Lance Lizardfish, Synodus scituliceps
The Lance Lizardfish, Synodus scituliceps, whose common Spanish name is Chile Arpón is a member of the Lizardfish or Synodontidae Family, known collectively as “chiles” in Mexico.
The Lance Lizardfish has an elongated (width 14-16% of standard length) tubular robust body that is an overall grayish brown with a silvery sheen coloration that is white below and is without significant markings. The adipose, caudal and pectoral fins are dark, the anal and pelvic fins are transparent, and the dorsal fin is dusky. Their head is short being 19-21% of standard length with a long sharply pointed snout, small eyes, a lower jaw that ends in a flesh knob, 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 small adipose fin is above the anal fin; the anal fin has a base that is longer than the dorsal fin base; the caudal fin is forked; the dorsal fin is mid-body and its origin is closer to the adipose fin origin than the snout tip; the pectoral fins are short; and, the pelvic fins are large found behind the pectoral fins. The fins are spineless.
The Lance Lizardfish is found on the bottom (demersal) within and over sand and mud bottoms at depths up to 560 feet. They reach a maximum length of 55 cm (21.6 inches) and are the largest of the Mexican lizardfishes of the Pacific. They are voracious ambush predators feeding primarily on small fishes, krill, squid, and shrimp. They are normally found in very deep waters and a poorly studied species and very little is known about their behavioral patterns.
The Lance Lizardfish can be confused with the the California Lizardfish, Synodus lucioceps (yellow pectoral fins; head 22-24% of standard length), and the Iguana Lizardfish, Synodus sechurae (dorsal fin origin is close to the snout tip than the adipose fin origin). The Lance Lizardfish is found from Ensenada Bay south along the west coast of Baja, throughout the Sea of Cortez and along the coast of the mainland south to Guatemala.
The Lance Lizardfish are uncommon and 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”.