Dappled Flounder, Paralichthys woolmani
The Dappled Flounder, Paralichthys woolmani, whose common Spanish name is lenguado huaracheo, is a member of the Sand Flounder or Paralichthyidae Family, known collectively as lenguados areneros in Mexico. Globally, there are twenty-one members of the gunus Paralichthys, six of which are found in Mexican waters, three in the Atlantic and three in the Pacific. All family members are left-eyed fish and have either a straight or an arched lateral line.
The Dappled Flounders have elongated oval deep bodies with a depth that is 40 to 44% of standard length. They are left-eyed flat fish of which a small percentage of the population is right-eyed. They can vary significantly and quickly in color to match their substrates. Their eye side can vary from tan to dark brown (pictured below) and is covered with dark round spots and smaller pale round spots. Their fins are similar to the body color but have darker markings toward the rear of their body. Their blind side is off-white to tan; a certain percentage of the male population has a dark brown blind side. They have a short pointed head with a relatively large mouth that ends under the rear edge of their lower eye. Their eyes are set apart with the top eye being slightly behind the lower eye. They have one row of teeth on both jaws with large canines in the front. They have 52 to 64 anal rays and 70 to 81 dorsal rays. Their dorsal fin begins over the upper eye. Their caudal fin is small, short, wide, and slightly doubly concave. They have 16 to 20 gill rakers and both eye and blind sides are covered with smooth scales. The lateral line is arched and extends onto their head and branches into the top eye and below the lower eye.
The Dappled Flounders are bottom dwellers found over and within sandy and muddy bottoms at depths up to 300 feet. They are also known to enter brackish waters. They reach a maximum length of 89 cm (35 inches), as established by the fish photographed below. They are opportunistic and well-camouflaged ambush predators that lie in wait half submerged on the ocean floor.
In Mexican waters the Dappled Flounder are found in all waters of the Pacific with the exception that they absent from Magdalena Bay northward along the central and northwest coasts of Baja.
The Dappled Flounder can possibly be confused with the California Halibut, Paralichtys californicus (doubly concave tail and at least 25 gill rakers) and the Cortez Halibut, Paralichtys aestuarius (broad head profile, no spots on its body, smaller wide fan-like caudal fin and at least 24 gill rakers).
The Dappled Flounders are considered an exceptional food fish and are sold commercially, but are uncommon. Note: efforts to introduce this species to the Salton Sea in the early 1950’s failed.
Dappled Flounder, Paralichtys woolmani, gill rakers. A count of same is essential for a correct identification.
Dappled Flounder, Paralichthys woolmani. Fish caught from shore North of Mazatlán, Sinaloa, December 2012. Length 70 cm (28 inches). Weight: 5.5 kg (12 pounds). Catch courtesy of Julio Ramirez, Mazatlán. Photo courtesy of Jason Potts, Mazatlán, Sinaloa.
Dappled Flounder, Paralichthys woolmani. Fish caught from coastal waters off Point Palmilla, Baja California Sur, February 2015. Length: 89 cm (35 inches). This fish extends the known maximum length for this species by a full 9 cm (3.5 inches). Catch courtesy of Mauricio Correa, Cabo Real, Baja California Sur.
Dappled Flounder, Paralichthys woolmani. Fish caught within Magdalena Bay, Baja California Sur, January 2017. Length: 33 cm (13 inches). Catch and photo courtesy of Brad Murakami, Surrey, British Columbia, Canada.