Lance Lizardfish, Synodus scituliceps
The Lance Lizardfish, Synodus scituliceps, whose common Spanish name is chile arpón, is a species in the family Synodontidae, the Lizardfishes, known as chilies in Mexico. 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 Lance Lizardfish have elongated tubular robust bodies with a depth that is 13 – 17% of standard length. Dorsally they are grayish brown with a silvery sheen and white ventrally; and, they have no significant markings. Their adipose, caudal, and pectoral fins are dark; their anal and pelvic fins are transparent; and their dorsal fin is dusky. Their head is short (19-21% of standard length) and features a long, sharply-pointed snout, small eyes, a lower jaw that ends in a flesh knob, and a large, slightly oblique mouth that extends well past the eyes; their mouth opens at the front and is equipped with many rows of fine pointed teeth. They have a straight lateral line. Their small adipose fin is above their anal fin; their anal fin base is longer than their dorsal fin base; their caudal fin is forked; their dorsal fin is mid-body and originates closer to their adipose fin than their snout tip; their pectoral fins are short; and their pelvic fins are large and found behind their pectoral fins. Their fins are spineless.
The Lance Lizardfish are found on the bottom (demersal) within and over sandy and muddy bottoms in very deep waters at depths up to 560 feet. They reach a maximum length of 55 cm (21.6 inches) and are the largest of the Mexican Lizardfish of the Pacific. They are voracious ambush predators feeding primarily on small fish, krill, squid, and shrimp. They are 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. They are a poorly studied species and very little is known about their behavioral patterns.
The Lance Lizardfish can be confused with the California Lizardfish, Synodus lucioceps (yellow pectoral fins; head 22-24% of standard length) and the Iguana Lizardfish, Synodus sechurae (dorsal fin origin closer to the snout tip than the adipose fin origin).
The Lance Lizardfish are uncommon and viewed by local fishermen as a by-catch of no value. Furthermore, their small mouths require small hooks for success. They are strictly a “catch-and-release”.