Cortez Bonefish

Cortez Bonefish, Albula gilberti

The Cortez Bonefish, Albula gilberti, whose common Spanish name is macabí de Cortés, and known locally as chili, is a species in the Bonefish or Albulidae Family, known collectively as macabi in Mexico. Globally, there are only six species in the genus Albula, four of which are found in Mexican waters, one in the Atlantic and three in the Pacific.

The Cortez Bonefish are relatively small fish with long, slender, silvery, and slightly compressed bodies. Their anal and pectoral fins are orange in color. They have a conical head with a small, short, inferior mouth that does not reach the eyes, and a pointed overhanging snout. Their anal fin is set under the rear of their dorsal fin. They have deeply forked caudal fins, one short dorsal fin located mid-body, pectoral fins that are low on the body, short pelvic fins that are low on the body and well behind the pectoral fins, and a straight lateral line that runs the entire length of the body. Their fins do not have spines and their anal and dorsal fins do not have an extended filamentous ray (a key to identification). They are covered with modest-sized and smooth scales.

The Cortez Bonefish are bottom dwelling schooling fish found in and around sandy substrata; they will sometimes come into very shallow water on sand flats at depths of less than 50 feet. They reach a maximum length of 36 cm (14.2 inches). They are believed to be a pelagic species that travels and feeds in schools. For centuries this species was believed to be the Eastern Pacific Bonefish, Albula esuncula, however, based on DNA analysis and related studies conducted in 2011, it was deemed to be a different and new-to-science species. They have been poorly studied and as such very little is known about their behavioral patterns.

In Mexican waters the Cortez Bonefish has a limited distribution being found along the west coast of Baja and throughout the Sea of Cortez. The Cortez Bonefish is similar to the Bonefish, Albula vulpes (an exclusive resident of the Atlantic Ocean), the Machete, Elops affinis (pelvic fins in front of the dorsal fins), the Milkfish, Chanos chanos (large eyes, short terminal mouth, strong lateral line, short pointed dorsal fin), and the Pacific Shafted Bonefish, Albula pacifica (prolonged filamentous terminal anal and dorsal fin rays). The Cortez Bonefish is also identical in visual appearance to the Eastern Pacific Bonefish, Albula esuncula, requiring a DNA tissue analysis to separate these two speices. The Eastern Pacific Bonefish is larger, achieving a maximum length of 70 cm (27.5 inches) and is believed to be a more oceanic species, as it is absent from the west coast of Baja and from the Sea of Cortez.

The Cortez Bonefish are abundant within Magdalena Bay but they are not considered to be a valuable food fish due to its small size and the numerous fine bones that are omnipresent in its flesh.

Cortez Bonefish, Albula gilberti. Fish caught within Magdalena Bay, Baja California Sur, March 2017. Length: 28 cm (11 inches).

Cortez Bonefish, Albula gilberti. Fish caught within Magdalenda Bay, Baja California Sur, February 2017. Length 30 cm (12 inches). Catch courtesy of Dick Lorhke, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Photo and identification courtesy of Brad Murakami, Surrey, British Columbia, Canada.

Cortez Bonefish, Albula gilberti. Fish provided by the commercial fishermen of Bahía Kino, Sonora, November 2014. Length: 30 cm (12 inches). Photo courtesy of Maria Johnson, Prescott College Kino Bay Center, Kino Bay, Sonora.

Cortez Bonefish

Cortez Bonefish, Albula gilberti. Fish provided by the commercial bait salesmen of Puerto Los Cabos, Baja California Sur, April 2013. Length: 33 cm (13 inches).