Calico Lizardfish

Calico Lizardfish, Synodus lacertinus

The Calico Lizardfish, Synodus lacertinus, whose common Spanish name is Chile Lagarto and also known as the Reef Lizardfish or Banded Lizardfish is a member of the Lizardfish or Synodontidae Family, known collectively as “chiles” in Mexico.

The Calico Lizardfish has an elongated (width 12-14% of standard length) tubular body with an overall reddish-brown coloration with the back having five saddle-like markings that extend onto the sides as irregular bars. The lower sides have ten to twelve red-brown blotches. The anal, dorsal and long pelvic fins have thin striping and the caudal fin has wide striping. They are white ventrally. Their head is wide, flattened, and medium sized being 22-24% of standard length. They have large eyes and a large mouth, which extends past the eyes, that is slightly oblique and opens at the front equipped with many rows of fine pointed teeth and a short snout that is not protruding. The have an anal fin with a base that is shorter than the dorsal fin base; the caudal fin is forked; the dorsal fin is mid-body and its origin being midway between the snout tip and origin of the adipose fin; and an adipose fin above the anal fin; and, the pelvic fins are large and inserted behind the pectoral fin base.

The Calico Lizardfish is found in an around rocky coral reefs and close to boulders adjacent to sand at depths up to 512 feet. However, I have found them predominantly at depths of less than 150 feet. They reach a maximum length of 23.9 cm (9.4 inches), established by a fish that I caught. Although rather common in the greater Los Cabos area they are a poorly studied species and very little is known about their behavioral patterns.

The Calico Lizardfish is an easy fish to identify and due to their elaborate red coloration patterns are not likely to be confused with any other species however they are very similar to the very rare Eastern Pacific Flagfin, Aulopus bajacali (transparent anal fin without stripes). The Calico Lizardfish is found in all Mexican waters of the Pacific except they are absent from the northern third of the Sea of Cortez.

The Calico Lizardfish is viewed by local fishermen as a by-catch of no value. They are more abundant than some species but seldom caught because they have small mouths that require small hooks for success. They are strictly a “catch-and-release.”

Calico Lizardfish, Synodus lacertinus: Fish caught in 100-foot water, off Point Palmilla, Baja California Sur, January 2014. Size: 15 cm (5.9 inches). I have seen these fish regurgitate fish half there size indicative of their aggressive feeding behaviors.

Calico Lizardfish, Synodus lacertinus: Fish caught in 100-foot water, off Point Palmilla, Baja California Sur, January 2014. Size: 15 cm (5.9 inches). I have seen these fish regurgitate fish half there size indicative of their aggressive feeding behaviors.