Shortjaw Leatherjack

Shortjaw Leatherjack, Oligoplites refulgens

The Shortjaw Leatherjack, Oligoplites refulgens, whose common Spanish name is piña flaca, is a member of the Jack or Carangidae Family, known collectively as jureles and pámpanos in Mexico. There are only six global members of the genus Oligoplites, three of which are found in Mexican waters, two in the Pacific and one in both the Atlantic and the Pacific.

The Shortjaw Leatherjacks have very compressed elongated bodies with a depth that is 19 to 23% of standard length. They are silvery in color with yellow tinges around their throat, dark anal and dorsal fins, and yellow caudal and pectoral fins. Their head has a pointed snout and a small mouth that ends before the rear margin of the eyes and has two distinct rows of teeth. Their anal fin has two standalone spines followed by one spine and 19 to 22 rays and is equal in length to the second dorsal fin. Their dorsal fin has 4 or 5 standalone spines followed by one spine and 19 to 21 rays. They have 11 to 15 semi-detached finlets behind their anal and dorsal fins. They have short pectoral fins and their caudal fin is deeply forked. They have 6 to 8 gill rakers on their lower arch and 19 to 22 on their upper arch. Their lateral line is arched over the pectoral fins but generally straight. Their body is covered with needle-shaped scales and has no scutes.

The Shortjaw Leatherjacks are a pelagic schooling species found inshore and in estuaries over sandy bottoms at depths up to 100 feet. They reach a maximum length of 30 cm (12 inches). They are a poorly studied species and very little is known about their behavioral patterns.

In Mexican waters the Shortjaw Leatherjacks are found in all waters of the Pacific with the exception that they are absent from south of La Paz on the east coast of Baja and along the entire west coast of Baja.

The Shortjaw Leatherjack can be easily confused with the Longjaw Leatherjack, Oligoplites altus (deeper body; mouth extending well behind the eyes) and the Leatherjack, Oligoplites saurus (long jaw; clear anal and dorsal fins; yellow caudal fin).

The Shortjaw Leatherjacks are considered an excellent foe on light tackle and provide a strong fight with jumping. They are also caught with nets by commercial fishermen. As food fish, they are considered somewhere between marginal and good. Their dorsal and anal spines are reported to be venomous, and should be avoided.

Shortjaw Leatherjack, Oligopiltes refulgens. Fish provided by the commercial fishermen of Bahía Kino, Sonora, March 2015. Length: 18 cm (7.1 inches). Photo and identification courtesy of Maria Johnson, Prescott College Kino Bay Center, Kino Bay, Sonora.