White Grunt

White Grunt, Haemulon plumierii

The White Grunt, Haemulon plumierii, whose common Spanish name is chac-chi, is a species in the Grunt or Haemulidae Family, known collectively as burros in Mexico. Globally, there are twenty-one one species in the genus Haemulon, and all twenty-one are found in Mexican waters, fourteen in the Atlantic and seven in the Pacific.

The White Grunts have moderately elongated bodies with an elevated compressed back and a depth that is 37 to 39% of standard length. They have an overall silvery-white to cream appearance with a bronze head. The inside of their mouth is red. They have a series of dark blue stripes with yellow-bronze edges on their head, a key to identification. They have a black spot on top of their gill cover, a long head with a sharp snout, a forked caudal fin, and long pectoral fins. All their fins are yellowish-white. They have the ability to quickly change colors to match their surroundings.

The White Grunts are found in large schools on the outer reef edges at depths up to 80 feet; they are also found over hard bottoms at depths up to 115 feet. They reach a maximum of 43 cm (17 inches) in length and 2.5 kg (5.5 pounds) in weight. They are nocturnal carnivores feeding on benthic crustaceans, mollusks, echinoderms, and small fish. In turn they are preyed upon by snappers, groupers, mackerel, and sharks. They can have lifespans of eighteen years.

In Mexican waters the White Grunt are found in all waters of the Atlantic.

Due to its distinctive head markings, the White Grunt cannot be confused with any other species.

The White Grunts are abundant but of minor commercial importance. They are a recreational game fish and considered a high quality food fish. They are normally caught by conventional methods (hook and line and nets), however, in Haiti they are harvested with dynamite!

White Grunt, Haemulon plumierii. Commercial fish courtesy of Soriana’s Mercado, Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur, May 2008. Length: 46 cm (18 inches). Identification courtesy of H.J. Walker, Jr., Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA.

White Grunt, Haemulon plumierii. Fish caught from coastal waters off Key West, Florida, August 2014. Length: 36 cm (14 inches). Catch and photo courtesy of Dean Kimberly, Atlanta, GA.

White Grunt, Haemulon plumierii. Fish caught from coastal waters off Belize City, Belize, January 2016. Length: 34 cm (13 inches). Catch and photo courtesy of David Haselbauer, Scandia, MN.

White Grunt, Haemulon plumierii. Fish caught off a coastal pier in Key Largo, Florida, December 2013. Length: 31 cm (13 inches). Catch, photo and identification courtesy of Ben Cantrell, Peoria, IL.