Yellow Snake Eel

Yellow Snake Eel, Ophichthus zophochir

The Yellow Snake Eel, Ophichthus zophochir, whose common Spanish name is tieso amarillo, is a species in the Snake Eel or Ophichthidae Family, known collectively as tiesos in Mexico. Globally, there are sixty-six species in the genus Ophichthus, nine of which are found in Mexican waters, three in the Atlantic and six in the Pacific.

The Yellow Snake Eels have elongated slender cylindrical bodies. They have a uniform drab brown-gray coloration and are lighter ventrally. They have a row of pores on their lower jaw and three pores that run from above the rear of their mouth upward behind their eye (pictured below) all of which have dark spots. Their lower jaw, throat, gill cover region, and fins are dark. Their head has an overhanging snout with moderately-sized eyes located over the middle of their large mouth. Their rear nostril is just above the top lip and is covered by a flap. They have one barbel between their front and rear nostrils and two behind their rear nostril. Their teeth are pointed with two rows on the jaws and one on the roof of the mouth; they do not have canines. Their dorsal fin originates over the middle of their long and pointed pectoral fins. Their tail, which is blunt and ends in a hard finless point, is 63 to 70% of total length. They have no scales.

The Yellow Snake Eels are found mostly within burrows in sandy and muddy bottoms at depths up to 350 feet. They reach a maximum length of 98 cm (3 feet 3 inches). The Yellow Snake Eels are a poorly studied species and very little is known about their behavioral patterns.

In Mexican waters the Yellow Snake Eels are found in all waters of the Pacific.

The Yellow Snake Eel, due to its unique characteristics, cannot be confused with any other species.

The Yellow Snake Eels, although fairly abundant and of good size, are of limited interest to most and normally a “catch and release”.

Yellow Snake Eel (1)

Yellow Snake Eel, Ophichthus zophochir. Fish provided by the commercial fishermen of the greater Los Cabos area, Baja California Sur, August 2009. Length: 62 cm (24 inches). Identification courtesy of H.J. Walker, Jr., Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA.

Yellow Snake Eel, Ophichtyhus zophochir. Fish caught from the pier in Puerto Adolfo Lopez Mateos, Baja California Sur, May 2017. Length: 60 cm (24 inches). Tail: 65%.