Jul 12

A Permit by Any Other Name

A Permit by any other name is probably way, way less valuable.

I’ve been going to the California Academy of Sciences for a few years now.  Located in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, it is packed with aquatic life. Penguins to Sea Bass to  Electric Eels, this place has it all (including an adult tarpon). From the very first trip I was particularly drawn to a little exhibit just in the front door to the left with black tip reef sharks, rays, some baby tarpon and pompano.  This is a tank you stand above and look down into, since the water in only about two feet deep.  There were three baby tarpon and then two and then one and now they are no more.  Seems the black tips got hungry at night and ate them.  Oops. I still wonder why they were left in the tank after the first one got munched, but, that’s a different question.

I love seeing the pompano in the exhibit since they look a lot like permit and I’ve actually caught pompano down in Mexico. I’ve caught exactly 1 permit and only cast at a half-dozen or so.  Over the years those pompano have gotten bigger and bigger and now, they look incredibly like permit and I’d swear they were permit, if not for the yellow, where there should be black.

I submitted a comment card and actually asked what species of fish these were.   The director of the Steinhart Aquarium (part of the CAS) told me they were Trachinotus blochii, aslo called the Snubnose Pompano

Photo by J.E. Randall

The thing that has kind of been bugging me is how much those fish look like what I’ve seen called “Indo-Pacific Permit.”

At fishbase.org there is no fish called the Indo-Pacifi Permit (or Indopacific Permit or Indo Pacific Permit). That would seem a pretty glaring omission.

If I look at a picture labeled “Indo-Pacific Permit,” well, I’m starting to see a Snubnose Pompano.

“Indo-Pacific Permit”

I need to add here that I could be wrong. I’m not an icythyologist by any stretch.   However, I don’t see anything scientific about Indo-Pacific Permit anywhere.  Permit and Pompano are closely related, so it isn’t that much of a stretch.  Jacks, trevally, pompano and permit are all related, which makes them one hell of a hard-pulling family.

I think it is an interesting insight that we need to (if I’m right) re-invent a fish to make it something worth chasing.  How many anglers would fly thousands of miles to catch a pompano?  It is pretty well known that anglers will fly thousands of miles to catch permit (and drop a few grand in the process). Why can’t a Snubnose Pompano be worth pursuing on its own?  It looks a very worthy target.

Anyone have any insight into the Indo-Pacific Permit and if I’m right on this one?

Sep 10

Aquarium Day

Today I went to the aquarium at the California Academy of Sciences with my folks, my daughter, a friend of mine and the little boy she nannies for.  Kids at the aquarium… always fun.

One of my favorite areas is right inside the aquarium… it is a shallow, white sand enclosure that has rays, black tip sharks and a few small tarpon, mixed in with other fish.  The small tarpon are really small… maybe 20″ or so.  On my last trip there were three.  Today… well… they said there were 2, but I think they double counted.  I saw one.  I asked what had happened and they suspect one of the black tips was doing a little pantry raiding at night.  I’m suspecting that the small tarpon they said “must be hiding” was an encore pantry raid.

Feeding time... the official feeding time, that is.

Down below, in the main aquarium, you can also see another tarpon, but this one isn’t small… it’s a pretty nice fish, actually.

Mr. T

While we were there I thought I’d check to see if I might be able to actually see the bonefish they have in their collection… caught in 1918 off Sausalito.  I didn’t get a call back until we got home, but I was told that “Sure,” I could set  up a time to take a picture of the Bonefish of the SF Bay.

I asked about the size of the fish… turns out it is about 11 inches… a juvenile. That does explain a bit.  As I understand it, the juveniles have a much higher tolerance to low temperatures than do the adults. It does make you wonder what was happening with the ocean conditions around 1918.