Finespotted Jawfish, Opistognathus punctatus
The Finespotted Jawfish, Opistognathus punctatus, whose common Spanish name is bocón punteado, is a species in the Jawfish or Opistognathidae Family, known collectively as bocónes in Mexico. Globally, there are forty-three species in the genus Opistognathus, thirteen of which are found in Mexican waters, six in the Atlantic and seven in the Pacific.
The Finespotted Jawfish live in shallow coastal waters on sandy or rubble substrate adjacent to coral or rocky reefs at depths up to 80 feet. They reach a maximum length of 41 cm (16 inches). They live in elaborate burrows that are self-constructed by utilizing their mouths and powerful jaws to excavate sand, small stones, and medium-sized rocks. Their burrows are frequently lined and reinforced with pebbles and shell fragments. They are generally found in colonies and feed primarily on benthic and planktonic invertebrates. They exhibit the unusual habit of oral egg incubation. They can be found in water with temperatures as high as 95oF.
In Mexican waters the Finespotted Jawfish have a limited distribution being found from Magdalena Bay southward along the southwest coast of Baja, throughout the Sea of Cortez, and along the coast of the mainland south to Guatemala.
The Finespotted Jawfish can be confused with the Giant Jawfish, Opistognathus rhomaleus (large spots on head, mid-sized eyes, tan color inside the mouth, no spots on the fins and body).
The Finespotted Jawfish are of limited value except to subsistence fishermen and are normally considered a “catch and release.”
Finespotted Jawfish, Opistognathus punctatus. Fish caught from coastal waters off Bahia de los Angeles), Baja California, April 2006. Fish has unusual yellow pigmentation inside mouth, normally light tan. Catch and photo courtesy Gene Kira, Valley Center, CA.