Calico Lizardfish, Synodus lacertinus
The Calico Lizardfish, Synodus lacertinus, whose common Spanish name is chile lagarto, is a species in the family Synodontidae, the Lizardfishes, known as chilies in Mexico. This fish is also known as the Reef Lizardifsh. Globally, there are thirty seven species in the genus Synodus, of which eleven are found in Mexican waters, six in the Atlantic and five in the Pacific.
The Calico Lizardfish are found in and around rocky coral reefs and close to boulders adjacent to sand at depths up to 510 feet, although I have found them predominantly at depths of less than 150 feet. They reach a maximum length of 24 cm (9.4 inches), a length established by a fish that I caught. They are found in all Mexican waters of the Pacific with the exception of the northern third of the Sea of Cortez. Although rather common in the greater Los Cabos area, they are a poorly studied species and very little is known about their behavioral patterns.
Due to their elaborate red coloration patterns, the Calico Lizardfish are easy to identify and not likely to be confused with any other species. They are, however, quite similar to the very rare Eastern Pacific Flagfin, Aulopus bajacali (transparent anal fin without stripes).
The Calico Lizardfish are viewed by local fishermen as a by-catch of no value. They are more abundant than some species but are seldom caught because their small mouths require small hooks for success. They are strictly a “catch-and-release.”