Thursday, April 18, 2013

Most Wanted : Streaked Gurnard.

Knowing your target species and other similar fish can be important if you are going to be able to tell them apart and avoid misidentifying them which could result in potentially catching new species without realising it, a disaster to a species hunting angler like me. The three pictures of gurnards below hopefully illustrate this point.

Some grey gurnards are grey.
Some grey gurnards however have a bit of a red tinge to them. This doesn't make them red gurnards though!
An actual red gurnard caught by my mate Ross. I'd like to catch one this year.

As you can see it's possible to mistake the identity of the second fish. Key identifying features to look out for on grey gurnards are the light lateral line and the dark spot on the dorsal fin. The dorsal fin on red gurnards stands taller than on greys too.

This year I have red gurnards on my list of potential new species to catch along with a further two species of gurnard, these being tub gurnard and streaked gurnard. Tub gurnards and streaked gurnards can look quite similar and are a further example of where misidentification is a possibility. Both species come in a variety of shades from pale beige through to dark reddish brown with a rather striking blue/violet border around their large pectoral fins. There are a few differences that can be used to distinguish them however although to the untrained eye these may not be obvious. Tub gurnards can grow to much larger sizes so a gurnard over 40cm will most certainly rule out the possibility of it being a streaked gurnard.

A great photo of a fairly large tub gurnard showing its colourful pectoral fins.
A brightly coloured streaked gurnard.
Another example of a streaked gurnard. In this photo the colourful fins are turned downward to camouflage the fish. Note the much paler colouration.
Once on the move the colouration on the fins of this streaked gurnard looks a bit like that of its cousin the tub.

If in any doubt the simplest way to distinguish between them is the angle of the front of the head. Tub gurnards have a longer, concave snout while streaked gurnards have a must shorter, more steeply angled, flatter snout.

Whilst tub gurnard are believed to be much more common misidentifications may have caused the perceived rarity of streaked gurnards to be somewhat skewed which is also quite interesting. For example it is believed that streaked gurnards may actually be quite common catches on commercial boats off the south coast of England but are just sold along with the tub gurnards at market.

Another fascinating fact is that gurnards have specially adapted the first three fin rays on their pectoral fins into seperate "legs" that they can use to crawl around on the sea bed. It is thought they also use them to hunt by sensing movement with them of prey in their vicinty. Very bizarre indeed.

Finally, gurnards groan. If you have ever caught one you'll know what I mean by this. I think this is quite amusing as it sounds a bit like they are burping which adds to their quirky character.

Anyway, revolting fish behaviour aside, I hope you've enjoyed this little look at gurnards and I'm looking forward to targeting them later in the year. Whilst red and tub gurnards should be easy enough to track down and I'd love to catch them both I don't think that they warrant a place on my "Most Wanted" list. Streaked gurnard does though as they are very rarely caught. Or are they?

Tight lines, Scott.

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