California Lizardfish, Synodus lucioceps
The California Lizardfish, Synodus lucioceps, whose common Spanish name is Chile Lucio is a member of the Lizardfish or Synodontidae Family, known collectively as “chiles” in Mexico.
The California Lizardfish has an elongated (width 12-14% of standard length) tubular robust body with an overall mottled brown coloration that is cream and gray above and abruptly pale below. They have a subtle row of approximately eight irregular dark blotches along the mid-flank and the gill membranes and pelvic fins are yellowish. The adipose fin, caudal fin and pectoral fins are dark; and, the anal and dorsal fins are transparent with dark rays. Their head is wide and medium sized being 22-24% of standard length, with a long pointed snout, large eyes and a large slightly oblique mouth that extends well past the eyes that opens at the front and is equipped with many rows of fine pointed teeth. They have a straight lateral line. The anal fin has a long base that is equal in length to the dorsal fin base; the caudal fin is forked; the dorsal fin that is found mid-body and its’ origin is closer to the adipose fin origin than the snout tip, the small adipose fin is above the anal fin; and, the pelvic fins are large found behind the pectoral fins. The fins are spineless.
The California Lizardfish is found on the bottom (demersal) within and over sand and mud bottoms at depths between 5 and 750 feet. They reach a maximum length of 64 cm (25.2 inches). They are voracious ambush predators feeding primarily on small fishes, krill, squid, and shrimp. They in turn are preyed on by sea lions. They are a poorly studied species and very little is known about their behavioral patterns.
The California Lizardfish can be confused with the the Iguana Lizardfish, Synodus sechurae (short pectoral fins, white spots along the lateral line), and the Lance Lizardfish, Synodus scituliceps (uniform body coloration; short head). The California Lizardfish has a limited distribution being found along both coasts of Baja and are absent from water adjacent to the mainland.
The California Lizardfish is viewed by local fishermen as a by-catch of no value. They have small mouths that require small hooks for success. They are strictly a “catch-and-release” and at times can become pests to recreational anglers.