Game Fishing > Grouper Family, Serranidae > Sand-fish


Sand-fishThe Sand-Fish (Diplectrum formosum)

The sand-fish, or, as it is sometimes called, the squirrel-fish, also belongs to the family Serranidae. It was first described by Linnaeus, in 1766, from Dr. Garden's specimens from South Carolina; he named it formosa, or "handsome," from its pretty form and coloration. It inhabits the Atlantic coast from South Carolina to South America, and is common to both coasts of Florida, and especially about the keys. It has a rather ellip­tical body in outline; its depth is less than a third of its 'length, being elongate and rather slender as compared with other allied species.

The head is as long as the depth of the body, with an arched profile above the eyes; the mouth is large, the lower jaw projecting a little; the upper border of the cheek-bone is serrated, with two clusters of small, sharp spines; the teeth are in narrow bands; the canine teeth are small.

Its color is light brown above, silvery white below; there are several dark and broad vertical bars across the body, and a dark blotch at the base of the caudal fin; the body has eight narrow bright blue longitudinal stripes, which are more distinct above, and paler below; the head is yellow, with several wavy blue stripes below the eye and several between the eyes; the upper fins have blue and yellow stripes, and the caudal fin has yellow spots surrounded by bluish markings.

It frequents sandy shoals, and also rocky shores, feeding on small fishes and crustaceans. It is a good pan-fish, growing to about a foot in length, but usually to six or eight inches. The same tackle and baits used for the hinds, coney, and nigger-fish will also answer well for the sand-fish, which consists of black-bass rod, braided linen line, size F, hooks No. 1 or 1-o, and suitable sinker and swivel. It is a good game­fish for its size on the light tackle just mentioned, and is well worth a trial on account of its beauty, and excellence for the table, even if its gameness is not considered.

While engaged in a scientific expedition to Florida many years ago, my vessel ran aground one afternoon in Barnes Sound, southwest of Biscayne Bay. The bottom was a sandy marl and quite soft, so that we were unable to use the setting poles to any advantage in moving the boat. I observed quite a school of fish surround­ing the vessel, which proved to be sand-fish. I put out a stake to mark the stage of the tide, and while waiting for the flood tide I put in the time fishing, and soon had enough sand-fish for supper and breakfast.This was rather fortunate, as we were still aground the next morning, for strange to say the depth of the water had neither in­creased nor diminished for sixteen hours; there was no tide in that remote corner of the universe. We then took out the ballast of about a ton of pig-iron and put it in the dory we had in tow. This lightened up the vessel enough to enable us to shove her off into deeper water. I think we never enjoyed any fish quite so much as those delicious little sand-fish, and it has ever since been one of my favorite fishes.