Pacific Spadefish

Pacific Spadefish, Chaetodipterus zonatus

The Pacific Spadefish, Chaetodipterus zonatus, whose common Spanish name is chambo, is a species in the family Ephippidae, the Spadefishes, known as peluqueros in Mexico. Globally, there are only three species in the genus Chaetodipterus, of which two are found in Mexican waters, one in the Atlantic and one in the Pacific.

The Pacific Spadefish has a highly compressed body that has a depth that is 61 – 65% of standard length. They are silvery white to grayish in color with six wide black bars on the body. The anal, pectoral and pelvic fins are dusky blackish; the caudal and pectoral fins are yellowish. The rounded head has a very short blunt snout and a small mouth that opens at the front with small brush-like teeth in bands. The anal fin has three spines and 16 to 20 rays; the caudal fin is slightly concave; the dorsal fin has nine low spines, of which the third is the longest, and 18 to 23 rays with the spines being well developed and connected by a membrane and separated from the rays; the pectoral fins are short; and, the pelvic fins are under the pectoral fins. The anal and dorsal fins are similarly shaped and occur well back in the body. The body is covered with scales. The lateral line is a gradual continuous arch and is highly visible.

The Pacific Spadefish inhabit bays and inlets with sand or rubble bottoms and are found at depths up to 350 feet. They reach a maximum length of 66 cm (26 inches). They feed on The spadefish consume algae and a variety of benthic and planktonic invertebrates including gorgonian corals, polychaete worms, sponges, tunicates and zoantharians. They are found in all Mexican waters of the Pacific.

Due to the deep body and barring the Pacific Spadefish cannot be confused with any other species.

The Pacific Spadefish is considered to be an excellent food fish. However, they are classic nibblers and very difficult to catch via hook and line. They are a by-catch of open sandy bottom trawlers.

Pacific Spadefish, Chaetodipterus zonatus: Fish caught out of 70-foot water on a live shrimp in coastal waters off Mazatlán, October 2014. Length: 28 cm (11 inches). Catch and photo courtesy of George Brinkman, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.
Pacific Spadefish, Chaetodipterus zonatus: Fish caught out of 70-foot water on a live shrimp in coastal waters off Mazatlán, October 2014. Length: 28 cm (11 inches). Catch and photo courtesy of George Brinkman, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.
Pacific Spadefish, Chaetodipterus zonatus: Fish provided by the commercial fishermen of the greater Los Cabos are, Baja California Sur, June 2007. Length: 35 cm (14 inches).
Pacific Spadefish, Chaetodipterus zonatus: Fish provided by the commercial fishermen of the greater Los Cabos are, Baja California Sur, June 2007. Length: 35 cm (14 inches).
Pacific Spadefish, Chaetodipterus zonatus: Provided by the commercial fishermen of Bahía Kino, Sonora, November 2014. Length: 39 cm (15 inches). Photo courtesy of Maria Johnson, Prescott College, Kino Bay Center, Kino Bay, Sonora.
Pacific Spadefish, Chaetodipterus zonatus: Provided by the commercial fishermen of Bahía Kino, Sonora, November 2014. Length: 39 cm (15 inches). Photo courtesy of Maria Johnson, Prescott College, Kino Bay Center, Kino Bay, Sonora.