Goldspotted Sand Bass, Paralabrax auroguttatus
The Goldspotted Sand Bass, Paralabrax auroguttatus, whose common Spanish name is cabrilla extranjera, is a species in the Sea Bass or Serranidae Family, known collectively as serranos in Mexico. Globally, there are only nine species in the genus Paralabrax, five of which are found in Mexican waters, all in the Pacific.
The Goldspotted Sand Basses are very easy to identify, as they are characterized by numerous golden-orange and brown spots covering their entire bodies, which are especially prominent between their eyes, on the upper jaw and on their cheeks. The insides of their mouth and of their gill covers are orange. They have three white lines on their upper body; the largest one is in the middle and closely follows the lateral line. Their third dorsal spine is three times longer than their second spine. They have a strong second anal spine and a strong first pelvic spine. Their gill covers have two sharp spines. Their pectoral fins are yellow.
The Goldspotted Sand Basses are found in and around rocky and coral reefs at depths between 100 and 500 feet. They reach a maximum length of 71 cm (28 inches) and weigh up to 10 pounds 4 ounces (the current IGFA world record).
In Mexican waters the Goldspotted Sand Bass are found from Cedros Island southward along the central and southwest coasts of Baja, throughout the Sea of Cortez, and along the coast of the mainland south to Guatemala.
The Goldspotted Sand Bass is similar to and can be confused with the Barred Sand Bass, Paralabrax nebulifer (dark blotches on upper two-thirds of body and tail base; third dorsal spine two and a half times longer than second spine); the Kelp Bass, Paralabrax clathratus (yellow spots covering forehead; third and fourth dorsal spines of equal length); the Parrot Sand Bass, Paralabrax loro (orange spots and lines covering head; seven dark bars on the sides; third dorsal spine three times longer than second spine); and the Spotted Sand Bass, Paralabrax maculatofasciatus (numerous black, brown, and orange spots covering body; dark band from eye to gill cover; third dorsal spine three times longer than second spine).
The Goldspotted Sand Bass is considered to be an excellent food fish, however, it is a rare catch by hook and line in the greater Los Cabos area but very common in the central Gulf.
Goldspotted Sand Bass, Paralabrax auroguttatus. Both fish caught from coastal waters off Loreto, Baja California Sur, April 2015. Length: 22 cm (8.7 inches) and 37 cm (14.6 inches) respectfully. Note the significant change in body depth with maturity. Catches and photos courtesy of Chris Wheaton, Loreto.
Goldspotted Sand Bass, Paralabrax auroguttatus. Fish caught out from coastal waters off Loreto, Baja California Sur, April 2016. Length: 47 cm (19 inches).