Popeye Catalufa, Pristigenys serrula
The Popeye Catalufa, Pristigenys serrula, whose common Spanish name is catalufa semáforo, is a species in the family Pricanthiade, the Bigeyes, known as catalufa in Mexico. Globally, there are only four species in the genus Pristigenys, of which two are found in Mexican waters, one in the Atlantic and one in the Pacific.
The Popeye Catalufa are characterized by a strongly compressed, distinctively deep oval body that have a depth that is 49 – 53% of standard length, and a large upturned mouth with a projecting lower jaw. The Popeye Catalufa is a uniform pink to crimson color with juveniles having faint dark bands on their sides; these fade rapidly soon after collection. The outer edges of their rounded caudal and pelvic fins are black. Their dorsal fin is continuous with ten spines. As their central spines are the longest, they are used as a key to identification. Their pelvic fins are long and are broadly attached by a membrane to the belly and positioned in advance of the pectoral fins. They have large scales.
The Popeye Catalufas reside over and within rocky bottoms at depths up to 820 feet. They reach a maximum length of 35 cm (13.8 inches). This length was established by a fish that I caught. They are reported to be nocturnal feeders, however I have caught them with some frequency mid-day on cut squid at depths between 150 and 200 feet in the greater Los Cabos area. They are a rare and poorly studied species and as such there is very limited information available about their behavioral patterns.
The Popeye Catalufas are not a difficult fish to identify due to their wide oval bodies and strongly upturned mouths. They are most easily confused with the Bulleye, Cookeolus japonicus, which feature exceedingly long pelvic fins. They are found in all Mexican waters of the Pacific, however they are notably absent from the extreme northern portions of the Sea of Cortez.
The Popeye Catalufas are very marginal table fare being retained only by subsistence fishermen and thus considered a “catch and release.”