Dappled Flounder, Paralichthys woolmani
The Dappled Flounder, Paralichthys woolmani, whose common Spanish name is lenguado huaracheo, is a member of the family Paralichthyidae or Sand Flounders, known as lenguados areneros in Mexico. Globally, there are twenty one members of the Paralichthys Genus of which six are found in Mexican waters, three in the Atlantic and three in the Pacific.
The Dappled Flounders are left-eyed flat fish with an arched lateral line that extends onto their head and branches into their top eye and below their lower eye. They have elongated oval deep bodies with a depth that is 40 – 44% of standard length. A small percentage of the population is right-eyed. They can vary significantly and quickly in color to match their substrates. Their eye side can vary from tan to dark brown (pictured below) and is covered with dark round spots and smaller pale round spots. Their fins are similar to the body color but have darker markings toward the rear of their body. Their blind side is off-white to tan; a certain percentage of the male population has a dark brown blind side. They have a short pointed head with a relatively large mouth that ends under the rear edge of their lower eye. Their eyes are set apart with the top eye being slightly behind the lower eye. They have one row of teeth on both jaws with large canines in the front. They have 52 to 64 anal rays and 70 to 81 dorsal rays. Their dorsal fin begins over the upper eye. Their caudal fin is small, short, wide, and slightly doubly concave. They have 16 to 20 gill rakers and both eye and blind sides are covered with smooth scales.
The Dappled Flounders are bottom dwellers found over and within sandy and muddy bottoms at depths up to 300 feet. They are also known to enter brackish waters. They reach a maximum length of 89 cm (35 inches), as established by the fish photographed below. They are opportunistic and well-camouflaged ambush predators that lie in wait half submerged on the ocean floor. They are found in all Mexican waters of the Pacific but are absent from north of Magdalena Bay along the northwest coast of Baja.
The Dappled Flounder can possibly be confused with the California Halibut, Paralichtys californicus (doubly concave tail and at least 25 gill rakers) and the Cortez Halibut, Paralichtys aestuarius (broad head profile, no spots on its body, smaller wide fan-like caudal fin and at least 24 gill rakers).
The Dappled Flounders are considered an exceptional food fish and are sold commercially, but are uncommon. Note: efforts to introduce this species to the Salton Sea in the early 1950’s failed.