Wormlined Croaker, Ophioscion vermicularis
The Wormlined Croaker, Ophioscion vermicularis, whose common Spanish name is corvineta cococha, is a member of the Croaker or Sciaenidae Family, known collectively as berrugatas and corvinas in Mexico. Globally, there are ten species in the genus Ophioscion, five are found in Mexican waters, all in the Pacific.
The Wormlined Croakers have oblong slightly compressed bodies with a low head and snout. They have a dark dusky gray coloration with silvery reflections. They have a yellow line under the pupil of their eyes and a pair of “nostrils” that are very close to their eyes. They have a series of prominent dark stripes that follow the scale rows. Their fins are dusky to black. They have a slightly projecting horizontal mouth. Their gill covers are finely serrated with 15 to 17 short spines. Their chin does not have a barbel, however, their snout has ten pores, five of which are found on their chin. Their anal fin has a short base with two spines and 8 rays with the second spine being stout and of equal length to the first ray; their caudal fin is “S-shaped” with the upper tip being pointed; their dorsal fin is deeply notched with ten spines followed by another spine and 26 to 28 rays; and their pectoral fins are long. They have 22 to 25 short gill rakers. They are covered with rough scales.
The Wormlined Croakers are found demersal over sandy bottoms along the shore, in the surf zone, and in inshore bays at depths up to 65 feet. They reach a maximum length of 35 cm (14 inches). The Wormlined Croakers are a poorly studied species and little is known about their behavioral patterns.
In Mexican waters the Wormlined Croaker have a limited distribution and are found from Magdalena Bay southward along the southwest coast of Baja and from Mazatlán south to Guatemala along the coast of the mainland. They are a rare species in Mexican waters of the Pacific and are much more common in coastal waters of Panama (being omnipresent in the Panama Fish Market) and Northern Peru.
The Wormlined Croaker is most likely confused with the Shortnose Stardrum, Stellifer chrysoleuca (rounded caudal fin; no prominent stripes).
I have had the good luck of catching several Wormlined Croakers off the beach north of Cabo San Lucas and south of Todos Santos utilizing cut squid affixed to small hooks and bottom rigs. They appear to be quality food fish but somewhat rare and small in stature.
Wormlined Croaker, Ophioscion vermicularis. Fish caught out of the surf at Km 65, Cerritos Beach, Baja California Sur, August 2005. Length: 25 cm (9.8 inches). Identification courtesy of Dr. Ross Robertson, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama.