To achieve a better knowledge of the types of fish and their habits at the
northern shores, it helps to know their features: aquatic vertebrates with fins breathing through gills. The
form of the body is directly related to the efficiency of underwater propulsion seeking the best possible
speed, which in case of the Cavalla for example, is a living proof of hydrodynamical perfection. The habitat of
bentonic fishes is the seafloor and they show a flat profile such as the Soles. Predators have a thick massive
body such as Groupers and Jewfish . Others, good seafloor scavengers, develop an elongated body such as the
Insatiably hungry, the
Anchovies attack shoals of Sardines swimming with effortless speed beneath the surface. They form great shoals
always frequenting the same areas. Many traditional line and hook fishers of the northern shores specialized
their skills in catching Anchovies. The weight ranges between 5 and 6 kg, a maximum lenght of 1,2 meters and a
Sharks and Stingrays are provided
with a cartilaginous skeleton, thick, leatherlike and coarse skin, teeth that are constantly renewed and are
carnivorous predators. Their visual acuity is poor. Without swimmimg bladder they need to stay in constant
motion to maintain their balance. The "Lemon-Shark" feeds mainly on fish, and rarely exceeds three
meters in length. Its meat is greatly appreciated and its dorsal fin a delicacy between oriental consumers.
Normally it doesn't exceed three meters in lenght. Can be tastily fried or stewed. The black finned "Galha
Preta" is the most abundant shark in the waters by the coast of São Paulo.
Espada (meaning "Sword")
This fish has nothing to do with the species normally known as Swordfish that
is hunted by bluewater sportfishers. The bigger ones, with snarling teeth, reach a length of up to 1,7 meters.
With a metallic silvery skin they roam beneath the surface feeding on small fish. Their tasty meat is much
appreciated by hobby fishers who crowd the pier in Ilhabela at night to catch them with bait hanging under
small iluminated buoys.
Also known as "parus" or "butterflies". The real ones are
black with yellow coloured arcs on their sides and a blue reflecting skin. They live from scratch, so to speak,
scratching small animals from the rock surfaces. Their meat is no pleasure to eat and they loose their colour
when out of the water. With a lordlike behaviour they glide through the water giving divers a show thats worth
Galo (meaning "Rooster")
With an unmistakable appearance, the "roosters" are identified by
their flat shaped body and high heads. They live in open waters but also swim in the shallower waters near the
coast. Appreciated by hobby fishers, when hooked, they deliver a good fight trashing their body sideways on the
surface to better resist the pull of the line.
Black Groupers and common Groupers
are voracious and clumsy. Both species live on rocky seafloors. Growing to astonishing weights of up to 400kg,
the Black Grouper is in reality a grey fish, with an elongated head and a split dorsal fin. It diverges from
the Jewfish, also a giant, that tends to have a more greenish and spotted colour. The real goupers have a
reddish tinted skin and give gourmets a watery mouth.
Soles make you think that
evolution now and then plays games just for the fun of it. Imagine Jay Leno's face flattened by a steamroller
with all the eyes on one side. There you are. A design error. Nevertheless, they are extremely well adapted to
live on the sandy seafloor where they swim side by side. Their excellent meat makes them a highly sought after
commodity. Depending on their species, they are known as: lixa ( sandpaper), rodovalho (an old portuguese form
for "a short flat guy"), solha ( shield) and tapa (eyeflaps). The "Belle Meuniére"
("The millers beautiful wife") form of preparing dishes became worldwide popular due to the delicate
texture and flavour of this fish.
Namorado (meaning "Boyfriend")
No way to find out why this
fish is called that way (nobody saw them having dates yet), it can reach up to 1 meter in lenght but tend to
measure around 50cms. With an elongated and robust body it lives in deep waters with sandy bottoms, feeding
mainly on mussels and snails and everything that has no fishbones.
Olho-de-boi (meaning "Bullseye")
Very sought after by the orientals
who call it "buri" for its firm and white flesh, it is served in sushi and sashimi dishes. Big
fellows, growing up to 1,2 meters and 25kg, they feed on sardines, squids and shrimp (thats why they taste so
good). When young they roam in gangs ( as in L.A.), becoming loners when adults or bunching up in groups of
maximum ten specimens
The best ones weigh between 1 and 2 kg. For the japanese they are a sashimi
delicacy,"Pungent, but a Pargo!" goes a saying in Japan. They live in big shoals far away from the
The most known varieties are
Amarela ou Cambucu (yellow), verdadeira (true), banana, pescadinha (small pescada), maria-mole (marshmallow),
foguete (rocket) and goete or boca-torta (crooked mouth). Their excellent meat provides outstanding filets.
They live in relatively shallow waters feeding on small fish. Their ecomonic value to the local fishers between
the towns of Paraty and Bertioga is enormous. The Corvina variety, called the "Pescada of the poor",
also gives an excellent filet although with more fishbones to get rid of.
Although they can reach up to
30kg, the most tasty ones weigh around 5 kg. Their lower jaws are jutted forward. There are six very similar
species in brazilian waters. Very fast swimmers, they roam around bays such as in Paraty and in mangroves and
inlets. They swim upriver to breed . Good to fry and grill.
The arbitrary concept of
"first class fish" has nothing to do whatsoever with quality. The harder to catch, less bones, bigger
size and rare, the bigger the price. Therefore, the small and abundant Sardine is cheap but no less delicious.
And this species is again roaming the northern shores. No way to compare to the immense quantities that were
available in the 60's when we almost got the fish thrown after us at the markets in any of those small towns on
the northern shores. The "true" Sardine, or "Sardinella aurita", lives in the North
Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea. There are other species such as "savelha", "cascuda "
and "da laje". The small type called "manjuba" (a kind of sprout) has an almost transparent
body with a silver streak from head to tail. It is served fried for hors d'oeuvres at the kiosks by the
Belonging to the Mugilidae
family, the Mullets are present over the whole brazilian coast, migrating from place to place according to the
season. Over here they stay around between the months of May and August. They swim near the surface and are
catched with nets. They breed in sweet waters. The bigger ones reach up to 10kg with a medium size around 1 and
4 kg. The "parati"variety, much smaller, has more slender lines.
They prefer the water around the
cliffs of the islands far from the shore and reach up to 25kg. When migrating they come closer to the shoreline
swimming against the currents in shallow waters. There are also the black cavalla, the small cavalla and the
"guarajuba"varieties. The small "blue cavalla" are nosy fishes and use to follow bigger
fishes and even divers.