The Silver Grunter, locally called Nagroor is a shallow water inhabitant of the Gulf. Found in Estuarine and shallow areas, the Silver Grunter is one of the most important food fish in the UAE. Calling the Indian and some parts of the Pacific Oceans as it’s home, the Silver Grunter can be easily distinguished with its silvery body with numerous scattered dark brown to blackish spots, dark blotches on the dorsal fin. The juveniles are pale brown with a lighter belly while the back has irregular longitudinal streaks on alternate scale rows, the dorsal fin of juveniles have dusky colored membranes and have a dark spot in their gill covers. They grow up to 60cm; the normal sizes caught in the gulf could be anywhere from 30cm or less.
Where to find
Grunters can be found in mangrove areas and estuaries throughout the Emirates. Although the mangroves in the gulf side are the easiest bets, you can also find patches of them in the East coast.
A good way of locating them is to look for areas that have a bottom of sand and mud with patches of grass and shell beds. Look for shallow areas that have this type of bottom and are close to deep water. This type of bottom structure attracts this fish and holds them fish longer. The best spots I have found almost always have good current going through them when the tides rise and fall.
How to catch
The most popular method of catching the Silver Grunter is by bottom fishing. Although targeting them like this is effective, you can use different methods to successfully catch them. When bottom fishing for them, the best bait is peeled shrimp, it is easy to find and less messy. Catching them in deeper water is easier than in really skinny water, in fact, the shallower it gets, the more complicated catching them will be. The rig I use for them is the sliding sinker rig. This is a very simple rig that uses a small ball or egg shaped weight with a hole in the middle where you pass your fishing line through. You then put a small bead (I always use red, however this is a matter of preference – this bead will protect the knot that connects the swivel.) A swivel, a short leader and a hook complete the rig. Once you cast out with this rig, I keep some slack on the line. This slack line enables the fish to nibble and run with the bait without feeling the weight of the sinker. Done this way, I have caught more quality fish than with the usual inline three hook arrangement that is popular in this region.
When you find them feeding in the shallows, you can target them by using small lures and flies. Sight casting for them in shallow water enables you to choose the bigger fish and is more sporting. It may be more challenging to catch them this way, however, it is more enjoyable; the tiniest of splash from your lure or fly will spook them and before you know it, they will be out of the area. I especially love chasing after them with a flyrod. The light flies hardly make a splash when they land and they almost always never spook, aside from that errant cast once in awhile. The Silver Grunter will give you a spirited fight. Although they will not give you long scorching runs, they will give you a jitter or two when they bolt for the ledge. They will struggle close in before eventually giving up. What they lack in strength will be made up with their numbers since when you catch one, there would most likely be a few of it’s brothers and sisters behind it.
Availability and conservation
The Silver Grunter is not on any of the lists in Choose Wisely and I believe if listed, they would be in the red. Commercial and recreational angling in the region have greatly reduced their numbers in the past few years. It is an important commercial target in the region and due to habitat loss, we might have to say goodbye to this fish before the authorities take notice.
To see a list of the fish we need to conserve, please visit http://www.choosewisely.ae