Banded Wrasse

Banded Wrasse, Halichoeres notospilus

The Banded Wrasse, Halichoeres notospilus, whose common Spanish name is señorita listada, is a member of the Wrasse or Labridae Family, known collectively as doncellas, señoritas, and viejas in Mexico. Globally, there are seventy species in the genus Halichoeres, nineteen of which are found in Mexican waters, ten in the Atlantic and nine in the Pacific.

The Banded Wrasses have elongated compressed bodies with a depth that is 25 to 35% of standard length; more mature fish have wider bodies. They typically have a greenish-brown coloration with varying amounts of blue which creates a cross-hatching pattern. Females (Initial Phase) are dark green dorsally transitioning to light green ventrally with five or six alternating yellow and black patches along their upper back. Males (Terminal Phase) are dark green dorsally transitioning to light green ventrally with 7 or 8 black bars on the upper half of their body interspaced with narrow yellow bars. They have a black patch behind their pectoral fin and a rounded caudal fin with a reddish margin. Their fins are dark with the exception of the pectoral and pelvic fins which are transparent. They have one pair of canine teeth at the front of their upper jaw and two pairs at the front of their lower jaw.

The Banded Wrasses are coastal residents found within rocky shores exposed to surges from the intertidal zone at depths up to 30 feet. They reach a maximum length of 28.5 cm (11.2 inches), established by the fish photographed below. They feed diurnally on small crustaceans, sea urchins, mollusks, and brittle stars. They are a small shallow-water species and very little is known about their behavioral patterns.

In Mexican waters the Banded Wrasse are found from Magdalena Bay southward along the southwest coast of Baja, in the southern 60% of the Sea of Cortez, and along the coast of the mainland south to Guatemala.

The Banded Wrasse is an easy fish to identify due to the bands along the top of its back, however, they might be confused with the Spinster Wrasse, Halichoeres nicholsi (no bands across back).

The Banded Wrasses are too small to be of interest to most. I can normally catch two or three of these fish on a standard predawn outing using a Carolina rig, size 6 hooks, baited with cut squid. They are a “catch-and-release” to all but subsistence fishermen.

Banded Wrasse (3)

Banded Wrasse, Halichoeres notospilus, juvenile. Fish caught from shore at Km 21, Cabo Real, Baja California Sur, June 2015. Length: 10.5 cm (4.1 inches).

Banded Wrasse, Halichoeres notospilus, initial phase (IP) female. Fish caught from shore at Km 21, Cabo Real, Baja California Sur, April 2012. Length: 18.0 cm (7.1 inches).

Banded Wrasse, Halichoeres notospilus, initial phase (IP) female transitioning to terminal phase (TP) male.  Fish caught from shore at Km 21, Cabo Real, Baja California Sur, March 2013. Length: 18.0 cm (7.1 inches).

Banded Wrasse (5)

Banded Wrasse, Halichoeres notospilus, terminal phase (TP) male. Fish caught from shore at Km 21, Cabo Real, Baja California Sur, January 2016. Length: 28.5 cm (11.2 inches). An interesting observation is that as these fish mature their body shapes change dramatically from “cigars,”  with depths of  approximately 28%, to flatten rectangles, with depths of approximately 41%.