California Lizardfish, Snakefish
Chile, Lagarto
(Synodus lucioceps)

California Lizardfish, Synodus lucioceps: The California Lizardfish is the most common member of the Synodontidae or Lizardfish Family. It is characterized by its overall “lizardfish-like” appearance, with an aerodynamically slender body, lizard-like head that is wide with a long pointed snout, large eyes, and mouth extending back past the eyes.

The California Lizardfish comes with various shades of brown and red blotches on its back, eight irregular dark blotches along the mid-flank, and a pale belly. The anal fin base is equal in length to the dorsal fin base. The pelvic fins are yellow, and the pectoral fins are long and extend past the base of the pelvic fins. The California Lizardfish has a row of seven scales between the lateral line and the dorsal fin that is a key to identification.

The California Lizardfish is not an easy species to identify. It is quite similar to the Reef or Calico Lizardfish, Synodus lacertinus (series of blotches below the lateral line); the Sechura or Iguana Lizardfish, Synodus sechurae (short pectoral fins, three rows of scales between lateral line and dorsal fin, and white spots along the lateral line); and the Sharpnose or Spotted Lizardfish, Synodus evermanni (anal fin base is shorter than dorsal fin base, knob on end of chin).

Distribution in Mexico fishing areas

In Mexican fishing waters , the California Lizardfish is found along both coasts of the Baja California peninsula, and only as far south as Guaymas along the mainland. It appears to be absent from the oceanic islands. The California Lizardfish has been found at depths of 750 feet, but is most common between 30 and 180 feet deep over sand or mud bottoms.

It is reported to reach a length of 25 inches. However specimens of 10 to 12 inches are most common. The eggs are pelagic, traveling the seas at will and generating juveniles that are found in large schools. There is no commercial interest in this species and for the recreational angler at times it can become a pest.

California Lizardfish picture 1

California Lizardfish, Synodus lucioceps: Juvenile. Length 3 inches. Collected while fishing at Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico, in June 2008. Identification courtesy of Mary Nishimoto, University of California at Santa Barbara. Photo courtesy of Steve Ross.

California Lizardfish picture 2

California Lizardfish picture 3

California Lizardfish, Synodus lucioceps: California Lizardfish: Caught during fishing off the Ocean Beach Pier at San Diego, California, May 2006. in 60-degree water, utilizing a Sabiki rig. Size approximately 7 inches. Description and photos courtesy of John Snow.

California Lizardfish picture 4

California Lizardfish, Synodus lucioceps: Caught at San Quintin, Baja California, Mexico, February 2003, about 20 feet deep, on a Lucky Joe rig while making bait at the entrance of the bay. Description and photo by Gene Kira.

California Lizardfish picture 5

California Lizardfish, Synodus lucioceps: Caught fishing on a Rapala at La Ribera, East Cape, Baja California Sur, Mexico November, 2002. Length, 12 inches. Line, 8-pound test. Description and photo courtesy Peter Langstraat.

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