Flat Needlefish

Flat Needlefish, Ablennes hians

The Flat Needlefish, Ablennes hians, whose common Spanish name is agujón sable, is a species in the Needlefish or Belonidae Family, known collectively as agujónes in Mexico. Globally, this is only species in the genus Ablennes, and it is one of the few species found in Mexican waters of both the Atlantic and the Pacific.

The Flat Needlefish have strongly compressed bodies with green-back, silvery sides, and a white belly. Their back has approximately 12 wide vertical bars on its sides, which are more prominent towards the rear of freshly-caught fish and disappear very quickly post collection. Their anal, caudal, and dorsal fins are tipped in red. Their eyes are yellow and their beaks are relatively short (16 to 18% of standard length) and feature mid-sized teeth. Their anal and dorsal fins have long, pointed, and rounded soft rays, their caudal fin is concave with equal-sized lobes, their pectoral fins are short, and their pelvic fins are long.

The Flat Needlefish are an oceanic pelagic fish found in the first 40 feet of the water column. They reach a maximum length of 1.20 meters (3 feet 11 inches). The Flat Needledish are a poorly studied species and very little is known about their behavior.

The Flat Needlefish is found from Cedros Island southward along the central and southwest coasts of Baja, throughout the Sea of Cortez, and along the coast of the mainland from Mazatlán south to Guatemala.

The Flat Needlefish cannot be confused with any other Needlefish due to the black bars found on the sides of live fish and to their flat bodies.

The Flat Needlefish are viewed by locals as a pest with “too many bones” to be utilized for food. They are either a “catch and release” or retained for use as cut bait for bottom fishing. When hooked they like to make mad, short dashes. They are excellent bait stealers inflicting major damage to and weakening monofilament lines with their many teeth.

Flat Needlefish

Flat Needlefish, Ablennes hians. Fish caught off the surface off Point Palmilla, Baja California Sur, January 2014, on fly-linned cut squid. Length: 100 cm (39 inches).

Flat Needlefish, Ablennes hians. Fish provided by the commercial fishermen of Bahía Kino, Sonora, November 2015. Length: 89 cm (35 inches). Photo and identification courtesy of Maria Johnson, Prescott College Kino Bay Center, Kino Bay, Sonora.