Oct. 15, 2003, by Gene Kira, as published in Western Outdoors Magazine:
Just recently, the “Fish I.D. Photos” section of my Mexico fishing website passed a major milestone when the number of really-caught-and-photographed-in-Mexico fish species hit the 200 mark, and that, I think, is an indication of a healthy emerging interest in conservation and catch-and-release sport fishing.
Actually, there are a couple of dozen non-fish species represented in this rapidly-growing online collection, including such things as bluefooted and redfooted boobies, monster Humboldt squid, “thumb-splitter” mantis shrimp, Sally lightfoot and pelagic red crabs, and the inside joke, “Baja potfish,” shaped suspiciously like an abandoned one-kilo brick of marijuana, which was “caught” by Matt Quilter while he was fishing near Punta San Francisquito. (Quilter quipped, by the way, that the potfish, which he quickly released, “while not prized for eating, seems to be popular when smoked.”)
Virtually everything else in the “Fish I.D. Photos” section represents fish that have actually been caught and photographed in situ along both coasts of Baja California and mainland Mexico, usually by the anglers who caught them, for better or worse.
In all, there are now 427 photos in the “Fish I.D. Photo” section, including many rarities such as the Pacific fanfish, Pacific cutlassfish, louvar, baqueta, rose threadfin bass, bigmouth bastard, cominate catfish, creolefish, escolar, goatfish, fortune jack, blue-and-gold snapper, tripletail, and a possibly new species of squid with a body as transparent as glass. Just as rare are some hard-to-find photos of common, mundane bait fish such as mackerel, sardina, caballito, and chihuil, and even such overlooked, unwanted low-lifes as the homely lizardfish.
Of course, most of Mexico’s “usual suspects” are represented, including such daily fare as tunas, yellowtail, cabrilla, dorado, wahoo, marlin, roosterfish, seven types of snappers, three pompanos, five groupers, and an incredible ten species of grunts.
And despite the fact that almost all of these photos were taken by amateurs with wet hands (and in a big sweat to resume fishing), a surprising number of them are of remarkably good quality, and some are real prize-winners. I don’t think it would be a big stretch to say that this “Fish I.D. Photos” section represents one of the most valuable resources for beginners or even very experienced Mexico anglers who want to find out what these fish actually look like. For identifying what you just caught in Mexico, the collection is now as useful as any single book of drawings than I’ve ever found, and it has all been created by volunteer Mexico fishing enthusiasts who have taken the time to document their catches and send their photos in.
So, what kind of nut would stop fishing long enough to photograph a lizardfish?
Good question, amigos.
Scores of Mexico anglers have emailed these photos in over the past five years. In fact, as I write this, my email “in box” contains two more new species to be added to the collection: an enormous, over 700-pound tigershark caught by a panguero at East Cape, and a very rare salmon caught at San Quintin.
From left, fish caught in Mexico and represented in the Fish I.D. section of Mexfish.com: Lingcod; Opah.
The dedicated crew of photographer-anglers helping to build the “Fish I.D. Photos” section is currently led by two outstanding contributors: Peter Langstraat of The Netherlands, who fishes for species at Punta Colorada for a couple of months each year; and John Snow, a Ph.D. from San Diego and San Jose del Cabo, who fishes for species many days per year, and always with the same panguero, Capt. Pata.
So far, Snow has contributed the most species to the “Fish I.D. Photos” section, and he enjoys the enviable distinction of having extended the known range of a new species for Baja California, the very exotic, speckled turquoise-and-red, longfinned or emerald wrasse, Thalassoma virens, previously observed at Clipperton Island and the Revillagigedos Archipelago, but never on the Baja “mainland.” Congratulations, John!
Many other photos have been submitted by first-time rookies, pangueros, kayak anglers, expatriate Gringos, fly-down pilots, guides, boat captains, and many dedicated Baja Catch-style anglers such as Jim Mori, who has a place at San Lucas Cove and fishes from a tin boat. (Jim has caught and photographed the only recent example of a gulf sierra that I know of.)
It is pleasantly surprising that this “Fish I.D. Photos” section has grown so large, and so rapidly. When I began the collection five years ago, it only had about 40 species in it, and I felt that a maximum of 50 or perhaps 60 more might come in during any reasonable period of time. But that was a drastic underestimate of how many species are caught in Mexican waters. At this point, I’d have to say the total number of species that will hit a lure or bait there must be well over 300, maybe way more than that. Nobody really knows. It seems endless.
Since most of the common big game glamour fish are already well represented in the collection, new species from this point on will be found mainly in the rocks and deeper down in the water column. There are so many species to be discovered here, it is impossible to guess how large the collection might eventually become.
There is much work to be done, amigos. We’re still missing lots of fairly common fish, such as the ribera cabrilla, which is frequently caught in the Midriff area, north to Gonzaga Bay, as well as many uncommon species, such as the almost unknown pompano dorado. This fish, Coryphaena equiselis, is the only relative of the common dorado. Some specimens were caught on the Pacific side last year on Ken Oda’s boat, Breezers, but dang! &*^%&%!, they were not photographed.
(The pompano dorado isn’t really all that rare, but it is usually mistaken for a very small female of the common dorado, Coryphaena hippurus. If you catch a really small “female dorado,” take a good look at it. If it looks “weird,” it’s probably a pompano dorado so, please, send me a photo.)
Also needed are photos of such oddities as George Bergin’s putative “white marlin” with the squared-off fins, and Bobby Castellon’s half-brown, half-orange “demi-golden leopard grouper,” of which I have only a single photo.
And, to be honest, some of the pictures in the present “Fish I.D. Photos” section aren’t really of very good technical quality. Some are blurry, some are too dark, and others suffer from compositional shortcomings. By definition, this section is the work of Mexico anglers taking photos in all conditions, and sometimes the results are not that hot. Hey! Nobody’s complaining! But admittedly there are many species here that need better photos.
From left, fish caught in Mexico and represented in the Fish I.D. section of Mexfish.com: Matt Quilter's "Baja Pot Fish"; Tripletail; John Snow’s longfin or emerald wrasse.
So please, do check out the “Fish I.D. Photos” section at www.mexfish.com. As you fish around Baja, please do keep a camera handy, and if you get a better shot of an existing species, or if you get lucky on a new species, email it to me.
Send plenty of resolution. About one megabyte is just right. Be sure to include as many details as you can about the date, possible species, location, water temperature, depth, and method of the catch, and identify people shown in the photos. Above all else, include information about yourself, so you can be properly credited.
Yes, it does require a lot of self-control to pause long enough to take these photos, and there’s the trouble to email them in, but you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve contributed to this little fish I.D. program that is helping to foster a spirit of species appreciation and catch-and-release sport fishing among all Mexico anglers.
(Related Mexico articles and reports may be found at Mexfish.com's main Mexico information page. See weekly fishing news, photos, and reports from the major sportfishing vacation areas of Mexico including the Mexico area in "Mexico Fishing News.")