Spotted Sand Bass, Paralabrax maculatofasciatus
The Spotted Sand Bass, Paralabrax maculatofasciatus, whose common Spanish name is cabrilla de roca and whose local name is pinto and/or cabrilla, is a species in the Sea Bass or Serranidae Family, known collectively as serranos in Mexico. Globally, there are only nine species in the genus Paralabrax, five of which are found in Mexican waters, all in the Pacific.
The Spotted Sand Basses have moderately elongated bodies and are characterized by an overall white appearance. They are covered with numerous orange, black, and brown spots that coalesce to form dark vertical lines along the rear of their belly. They have a dark line that runs from their eye to their gill cover and six or seven faint dark lines on their sides. Their anal, caudal, and soft dorsal fins are densely spotted. A key to identification is the third dorsal spine, which is very elongated and three times longer than the second dorsal spine. They have pointed heads with large mouths.
The Spotted Sand Bass are found in sand adjacent to rocky structures at depths up to 300 feet; this depth was established by a fish that we caught. They reach a maximum of 46 cm (18 inches) in length and 2.2 kg (5 pounds) in weight. They are a eurythermal species and are therefore able to tolerate water temperatures in excess of 90oF (32oC) and as low as 45oF (7.5oC). They feed on small fish during the day and are a significant predator of reef fish.
In Mexican waters the Spotted Sand Bass are found in all waters of the Pacific.
The Spotted Sand Bass is similar to and can be confused with the Barred Sand Bass, Paralabrax nebulifer (dark blotches on upper two-thirds of body and tail base; third dorsal spine two and a half times longer than second spine); the Goldspotted Sand Bass, Paralabrax auroguttatus (dense orange spots covering head, body, and fins; third dorsal spine three times longer than second spine); the Kelp Bass, Paralabrax clathratus (yellow spots covering forehead; third and fourth dorsal spines of equal length); and the Parrot Sand Bass, Paralabrax loro (orange spots and lines covering head; seven dark bars on the sides; third dorsal spine three times longer than second spine).
The Spotted Sand Bass is an important component of the recreational catch in the northern portion of the Sea of Cortez and is considered to be an excellent food fish. They are exceeding rare in southern Baja.
Spotted Sand Bass, Paralabrax maculatofasciatus. Fish caught from waters within Mission Bay, San Diego, California, July 2016. Length: 16 cm (6.3 inches). Catch, photo, and identification courtesy of Ben Cantrell, Peoria, IL.
Spotted Sand Bass, Paralabrax maculatofasciatus. Fish caught from coastal waters of Bahia de Los Angeles, Baja California, December, 2015. Length: 30 cm (12 inches). Catch and photo courtesy of Chris Wheaton, Fullerton, CA.
Spotted Sand Bass, Paralabrax maculatofasciatus. Underwater photo taken in coastal waters with Mission Bay, San Diego, CA, September 2017. Length: 31 cm (12 inches). Photo courtesy of Bob Hillis, Ivins, UT.