Stone Scorpionfish, Scorpaena mystes
The Stone Scorpionfish, Scorpaena mystes, whose common Spanish name is “Escorpión Roquero”, is a member of the Scorpionfish or Scorpaenidae Family, known collectively as “Escorpiónes” or “Lapóns” in Mexico. They are one of the true exotics of the globe.
The Stone Scorpionfish has a spine laden compressed elongated oval shaped body that tapers at both ends with a width that is 36 to 40% of standard length. They vary significantly in color but are always a more or less a uniform drab mottled mixture of gray, brown, red, orange, green and black. They have conspicuous barbells under the mouth, and abundant skin flaps over the head and body that affords them with the appearance of a seaweed-encrusted rock. The caudal fin is rounded, ragged, and has dark bars. A key to identification is that the axils of the very large pectoral fins are dark with white spots arranged below (see photograph below). The dorsal fin normally has one prominent black spot; I have seen fish with up to as many as four (see photograph below). They have disproportionately large mouths. Their head is very bony with numerous spines that is as broad as it is deep. The head and body are covered with numerous skin flaps. They have medium sized eyes. There are shallow depressions (pits) below and front of the eye and a deep pit behind the eye; the ridge below the eye has three or four spines. The 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 reach a maximum length of 49 cm (19.3 inches), with a fish that I caught off the beach establishing this record. They 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 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 the pectoral fin base. The larger ones give the impression that they are the meanest most ferocious species in the ocean and are normally an immediate “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.