Stone Scorpionfish, Scorpaena mystes
The Stone Scorpionfish, Scorpaena mystes, whose common Spanish name is escorpión roquero, is a species in the family Scorpaenidae, the Rockfishes and Scorpionfishes, known as escorpiónes or lapóns in Mexico. They are one of the true exotics of the globe having perhaps the meanest personality of any fish. Globally, there are 59 species in the genus Scorpaena, of which sixteen are found in Mexican waters, ten in the Atlantic and six in the Pacific.
The Stone Scorpionfish have spine-laden compressed elongated oval-shaped bodies that taper at both ends; their body depth is 36 – 40% of standard length. They vary significantly in color but are a more or less uniform drab mottled mixture of gray, brown, red, orange, green, and black. They have conspicuous barbells under their mouth and abundant skin flaps over their head and body, which afford them the appearance of a seaweed-encrusted rock. Their caudal fin is rounded, ragged, and has dark bars. A key to identification is that the base of their very large pectoral fins are dark with white spots arranged below (see photograph below). Their dorsal fin typically has one prominent black spot; however, I have seen fish with as many as four (see photograph below). They have disproportionately large mouths. Their head is very bony with numerous spines and is as broad as it is deep. Their head and body are covered with numerous skin flaps. They have medium-sized eyes. There have shallow depressions (pits) before and after their eyes and a deep pit behind their eyes; the ridge below their eyes has three or four spines. Their anal fin has three spines and five or six rays; their dorsal fin has twelve spines and nine or ten rays; and their pectoral fins have eighteen to twenty-one rays. Their bodies are covered with large smooth scales.
The Stone Scorpionfish are found from the intertidal zone to depths up to 330 feet in weed-covered reefs and open sand rubble areas. They are ambush predators consuming fish and small invertebrates. They reach a maximum length of 49 cm (19 inches), with a fish that I caught off the beach establishing this record. They are found in all Mexican waters of the Pacific.
The Stone Scorpionfish cannot be confused with any other species due to its large head, numerous head skin flaps, and white spotting on the underside of its pectoral fin base. The larger fish give the impression of being the meanest most ferocious species in the ocean and are an immediate “catch and release”. Caution: As with all Scorpionfish, the Stone Scorpionfish should be treated as “hazardous” and released as soon as possible, being careful not to allow their poisonous spines to penetrate the skin.