Pacific Porgy, Calamus brachysomus
The Pacific Porgy, Calamus brachysomus, whose common Spanish name is pluma marotilla, and whose local name is mojarra, is a species in the Porgy or Sparidae Family, known as plumas in Mexico. Globally, there are thirteen species in the genus Calamus, nine of which are found in Mexican waters, eight in the Atlantic and one in the Pacific.
The Pacific Porgies are characterized by the distinct, steep, and straight profile of their large forehead, their large silvery lips, their long broad snout, and their deep compressed body that has a depth that is 47 to 51% of standard length. They are silvery brown, with irregular brown blotches and five obscure bars on their sides; these bars are highly visible upon collection but fade quickly thereafter. They are reported to have a barred or blotched color pattern when hiding which fades when they swim into the open. Their mouth is small with their lower jaw featuring two rows of conical and enlarged teeth, comprised of canines at the front and molar-like teeth at the rear. Their anal fin has 3 spines and 10 rays, their caudal fin is forked, their dorsal fin is low on the body with 12 or 13 spines with the third and fourth being the longest and 11 to 13 rays, and their pectoral fins are long with 13 to 16 rays and a black axil reaching past the anal fin origin. Their body is covered with smooth scales.
The Pacific Porgies are found in clear water adjacent to coral and rocky reefs relatively close to shore at depths up to 260 feet. They reach a maximum length of 61 cm (24 inches).
In Mexican waters the Pacific Porgy are found in all coastal waters fo the Pacific.
The Pacific Porgy is an easy fish to identify and cannot be easily confused with any other species.
The Pacific Porgies are fairly abundant at certain times of the year and can be caught out of 100-feet water on traditional bottom rigs utilizing cut squid or small chunks of fish. Initially they are very strong foes but normally “give up” at about the 50-feet depth level. They are an excellent food fish and one of the very best the Sea of Cortez has to offer, however, as pictured below, about 10% of the population contains a small granular and unknown parasite within the meat. Care must be taken to avoid consumption of this parasite and we recommend that any contaminated fish be discarded. This parasite is known locally as “Trichina” and is also found in the larger Pacific Sierra.
Pacific Porgy, Calamus brachsomus, juvenile. Fish caught off the dock in Santo Domingo, Baja California Sur, February 2017. Length: 11 cm (4.25 inches). Catch courtesy of Ruben Duran, Puerto Adolfo Lopez Mateos, Baja California Sur. Photo and identification courtesy of Brad Murakami, Surrey, British Columbia, Canada.
Pacific Porgy, Calamus brachsomus, juvenile. Fish provided by the commercial fishermen of Bahía Kino, Sonora, March 2015. Length: 19 cm (7.5 inches). An atypical striped fish. Photo and identification courtesy of Maria Johnson, Prescott College Kino Bay Center, Kino Bay, Sonora.
Pacific Porgy, Calamus brachsomus. Fish caught from coastal waters off Cedros Island, Baja California Sur, May 2016. Length: 28 cm (11 inches). Note fish with prominent atypical black striping on the sides. Catch, photo and identification courtesy of Chris Wheaton.
Pacific Porgy, Deformed, Calamus brachysomus. Fish caught from coastal waters off Point Palmilla, Baja California Sur, April 2012. Length: 35 cm (14 inches). Note the shape of the head profile versus the fish pictured above.
Pacific Porgy, Calamus brachysomus. Fish caught from coastal waters off Mazatlán, Sinaloa, October 2017. Length: ca. 76 cm (33 inches). Photo courtesy of Jason Potts, Mazatlán. Note that this fish is significantly larger than the known maximum for this species which is 61 cm (24 inches).