Panamic Flounder

Panamic Flounder, Cyclopsetta panámico

The Panamic Flounder, Cyclopsetta panámico, whose common Spanish name is lenguado panámico, is a member of the Sand Flounder or Paralichthyidae Family, known collectively as lenguados areneros in Mexico. This fish is also known as God’s Flounder. Globally, there are only five members of the genus Cyclopsetta, four of which are found in Mexican waters, two in the Atlantic and two in the Pacific.

The Panamic Flounders are left-eyed flat fish with a straight lateral line that originates just behind their eyes and extends to their caudal base. A small percentage of the population is right-eyed. They have elongated oval bodies with a depth that is 39 – 43% of standard length. Their eye side is dark brown with faint pale white spots on the head and body. Their anal and dorsal fins have several dark blotches. Their caudal fin has a large dark spot near its tip. Their blind side is off-white. They have a small rounded head with a short snout and a large mouth that ends behind the rear edge of their eyes. Their eyes are large, elevated, parallel, and separated by a flat space. They have one row of immovable teeth on both jaws and a pair of canines at the front of their top jaw. They have 70 to 78 anal rays and 90 to 99 dorsal rays. Their dorsal fin originates before the top eye. Their caudal fin is short and pointed and has a wide base. They have 8 to10 very short, fat, and most unusually-shaped gill rakers on their lower arch. They are covered with small rough scales on their eye side and with small smooth scales on their blind side.

The Panamic Flounders are bottom dwellers found over and within sandy and muddy bottoms at depths up to 395 feet. They are known to enter brackish waters. They reach a maximum length of 40 cm (16 inches), as established by a fish in my possession. They are opportunistic 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.

In Mexican waters the Panamic Flounder are found in all waters of the Pacific with the exception that they are absent from Magdalena Bay northward along the central and northwest coast of Baja and in the northern 20% of the Sea of Cortez.

The Panamic Flounder can be confused with the California Halibut, Paralichthys californicus (doubly concave caudal fin; 25 to 32 gill rakers), the Cortez Halibut, Paralichthys aestuarius (24 to 31 gill rakers), the Dappled Flounder, Paralichthys woolmani (16 to 20 gill rakers), and the Toothed Flounder, Cyclopsetta querna (smooth scales on eye side).

The Panamic Flounder is fairly rare and therefore of limited interest to most. They are however a quality food fish when available.

Panamic Flounder, Cyclopsetta panamensis, left eyed. Fish caught from coastal waters off Puerto Los Cabos, Baja California Sur, March 2007. Length: 30 cm (12 inches).

Panamic Flounder, Cyclopsetta panamensis, right eyed. Fish caught from coastal waters off Puerto Los Cabos, Baja California Sur, March 2007. Length: 33 cm (13 inches).