Gulf Coney, Hyporthodus acanthistius
The Gulf Coney, Hyporthodus acanthistius, whose common Spanish and local name is baqueta, is a species in the Grouper or Epinephelidae Family, known collectively as cabrillas and garropas in Mexico. Globally, there are fourteen species in the genus Hyporthodus, seven of which are found in Mexican waters, four in the Atlantic and three in the Pacific.
The Gulf Coneys have beefy red-brown bodies, large heads, and nine dorsal spines, of which the third, fourth, and fifth are elongated, providing a key to identification. They have a dark brown band or mustache above their upper jaw.
The Gulf Coneys are a demersal species found within reefs and sandy bottoms at depths between 40 and 365 feet. They reach a maximum length of 1.30 meters (4 feet 3 inches) and weigh up to 15 kg (32 pounds 5 ounces). A Grouper Family Weight From Length Conversion Table has been included in this website to allow the accurate determination of a fish weight and a return to the ocean unharmed. They are voracious ambush predators feeding on small fish and benthic crustaceans. They are a deep water species and very little is known about their behavioral patterns.
In Mexican waters the Gulf Coney are found in all waters of the Pacific, but are exceedingly rare in and around the greater Los Cabos area of Baja.
The Gulf Coney is very similar in appearance and can be confused with the Olive Grouper, Epinephelus cifuentesi (wide body; eleven dorsal spines, second being the longest; no mustache) and the Star-studded Grouper, Hyporthodus niphobles (11 dorsal spines, second being the longest; mustache on upper jaw).
The Gulf Coneys are an esteemed food fish and heavily targeted by recreational anglers and subsistence fishermen in the central Gulf. Unlike most of the other now totally depleted Groupers found within the Sea of Cortez, their population remains fairly stable.
Gulf Coney, Hyporthodus acanthistius. Fish caught from coastal waters off Bahia de Los Angeles, Baja California, December, 2015. Length: 66 cm (26 inches). Catch, photo and identification courtesy of Chris Wheaton, Loreto, Baja California Sur.
Gulf Coney, Hyporthodus acanthistius versus Star-studded Grouper, Hyporthodus niphobles, color comparisons. Photo courtesy of Chris Wheaton, Loreto, Baja California Sur.