters off Key Largo, Florida, December 2013. Length: 14 cm (5.5 inches). Catch, photo and identification courtesy of Ben Cantrell, Peoria, IL