Houndfish, Tylosurus cocrodilus
The Houndfish, Tylosurus cocrodilus, who is also known as the appropriately named Giant Mexican Needlefish, has a common Spanish name of Agujón Lisero, and is the largest member of the Needlefish or Belonidae Family, known collectively as “agujónes” in Mexico.
The Houndfish has a slender elongated rounded body with a dark blue-green upper body, silvery sides and a white belly. They have large eyes and the beaks are stout, straight and of modest equal lengths (16-18% of standard length), equipped with many very large long pointed teeth. The caudal fin is lunate with the lower lobe being much longer than the upper lobe; the pectoral fins and pelvic fins are relatively long.
The Houndfish is an oceanic pelagic found in the first ten feet of the water column. They reach a maximum length 162 cm (63.7 inches) and girth of 41 cm (16 inch), documented by a fish that was caught off the beach near La Paz by Neil Kelly. The Houndfish is found in all Mexican waters of the Pacific with the exception that they are absent from waters north of Cedros Island along the west coast of Baja. They are a rare, poorly studied species and very little is known about their behavioral patterns.
The Houndfish can be easily confused with the California Needlefish, Strongylura exilus (yellow eye and fins, thin body profile) and the Pacific Agujón, Tylosurus pacificus (long up-curved beak, forked caudal fin, short pectoral fins).
The Houndfish travel in large massive schools and will show up in a chum line and can be taken as a by-catch on live bait. They are finicky eaters that like to play with their food and are difficult to hook. They are more inshore than other needlefishes and if you catch a needlefish off the beach it is most like this species. The Houndfish is viewed by locals to be a pest with “too many bones” to be utilized for food. They are either a “catch and release” or retained for use as a cut bait for bottom fishing. When hooked they become acrobatic, making spectacular jumps while bending themselves into complete circles, and make mad, short dashes. They are excellent bait stealers inflicting major damage to and weakening monofilament line with their ginormous teeth.