Glasseye Snapper, Heteropriacantus cruentatus
The Glasseye Snapper, Heteropriacanthus cruentatus, whose common Spanish name is catalufa roquera, is a species in the Bigeye or Pricanthidae Family, known collectively as catalufa in Mexico. Globally, there is only one species in the genus Heteropriacanthus, and it is found in Mexican waters of the Pacific.
The Glasseye Snapper are named for their large eyes and are characterized by a strong, compressed, and elongated body that have a depth that is 33 to 37% of standard length and a large upturned mouth with a projecting lower jaw. Their head profiles are symmetrical and they feature a large flat spine on their gill cover. The Glasseye Snapper is of a uniform pinkish red color; this includes the fins and the iris of the eyes. Their anal fin, caudal and second dorsal fins have elliptical dark spots. They have a slightly rounded caudal fin and short pelvic fins that are broadly fused to the belly. They have small scales.
The Glasseye Snappers reside over and within rocky bottoms at depths up to 1,000 feet. They reach a maximum length of 50 cm (20 inches). They are reported to be nocturnal feeders. The Glasseye Snappers are a poorly studied species and as such there is very limited information available about their behavioral patterns.
The Glasseye Snapper is not a difficult fish to identify due to their elongated oval bodies, uniform pinkish color with modest fin spotting, and their strongly oblique mouths.
In Mexican waters the Glasseye Snapper are found in all waters of the Atlantic. In the Pacific, they range from Cedros Island southward along the central and southwest coasts of Baja, from LaPaz to Cabo San Lucas along the southeast coast of Baja and from Mazatlán south to Guatemala along the coast of the mainland. They are more prominent around the Mexican oceanic islands of the Pacific.
The Glasseye Snappers are rare, therefore not of interest to most. Small versions are available in and around the new Puerto Los Cabos marina where they are caught as a by-catch with some frequency by live bait salesmen using large cast nets. I have only caught one or two in that location pre-dawn using a Sabiki rig. Since they are similar to the Popeye Catalufa, they are most likely very marginal table fare being retained only by subsistence fishermen and thus considered a “catch and release.”
Glasseye Snapper, Heteropriacanthus cruentatus, juvenile. Fish provided by commercial fishermen of the greater Los Cabos area, Baja California Sur, December 2010. Size: 12 cm (5.0 inches). Identification courtesy of H.J. Walker, Jr., Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA.
Glasseye Snapper, Heteropriacanthus cruentatus. Both fish provided by commercial bait salesmen, Puerto Los Cabos, Baja California Sur, November 2008. Length: 26 cm (10.2 inches) and 25 cm (9.8 inches), respectfully.