Ladyfish, Pacific Ladyfish
Sábalo, Machete
(Elops affinis)

Ladyfish, Elops affinis: The Ladyfish is a shallow-water, inshore species with a long, slender, cylindrical, silvery body, blue reflections, an oval cross-section, and noticeable scales. The Ladyfish's mouth has a projecting lower jaw, and it has large eyes. It has one dorsal fin. The anal fin base is shorter than the dorsal fin base.

The pelvic fins are in the middle of the body, originating slightly ahead of the dorsal fin origin. The pectoral fins of the Ladyfish are very low on its sides and just behind the edge of the gill cover. It has a deeply forked caudal fin.

In Mexican fishing areas they are known as sábalos.

The Ladyfish is an easy species to identify. However it is similar to the Eastern Pacific Bonefish, Albula esuncula (small mouth that does not extend to eye, pelvic fins originate at the rear of the dorsal fin); the Milkfish, Chanos chanos (large eyes, small mouth, strong lateral line, short pointed dorsal fin); and the Shafted Bonefish, Albula nemoptera (prolonged filamentous last dorsal fin ray and long last anal fin ray with dorsal being longer than anal). The Ladyfish reaches 36 inches in length, but is normally between 12 and 30 inches. It is normally found in the first 25 feet of the water column over sandy bottoms.

The Ladyfish is a member of the Elopidae Family which includes the genus Elops comprising the ladyfishes, machetes, and ten-pounders. They are characterized by elongated cylindrical bodies with facial features that include an oblique mouth reaching back past the eye, and large eyes with fatty eyelids. They have one dorsal fin at mid-body, pelvic fins that originate under the front half of the dorsal fin base, pelvic fins that are low on the body, and an anal fin that is well behind the dorsal fin and has a shorter base than the dorsal base. They have lateral lines that run the length of the body and deeply forked caudal fins. Their fins are without spines. Globally there are six species of Elopidae of which only one is found in the tropical Eastern Pacific and in Mexican fishing waters. Other species of Ladyfish are referred to as “ten-pounders” due to their horrific strength and stamina. However, they never exceed 3 pounds.

The Ladyfish is a coastal pelagic species, aggregating close to shore. It is a twilight predator feeding on small fishes. It is reported in all Mexican waters with the exception that they appear to be absent from all oceanic islands. The Ladyfish is viewed as not edible due to the numerous small bones found throughout its body.

Ladyfish Photo 1

Ladyfish, Elops affinis: Shows up when one purchases a “scoop of bait.” Caught fishing in the surf zone, La Playita, San Jose del Cabo, Baja California Sur, Mexico, during late December 2003, with a water temperature of 76 degrees, early morning, in 5 to 10 foot deep water, utilizing a net cast by a panguero bait salesmen. Size approximately 20 inches and 3 pounds. Virtually an unknown species to locals but a targeted game species about 50 miles to the north in the East Cape area.

Ladyfish Photo 2

Ladyfish, Elops affinis: Caught while fishing on the fly at East Cape, Baja California Sur, Mexico. Photo courtesy Baja On The Fly.

Ladyfish Photo 4<

Ladyfish, Elops affinis: One of 60 Ladyfish caught during a fishing trip at East Cape, Baja California Sur, Mexico, in October-Novemb er, 2001. Description and photo courtesy Peter Langstraat.

Ladyfish Photo 3

Ladyfish, Elops affinis: Photo courtesy Peter Langstraat.

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