Bigmouth Sole

Bigmouth Sole, Hippoglossina stomata

The Bigmouth Sole, Hippoglossina stomata, whose common Spanish name is lenguado bocón, is a member of the family Paralichthyidae or Sand Flounders, known collectively as lenguados areneros in Mexico. Globally, there are only five global members of the genus Hippoglossina, three of which are found in Mexican waters, all in the Pacific. All family members are left-eyed fish and have either a straight or an arched lateral line.

The Bigmouth Soles have elongated bodies with a depth that is 34 to 38% of standard length. Their eye side is gray brown with blue reflections and numerous blue and pale brown spots. There are five dark brown ocelli along their upper and lower body. They have light and dark mottlings on their anal and dorsal fins and a dark spot on both sides of their caudal fin base. Their blind side is off-white. They have a modest-sized head with a long mouth that is approximately 50% of head length and reaches the rear edge of their lower eye. Their eyes are large, set close together, and parallel. They have small teeth of equal size developed on both jaws. They have 47 to 55 anal rays and 63 to 70 dorsal rays. Their dorsal fin originates over the top eye. Their caudal fin is pointed, their pectoral fin is short being 50% of head length on the eye side, and their pelvic fins are symmetric. They have 15 to 21 long and slender gill rakers on their lower arch and are covered with large rough scales. They have an arched lateral line that extends into the head and branches into the top eye and below the lower eye.

The Bigmouth Soles are bottom dwellers found over and within sandy and muddy bottoms at depths between 33 feet and 1,570 feet. They reach a maximum length of 40 cm (16 inches). They are optimistic and well-camouflaged ambush predators that lie in wait half submerged on the ocean floor. They prey on small fish and a wide variety of crustaceans. They are preyed upon by the California Sea Lion.

In Mexican waters the Bigmouth Soles have a limited distribution being found along the entire west coast of Baja and throughout the Sea of Cortez; they are are absent from coastal waters fromMazatlán southward to Guatemala.

The Bigmouth Sole cannot be confused with any other species due to its elongated body, large mouth, highly arched lateral line, and spotted ocelli, although the Spotted Flounder, Hippoglossina bollmani (maximum length 20 cm; 11 to 13 gill rakers) is fairly similar to the Bigmouth Sole.

The Bigmouth Soles are considered an excellent food fish and are sold commercially. They are a rare by-catch of deep water shrimp trawlers and are occasionally caught by pier fishermen or on party boats.

Bigmouth Sole (1)

Bigmouth Sole, Hippoglossina stomata. Fish provided by the commercial fishermen of the greater Los Cabos area, Baja California Sur, August 2010. Length: 41 cm (16 inches).

Bigmouth Sole, Hippoglossina stomata. Fish provided by the commercial fishermen of the greater Los Cabos area, Baja California Sur, July 2013. Length: 22 cm (8.7 inches).