Panama Graysby, Cephalopholis panamensis
The Panama Graysby, Cephalopholis panamensis, whose common Spanish name is cabrilla enjambre and is known locally as ribera cabrilla, is a species in the Grouper or Epinephelidae Family, known collectively as cabrillas and garropas in Mexico. Globally, there are twenty-six species in the genus Cephalopholis, five of which are found in Mexican waters, three in the Atlantic and two in the Pacific.
The Panama Graysbys are dark reddish-brown fish have 9 or 10 dark bands on their bodies, a dark spot behind their eyes, and numerous blue and orange spots on the side of their heads. They have a rounded caudal fin, a dorsal fin with 9 rays, and deep notches between their spines.
The Panama Graysbys are a common, non-migratory, shy, and secretive fish found within coral and rocky habitat at depths up to 250 feet. They reach a maximum length of 37 cm (14.6 inches), as documented by a fish that was caught by Larry Overman, Irvine, CA, in coastal waters off Loreto, Baja California Sur, in October 2017. They are voracious ambush predators feeding on small fish and benthic crustaceans. They are protogynous hermaphrodites changing from female to male at mid-life; the males are larger, older, and fewer in number. They have a lifespan of approximately twenty-five years.
In Mexican waters the Panama Graysby are found from Magdalena Bay southward along the southwest coast of Baja, throughout the Sea of Cortez, and along the coast of the mainland south to Guatemala.
The Panama Graysby is easy to identify and cannot be easily confused with other species.
The Panama Graysbys are generally small and considered a “catch-and-release”, however they are retained by subsistence fishermen. When released, they will normally return to the deep on their own.
Panama Graysby, Cephalopholis panamensis, Juvenile. Fish caught from coastal waters off Point Palmilla, Baja California Sur, June 2015. Length: 14 cm (5.5 inches). Note the coloration of the juvenile is similar to the adult with the exception that the color changes are less pronounced.
Panama Graysby, Cephalopholis panamensis. Fish caught from shore in the greater Muertos Bay area, Baja California Sur. January 2018. Length: 25 cm (10 inches). Catch courtesy of Steve Silver, Seattle, Washington. Photo courtesy of Brad Murakami, Surrey, British Columbia, Canada.