Cortez Sea Chub

Cortez Sea Chub, Kyphosus elegans

The Cortez Sea Chub, Kyphosus elegans, whose common Spanish name is chopa de Cortés, is a species in the Sea Chub or Kyphosidae Family, known collectively as chopas in Mexico. Globally, there are fourteen species in the genus Kyphosus, seven of which are found in Mexican waters, three in the Atlantic and four in the Pacific.

The Cortez Sea Chubs have oval compressed bodies that have a depth that is 48 to 52% of standard length. They are normally silvery gray with faint brown stripes along the sides between the scale rows. However they can also be uniform blue-gray and brown and have the ability to quickly display a pattern of numerous eye-sized white spots. Their fins are a uniform darker color. Juveniles are heavily spotted and have white caudal fins. They have a small head with a hump before the eyes, a short snout, and a very short horizontal mouth that opens at the front with small incisiform teeth set horizontally in the mouth with rounded tips and a curved hockey-stick shape. Their anal fin is moderately high at the front and has 3 spines and 12 rays, their caudal fin is slightly forked, their dorsal fin is continuous with 11 spines, folding down into a scaly grove, and 13 rays, which are relatively high, and their pectoral and pelvic fins are relatively short. Their body is covered with small, thick, and rough scales.

The Cortez Sea Chubs are schooling fish found on rocky reefs from the surface to depths up to 130 feet. They reach a maximum length of 53 cm (21 inches). They are omnivores feeding on benthic algae, plankton, and small invertebrates. They are a poorly studied species and very little is known about their behavioral patterns.

In Mexican waters the Cortez Sea Chubs are found from Magdalena Bay southward along the southwest coast of Baja, throughout the Sea of Cortez, and along the coast of the mainland south to Guatemala.

The Cortez Sea Chub is most likely confused with the Brassy Chub, Kyphosus vaigiensis (more aerodynamic; body width 38 to 45% of standard length; more prominent stripes).

The Cortez Sea Chubs are readily available to surf fishermen at certain times of the year but are considered marginal table fare and thus only retained by subsistence fishermen.

Cortez Chub, Kyphosus elegans: Five color variations of an adult Cortez Chub caught from shore off the beaches of the greater Los Cabos area, Baja California Sur, during the winter months, on cut squid with traditional surf gear, from 2001 – 2007. Lengths: 35 cm (14 inches) to 40 cm (16 inches). Also pictured is a 2.5 cm (1 inch) juvenile collected at sea with a bait net, April 2014.Cortez Sea Chub, Kyphosus elegans, juvenile. Fish collected with a bait net off the surface in coastal waters off Point Palmilla, Baja California Sur, April 2014. Length: 2.5 cm (1.0 inches).

Cortez Sea Chub, Kyphosus elegans, juvenile. Fish collected with a bait net off the surface in coastal waters off Loreto, Baja California Sur, June 2017. Length: 3.8 cm (1.5 inches).  Catch and photo courtesy of Chris Wheaton, Fullerton, CA.  Discussions with H.J. Walker, Jr. Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA are indicative that this is most definitely from the Genus Kyphosus but he was unable to confirm the species without a thorough examination of the specimen.

Cortez Sea Chub, Kyphosus elegans, juvenile. Fish collected with a bait net off the surface in coastal waters off Loreto, Baja California Sur, June 2017. Length: 3.8 cm (1.5 inches).  Catch and photo courtesy of Chris Wheaton, Fullerton, CA.  Discussions with H.J. Walker, Jr. Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA are indicative that this is most definitely from the Genus Kyphosus but he was unwilling to confirm the species.

Cortez Sea Chub (3)Cortez Sea Chub (4)Cortez Sea Chub (5)

Cortez Sea Chub (7)Cortez Sea Chub, Kyphosus elegans. Four color variations of an adult Cortez Sea Chubs that were caught from shore off the beaches of the greater Los Cabos area, Baja California Sur, from 2001 – 2007. Lengths: 35 cm (14 inches) to 40 cm (16 inches).

Cortez Sea Chub (8)

Cortez Sea Chub, Kyphosus elegans. Fish caught off the beach at Cabo Real, Baja California Sur, December 2015. Length: 25.4 cm (10 inches).