Red Scorpionfish

Red Scorpionfish, Pontinus furcirhinus

The Red Scorpionfish, Pontinus furcirhinus, whose common Spanish name is “Lapón Rojo”, is a member of the Scorpionfish or Scorpaenidae Family, known collectively as “Escorpiónes” or “Lapóns” in Mexico.

The Red Scorpionfish has a relatively slender compressed body with body width of 31 to 38% of standard length which become wider with maturity. They are various shades of red with white mottling and dark brown and olive spotting on the upper body. The caudal fin and posterior portion of the dorsal fin are heavily spotted with small dark rectangular spots. Their head is enlarged, compressed, bulbous, and very bony with numerous spines. They have large eyes and a few have slender and pointed eye cirrus. They lack the pits before and behind the eye found in most other scorpionfish. The uppermost gill cover spine is the longest. Their anal fin has three spines, the second of which is the longest and stoutest, and five or six rays; their caudal fin is square with a ragged margin; their dorsal fin has twelve spines, the third of which is much longer than the others (the key to the identification), and eight or nine rays; and, their pectoral fins have seventeen to nineteen rays. They have fifteen to twenty gill rakes. Their lateral line is complete and prominent. Their bodies are covered with rough scales.

The Red Scorpionfish reaches a maximum length of 32.4 cm (12.8 inches) with this length established by a fish in my possession. They are found at depths between 150 and 2,280 feet over both hard and soft bottoms. They are found from Magdalena Bay south along the southwest coast of Baja, in the southern two-thirds of the Sea of Cortez, and along the coast of the mainland south to Guatemala.

The Red Scorpionfish is very similar in appearance to the Peruvian Scorpionfish, Scorpaena afuerae, and the Speckled Scorpionfish, Pontinus sierra, but only the Red Scorpionfish as an elongated third dorsal spine.

The Red Scorpionfish are retained and consumed by subsistence fishermen but are generally too small and too difficult to handle and for most a “catch and release.” Caution: this scorpionfish, like all scorpionfish, should be treated as “hazardous” and released as soon as possible, being careful not to allow its poisonous spines to penetrate the skin. Note that even the starving sea birds won’t touch a released Red Scorpionfish – they know better!

Red Scorpionfish (1)

Red Scorpionfish, Pontinus furcirhinus: Fish caught out of 300-foot water off Point Palmilla, Baja California Sur, May 2014, using a Sabiki rig tipped with squid. Length: 25 cm (9.8 inches).
Red Scorpionfish, Pontinus furcirhinus: Fish caught out of 300-foot water off Point Palmilla, Baja California Sur, May 2014, using a Sabiki rig tipped with squid. Length: 25 cm (9.8 inches).

Red Scorpionfish

Red Scorpionfish, Pontinus furcirhinus: Fish caught out of 300-foot water off Point Palmilla, Baja California Sur, June 2014. Length: 24 cm (9.4 inches). Most unusual "flag" tipped third dorsal spine. Purpose is unknown - mating, bait attraction, current detection?
Red Scorpionfish, Dorsal Fin, Pontinus furcirhinus: Fish caught out of 300-foot water off Point Palmilla, Baja California Sur, June 2014. Length: 24 cm (9.4 inches). Most unusual “flag” tipped third dorsal spine. Purpose is unknown – mating, bait attraction, current detection?