Cominate Sea Catfish

Cominate Sea Catfish, Occidentarius platypogon

The Cominate Sea Catfish, Occidentarius platypogon, whose common Spanish name is bagre cominate, is a species in the Sea Catfish or Aridae Family, known collectively as bagres in Mexico. Globally, this is only species in the genus Occidentarius, and it is found in the majority of Mexican waters of the Pacific.

The Cominate Sea Catfish have a robust flattened body. They are a grayish olive-brown on the back that transitions to silvery and then to white ventrally. The fins are dusky and the anal fin has a white border. The head has three pairs of barbels, large eyes, a broad mouth with thick lips that is equipped with two pairs of tooth patches on the roof of the mouth with the inner pair being smaller than the triangular shaped, back pointing outer pair, and 3 pairs of barbels. They have wide gill openings and do have 14 to 16 gill rakers but none on the rear surfaces of the first two arches. The anal fin has 18 to 20 rays; the caudal fin is deeply forked; the dorsal fin has one spine, that is long and thin with prominent granules on the front surface that is venomous, and 7 rays; the second dorsal (adipose) fin has a base that is one-half to two-thirds of the first dorsal fin; and, the pectoral fins have one serrated and venomous spine and 10 or 11 rays.

The Cominate Sea Catfish are found in coastal waters over sandy and mud bottoms at depths between 20 and 330 feet. The reach a maximum length of 50 cm (20 inches). They feed on small fishes and benthic invertebrates including clams, crabs and mollusks and reside over coastal sandy and mud bottoms.

In Mexican waters the Cominate Sea Catfish are found from Guerrero Negro southward along the central and southwest coasts of Baja, throughout the Sea of Cortez and south along the coast of the mainland to Guatemala.

The Cominante Sea Catfish can be easily confused with the Bigbelly Sea Catfish, Cathorops dasycephalus (second dorsal fin base greater than first dorsal fin base, found only from Mazatlan south along the coast of the mainland to Guatemala, to 29 cm in length), the Tete Sea Catfish, Arius seemanni (pelvic fins with white boarders, to 35 cm in length, found only in the mid-Gulf south to Guatemala), and the Widehead Sea Catfish, Ariopsis guatemalensis (blue back, small eyes).

The Cominate Sea Catfish are sold fresh or salted commercially for human consumption, but not at a significant level, being caught in nets and purse seines. From a recreational angling perspective, they are considered to be a “hated trash fish.” From a conservation perspective, they are currently considered to be of Least Concern.

Cominate Sea Catfish, Occidentarius platypogon. Fish from coastal waters off Loreto, Baja California Sur, October 2017.  Length: 38 cm (15 inches).

f688-cominate-sea-catfish-3Cominate Sea Catfish, Occidentarius platypogon. Fish provided by the commercial fishermen of Bahía Kino, Sonora, March 2015. Length: 41 cm (16 inches). Photo and identification courtesy of Maria Johnson, Prescott College Kino Bay Center, Kino Bay, Sonora.

f688-cominate-sea-catfish-4Cominate Sea Catfish, Occidentarius platypogon. Fish caught from coastal waters off Loreto, Baja California Sur, April 2016, by Captain Francisco and his son Enzl. Length: 46 cm (18 inches). Photo courtesy of Pamela Pelger Bolles, Loreto.