Pacific Spadefish, Chaetodipterus zonatus: The Pacific Spadefish is characterized by a deep laterally compressed disc-like body that has six wide black bars on the sides and a prominent lateral line. It has a rounded head profile with a small terminal mouth and a blunt snout that is equal in length to the width of the eyes.
The large dorsal fin of the Pacific Spadefish, of which the third spine is the longest, is well back in the body and opposite and similar in shape to the anal fin. Both the anal and dorsal fins have long spinous portions and relatively short rayous portions. All of the fins are black with the pectoral and pelvic fins being small and the caudal fin being large and lunate.
This fish species might be confused with the Panama Spadefish, Parapsettus panamensis (bump on the forehead, no bars on the sides). It reaches a maximum size of 26 inches in length and is found in the first 150 feet of the water column over sandy bottoms. In Mexican waters the Pacific Spadefish is rare but omnipresent.
The Pacific Spadefish is a member of the Ephippidae Family which are known in Mexico fishing areas as peluqueros. The family has 20 global members from seven genera of which only two species are found in Mexican fishing waters. They all have deep laterally compressed bodies with small terminal mouths and anal and dorsal fins that have large spinous portions and long low rayous portions.
Juveniles have black bars on the sides which dissipate quickly with age. The spadefish consume algae and a variety of benthic and planktonic invertebrates including gorgonian corals, polychaete worms, sponges, tunicates and zoantharians, making them difficult if not impossible to catch with hook and line. They are considered to be an excellent food fish but are not abundant.