Gulf Flounder, Paralichthys albigutta
The Gulf Flounder, Paralichthys albigutta, whose common Spanish name is lenguado panzablanca, is a member of the Sand Flounder or Paralichthyidae Family, known collectively as lenguados areneros in Mexico. This fish is also known as the Summer Flounder. Globally, there are twenty-one species in the genus Paralichthys, six of which are found in Mexican waters, three in the Atlantic and three in the Pacific.
The Gulf Flounders have elongated oval bodies with a depth that is 36 to 42% of standard length. They are left-eyed flat fish with an arched lateral line that extends onto their head and branches to the upper eye and below the lower eye. They vary in color to match their substrate, however, most are chocolate brown. They have numerous splotches and spots on their upper body surface with three prominent ocellated spots forming a triangle: two located posteriorly of the pectoral fins and one found inside the base of the caudal fin on the lateral line. Their fins match their body color. Their blind side is off-white. They exhibit sexual dimorphism with females having eyes set closer together and males having longer pectoral fins. They have a short pointed head and parallel eyes with a flat space in-between. Their upper head profile is straight. They have a large mouth that ends under the rear eye, with one row of teeth on both jaws and large canines in the front. They have 53 to 63 anal rays and 71 to 85 dorsal rays. Their caudal fin is doubly concave with a short blunt point. They have pectoral fins on both sides of their body with the eye-side fin being short and rounded. Their pelvic fins are of equal size and have symmetrical bases. They have 9 to 12 lower gill rakers. Both sides of their body are covered with small smooth scales.
The Gulf Flounders are found in a wide variety of coastal habitats including brackish waters, tidal creeks, bays, estuaries, beaches, muddy and sandy bottoms, and near-shore rocky bottoms. They are bottom dwellers found near structures at depths up to 425 feet. They reach a maximum length of 71 cm (28 inches) and 9.1 kg (20 pounds) in weight. They are opportunistic and well- camouflaged ambush sight predators that lie in wait half submerged on the ocean floor. They consume crustaceans and small fish. They are poorly studied and very little is known about their behavioral patterns.
In Mexican waters the Gulf Flounders are found in all aters of the Atlantic with the exception that the are absent from the East Coast of the Yucatán.
The Gulf Flounder is most likely confused with the Southern Flounder, Paralichthys lethostigma (larger in size; lacks three distinct ocellated spots on eye-side).
The Gulf Flounders are targeted by recreational anglers utilizing light spinning tackle and live mud minnows, live finger mullet, live or frozen shrimp, cut bait or jigs. Along the Gulf Coast of the southern United States they are caught in coastal waters and offshore at distances up to 200 miles and are regulated with length and daily bag limits. They are fished commercially at a minor level and considered a quality food fish. From a conservation perspective they have not been evaluated but populations are believed to be stable.
Gulf Flounder, Paralichthys albigutta. Fish caught from coastal waters off Bradenton, Florida, March 2016. Length: 43 cm (17 inches). Catch, photo, and identification courtesy of George Brinkman, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.