Coney, Cephalopholis fulva

The Coney, Cephalopholis fulva, whose common Spanish name is cabrilla roja, is a species in the Grouper or Epinephelidae Family, known collectively as cabrillas and garropas in Mexico. Globally, there are twenty six species in the genus Cephalopholis, five of which are found in Mexican waters, three in the Atlantic and two in the Pacific.

The Coneys are reddish-brown fish that are covered with small blue spots surrounded by black margins. They can also be vivid yellow or gold and brown. They have beefy bodies and large heads. They have two small very prominent spots at the base of their tail and on their lower jaw, which allow for their easy identification.

The Coneys are non-migratory and found within clean water coral reefs at depths between 10 and 450 feet. They are protogynous with females maturing at 16 cm (6.3 inches) and transforming to males at about 20 cm (7.9 inches). They reach a maximum length of 41 cm (16 inches) and have a lifespan of eleven years. They feed on small fish and benthic crustaceans.

In Mexican waters the Coney is found in coastal waters throughout the Gulf of Mexico.

The Coney can be confused with the Red Hind, Epinephelus guttatus (lack spots on tail base and lower jaw).

The Coneys are aggressive strikers but are generally too small to be of interest to recreational anglers. They are however one of the most important commercial species in the Western Caribbean with annual catch levels in excess of 5 tons. They are prone to Cigua Toxin, which diminishes their value. They are sold extensively by ethnic fish markets in southern California.

Coney, Cephalopholis fulva. Fish courtesy of the Ranch 99 Market, San Diego, October 2009; sold commercially as a Strawberry Grouper which is actually a different species, the Red Hind, Epinephelus guttatus. Length: 25 cm (10 inches).