Ballyhoo, Hemiramphus brasiliensis: The true Ballyhoo, a species of halfbeak, is commonly used as a bait fish on the East Coast, but it is not found in the Pacific Ocean and in Mexican waters is only found in the Gulf of Mexico. In Pacific Mexican waters, other halfbeaks are commonly called "ballyhoo" when used as bait.
The Ballyhoo has an overall silver appearance, with a greenish-black back, silver flank and underside and dark fins. The beak of the Ballyhoo is relatively short being 16 to 20 percent of the body length. It is characterized by a ridge before the eyes, 10 to 13 anal fin rays, a deeply forked caudal fin with larger lower lobe and unscaled anal and dorsal fins.
The tip of lower jaw and upper lobe of the caudal fin is orange-red. It has short pectoral fins. The pelvic fins extend past the beginning of the dorsal fin.
The Ballyhoo is a coastal pelagic species that reaches a maximum length of 16 inches. It is normally found on the surface over sandy bottoms. It produces large eggs that contain a sticky substance that allows them to attach to floating debris and travel the seas.
The true Ballyhoo can be easily confused with six other halfbeaks: the California Halfbeak, Hyporhamphus rosae (the back is not black and there is a ridge before the eye); the Choelo Halfbeak, Hyporhamphus gilli (short beak with a red tip with the distance from the pelvic fins to the caudal fin greater than the distance from the pelvic fins to the eye pupil); the Longfin Halfbeak, Hemiramphus saltator (a black long lower beak, a caudal fin that is deeply forked and no ridge before the eyes); the Naos Halfbeak, Hyporhamphus naos (long beak with a red fleshy tip with the anal fin origin directly under the dorsal fin origin); the Ribbon Halfbeak, Euleptorhamphus viridis (long slender body with disproportionately large anal, dorsal and pectoral fins); and the Silverstripe Halfbeak, Hyporhamphus unifasciatus (distance from eye to origin of anal fin equal to distance from anal fin to base of caudal fin).
The Ballyhoo is a member of the Hemiramphidae Family which includes the genus Hemiramphus, the halfbeaks, which are close relatives of the flying fishes. Halfbeaks are found globally in all tropical and temperate seas.