Sargo, Anisotremus davidsonii

The Sargo, Anisotremus davidsonii, whose common Spanish name is sargo rayado, is a species in the Grunt or Haemulidae Family, known collectively as burros in Mexico. Globally, there are ten species in the genus Anisotremus, of which six are found in Mexican waters, two in the Atlantic and four in the Pacific.

The Sargos have elongated bodies with a depth that is 39 to 41% of standard length. They have an overall pale dusky yellow coloration with a single broad vertical black bar running from their fifth and six dorsal spines downward to the level of their pectoral base. The upper margin of their gill cover is black and there is a dark spot at the base of their pectoral fin. The second spine of their anal fin is long, their caudal fin forked, their dorsal fin is continuous but deeply notched, with the fourth spine being the longest, and their pectoral fins are short and do not reach the anal fin origin.

The Sargos are bottom dwellers found near the shore in and around rocky reefs and occasionally over sandy bottoms at depths up to 200 feet. The juveniles form schools that can be found in tidal pools. They are the largest of the Grunts and reach a maximum length of 60 cm (24 inches) and weigh up to 2.5 kg (6 pounds).

In Mexican waters the Sargos are found along the west coast of Baja as far south as Todos Santos, with this southerly range being established by a fish in my possession; there are also reports that there isolated populations scattered throughout the Sea of Cortez.

The Sargo can be confused with the Silvergray Grunt, Anisotremus caesius (silvery yellow color; broad vertical black bar running from before dorsal fin to pectoral base).

The Sargos are viewed as marginal table fare.

Note: The Sargo was successfully introduced to the Salton Sea in the Southern California desert in 1951. However, in recent years it has declined in population with fish now being smaller and having shorter lifespans, which has been attributed to significantly declining water quality and related issues.

Sargo, Anisotremus davidsonii, juvenile. Fish provided by the commercial fishermen of Bahía Kino, Sonora, November 2015. Length: 15 cm (5.9 inches). Photo and identification courtesy of Maria Johnson, Prescott College Kino Bay Center, Kino Bay, Sonora.

Sargo, Anisotremus davidsonii. Fish caught from shore at La Bocana, Baja California Sur, October 2015. Length: 19 cm (7.5 inches). Catch and photo courtesy of George Brinkman, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.

Sargo, Anistremus davidsonii. Underwater photo taken in coastal waters off La Jolla, CA, September 2017. Length: 29 cm (11 inches). Photo courtesy of Bob Hillis, Ivins, UT.

Sargo, Anisotremus davidsonii. Fish provided by the commercial fishermen of the greater Los Cabos area, Baja California Sur, July 2009. Length: 31 cm (12 inches).

Sargo, Anisotremus davidsonii: Photo courtesy of Chris Wheaton taken adjacent to Roca Consag, San Felipe, Baja California, May 2015.Sargo, Anisotremus davidsonii. Fish caught  in waters adjacent to at Roca Consag, San Felipe, Baja California, May 2015. Length: 30 cm (12 inches). Photo courtesy of Chris Wheaton, Fullerton, CA.

Sargo, Anistremus davidsonii. Fish caught in coastal waters off La Bocana, Baja California Sur, April 2016. Length: 32 cm (13 inches). Note the atypical coloration being of a green tinge and lacking the strong black mid-dorsal line.