In each hand, she held a fish by the gills. One was a small shark, the other some sort of fish with a white chin and fangs.
I swallowed a couple of times before I could speak. “Been fishing?”
“My deckhands have been and they know he’s my favourite.” She held up the fanged fish.
“What is that?” I asked. Don’t tell me it’s a vampire fish, and that’s why you like it. My little sisters would.
She laughed, a pleasant sound. “He’s a baldchin groper, possibly one of the tastiest fish in the sea, after tuna and wahoo, of course.” – Joe Fisher, Ocean’s Gift
This bloke is a baldchin groper (Choerodon rubescens) and he’s only found in Western Australian waters. Yes, I do know he’s a bloke because he was huge.
Now…the transgender bit is true. Baldies are all mature females at 3-4 years old, when they’re just under 30cm long. They do their female breeding thing for 4-8 years before they change sex when they’re around 50cm long. Female fish that turn male. The big boys can grow to be up to 70cm long and 7kg. Oh, now those would be some absolutely delicious fillets.
And, yes, I have eaten them, so I can attest to how tasty a baldie is.
Baldchin gropers spawn at the Houtman Abrolhos Islands, where Ocean’s Gift is set, so these carnivorous fish are pretty common in and around the reefs.
Now, if you’re wondering about what a wahoo (Acanthocybium solandri) is, it’s the fish pictured below, which was caught off Coral Bay in Western Australia. The other fish alongside it in the ice were deep-sea pink, goldband and crimson snapper – all at least a 30 cm long – making him almost a metre long. Delicious, too, but as a deep water sport fish, they’re hard to catch and well worth it. Actually, the fillets from these iced fish are still in my freezer, including that wahoo. I think I know what I’ll be cooking for dinner tomorrow.