Margate, Haemulon album
The Margate, Haemulon album, whose common Spanish name is ronco jallao, and known locally as ronco blanco, is a species in the Grunt or Haemulidae Family, known collectively as burros in Mexico. This fish is also known as the White Margate to differentiate it from the Black Margate, Anisotremus surinamensis, which has a very similar body shape and geographic range. The species name “album” is reflective of the fish’s white coloration, as it is the light colored Grunt. Globally, there are twenty-one species in the genus Haemulon, and all 21 one are found in Mexican waters, fourteen in the Atlantic and seven in the Pacific.
The Margates have deep compressed tapering bodies with a high back and a notched tail; their depth is 36 to 40% of standard length. They have a silvery gray coloration and an olive tinge dorsally. Their scales have dark spots on the upper body. Juveniles are bluish in color with dark parallel stripes ventrally. All their fins are a dusky pale green and they have an indistinct band along their sides. Their lips and snout have a yellow tinge and the inside of their mouth is orange. They have sloping heads with a relatively large mouth, thick lips, strong pharyngeal teeth, a blunt snout, and serrated gill covers. They have 3 anal spines (the second being thick) and 7 or 8 rays. Their dorsal fin has 12 spines and 15 to 17 rays. The scale rows immediately below the lateral line are oblique.
The Margates are found inshore inhabiting seagrass beds, sand flats, coral reefs, and wrecks at depths between 60 and 200 feet unless they swim to shallower waters seeking invertebrates. They are the largest member of the Grunt Family reaching a maximum length of 79 cm (31 inches) and weighing up to 7.1 kg (16 pounds). They are found as pairs and in large schools. They feed at night and primarily on benthic invertebrates including peanut worms and heart urchins.
In Mexican waters the Margate are found throughout the Gulf of Mexico.
The Margate is a fairly easy fish to identify due to its large rubber lips, deep body, and uniform white coloration. It is similar in body shape to the Black Margate, Anisotremus surinamensis (black blotch behind pectoral fins) and the French Grunt, Haemulon flavolineatum (white body with numerous yellow stripes).
The Margate are an esteemed food fish but not a focus of recreational anglers because they primarily inhabit deep water and require disproportionately heavy gear. They are also an important commercial fish and marketed fresh.
Margate, Haemulon album. Fish caught caught from coastal waters off Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, March 2017. Length: 20 cm (7.9 inches). Catch and photo courtesy of George Brinkman, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.
Margate, Haemulon album. Two fish caught off the Grand Mayan Pier, Riviera Maya, Cancun, Quintana Roo, March 2012. Length: 28 cm (11 inches) and 29 cm (12 inches) and respectfully. Catch and photo courtesy of George Brinkman, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.