Hookthroat Bass

Hookthroat Bass, Hemanthias signifer

The Hookthroat Bass, Hemanthias signifer, whose common Spanish name is cabrilla doncella, and whose local name is antennae, is a species in the Sea Bass or Serranidae Family, known collectively as serranos in Mexico. This fish is also known as the Damsel Bass. Globally, there are only five species in the genus Hemanthias, three of which are found in Mexican waters, one in the Atlantic and two in the Pacific. The Hookthroat Bass is an Anthias, a subfamily of Serranidae, that makes up the majority of the pink, orange, red, and yellow reef fish seen swarming in most coral reef photography and film.

The Hookthroat Bass is one of the few bright red fish and found only in relatively deep water. They have a uniform red color and are characterized by their forked caudal fin, which features exterior rays longer than the other rays, and a hook-like spine at the front of their throat joining their gill cover. They have an elongated filamentous third dorsal fin spine, which gives rise to their common local name, Antennae. They have long pelvic fins. The sides of their body are pink with yellow tinges and their gill covers have yellow spots. All their fins are red with orange-red tips.

The Hookthroat Bass are found over rocky reefs at depths between 100 and 900 feet. They reach a maximum length of 42 cm (17 inches) and can weigh up to 1.4 kg (3 pounds).  They are a deepwater species that have been poorly studied and very little is known about their behavioral patterns.

In Mexican waters the Hookthroat Bass are found in all waters of the Pacific with the exception that they are absent from the northern one-fifth of the Sea of Cortez.

The Hookthroat Bass is straightforward to identify although some might confuse it with the Splittail Bass, Hemanthias peruanus (yellow line under eye; caudal fin deeply forked with longer middle rays).

The Hookthroat Bass are sold in local fish markets and are considered by locals to be an excellent food fish, however, they are a rare catch by hook and line.

Hookthroat Bass, Hemanthias signifer. Fish caught from coastal waters off Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur, March 2015. Length: not measured but estimated to be greater than  51 cm (20 inches), well in excess of the known maximum for this species. Catch and photo courtesy of Perry Kotkas, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

F011-Hookthroat Bass (3)

Hookthroat Bass, Hemanthias signifer. Fish caught out of coastal waters off Loreto, Baja California Sur, April 2016. Length: 34 cm (13 inches).

Hookthroat Bass, Hemanthias signifer. The rounded forward projecting spine of the above fish that forms an underslung “hook” on the ventral side of the urohyal bone on the throat region for which it is named. This bone is more prominent in larger fish.