Specklefin Midshipman

Specklefin Midshipman, Porichthys myriaster

The Specklefin Midshipman, Porichthys myriaster, whose common Spanish name is sapo aleta  pintada, is a species in the Toadfish or Batrachoididae Family, known collectively as peces sapo in Mexico. Gobally, there are fourteen species in the genus Porichthys, seven of which are found in Mexican waters, one in the Atlantic and six in the Pacific.

The Specklefin Midshipmen have elongated bodies with an oval cross-section. They are brown in color with a golden sheen and have 8 to 12 dark saddles on their back. Their anal fin has a dark margin and their dorsal and pectoral fins have numerous small spots and bars. They have a large head with eyes on top, canine teeth, and a prominent non-venomous spine on their gill cover. They have two stout dorsal spines followed by a separate second dorsal fin with 36 to 38 rays and a long base. Their anal fin has no spines and 33 to 38 rays. They have 4 conspicuous rows of light organs along their lateral lines; the rows under each side of their chin are connected in front with a forward pointing U-shaped row of lights. They also have a row of lateral line pores on their lower flank that ends approximately 10 pores before the associated row of light organs. They have 10 to 14 lower gill rakers and they are scaleless.

The Specklefin Midshipmen are bottom dwellers found over sandy and muddy bottoms at depths up to 500 feet. They are the largest of the Midshipmen and reach a maximum length of 51 cm (20 inches). They consume crabs, echinoderms, fish, mollusks, and shrimp. They are a deep waters fairly rare species that are seldom seen by humans and very little is known about their behavioral patterns.

In Mexican waters the Specklefin Midshipmen have a limited distribution being found from Magdalena Bay northward along the central and northwest coasts of Baja.

The Specklefin Midshipman can be easily confused with the Mimetic Midshipman, Porichthys mimeticus and the Plainfin Midshipman, Porichthys notatus, but both lack the spotting and barring  patterns on their dorsal and pectoral fins.

The Speckefin Midshipman is rare with a limited distribution, seldom seen by humans, and is of limited interest to most.

Specklefin Midshipman, Porichthys myriaster. Fish caught by Captain Jimmy Camacho of Jimmy’s Sportfishing, Puerto Adolfo Lopez Mateos, Baja California Sur, (JimmyHcamacho@gmail.com, 613-114-0761; 612-204-1960) in coastal waters off  Puerto Adolfo Lopez Mateos, Baja California Sur, May 2017. Length: 36 cm (14 inches). Identification courtesy of H.J. Walker, Jr., Scripps Institute of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA.