Leopard Toadfish, Opsanus pardus
The Leopard Toadfish, Opsanus pardus, whose common Spanish name is sapo boquiblanc and sapo leopardo, is a species in the Toadfish or Batrachoididae Family, known collectively as peces sapo in Mexico. Globally, there are only five species in the genus Opsanus, three of which are found in Mexican waters, all in the Atlantic.
The Leopard Toadfish has a moderately depressed body. They are a light brown to yellow color. The head and fins have medium sized brown spots, the anal and dorsal fins have oblique rows. The body and pectoral fins are mottled. The inside of mouth is pale or white. They have a wide flattened head with numerous barbels around the mouth, two spines on the upper gill cover and one below. The mouth is equipped with molar-like pointed teeth and they do not have canines. The anal fin has 3 spines and 19 to 22 rays, the dorsal fin is continuous with 3 spines and 26 rays. They have two lateral lines and they are scaleless.
The Leopard Toadfish are bottom dwellers found within rocky areas including reefs at depths up to 300 feet. They reach a maximum length of 32 cm (13 inches). They are voracious predators consuming small fish, crustaceans, annelids, and mollusks. Males have a specialized swim bladder producing sounds known as “boatwhistles”, which are associated with courtship, spawning, parental, aggressive and territorial behavior. The Leopard Toadfish are poorly studied and very little is known about their behavioral patterns.
In Mexican waters the Leopard Toadfish are found in all waters of the Atlantic.
The Leopard Toadfish is similar to and can be easily confused with the Gulf Toadfish, Opsanus beta (head and body with subtle spotting; pectoral fins with bars).
The Leopard Toadfish has a wide distribution and is common throughout its range and is currently considered to be of Least Concern. They are caught in abundance as a bycatch via the grouper and longline fishery within the Gulf of Mexico. They are generally considered to be a trash fish and discarded.
Leopard Toadfish, Opsanus pardus. Fish caught from coastal waters off Placida, Florida, February 2017. Length: 31 cm (12 inches). Catch, photo and identification courtesy of George Brinkman, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.