Conehead Eel, Cynoponticus coniceps
The Conehead Eel, Cynoponticus coniceps, whose common Spanish name is congrio espantoso, is a member of the Pike Conger or Muraenesocidae Family, which collectively are known as congrios picudos in Mexico. This fish is also known as the Red Pike Conger and is one of the largest species of this genus and family. There are three global members of the genus Cynoponticus, two of which are found in Mexican waters, one in the Atlantic and one in the Pacific.
The Conehead Eels are heavily bodied. They have a grayish olive-brown color that transitions to white ventrally. Their anal and dorsal fins are pale gray to brown with dark margins. Their pectoral fins are a uniform dark color. Their head is conical (after which they are named) with large skin-covered eyes and a rear nostril that is an elliptical hole located before mid-eye. Their mouth is large, reaches well past the eyes, and features large teeth and strong jaws. They have large concentric gill openings on their lower sides. Their anal and dorsal fins are well-developed and confluent with their caudal fin. Their dorsal fin originates over their gill openings. Their pectoral fins are well-developed and centered on the upper edge of their gill openings. They have a conspicuous lateral line that runs the entire length of their body. Their tail is 60% of total length.
The Conehead Eels inhabit sandy and muddy substrate, as well as mangrove habitats and are voracious predators. They reach a maximum length of 2.02 meters (6 feet 6 inches!) and weight of 11 kg (24 pounds).
In Mexican waters the Conehead Eels are found in all waters of the Pacific with the exception that they are absent from Magdalena Bay northward along the central and northwest coasts of Baja.
The Conehead Eel cannot be confused with any other species due to its size, coloration, head profile, and prominent lateral line.
The Conehead Eels are a rare by-catch of deep water shrimp trawlers and of limited interest to most.
Conehead Eel, Cynoponticus coniceps. Fish provided by the commercial fishermen of Bahía Kino, Sonora, January 2015. Length: 66 cm (26 inches). Photo courtesy of Maria Johnson, Prescott College Kino Bay Center, Kino Bay, Sonora.