Iguana Lizardfish

Iguana Lizardfish, Synodus sechurae

The Iguana Lizardfish, Synodus sechurae, whose common Spanish name is chile iguana, is a species in the Lizardfish or Synodontidae Family, known as chilies in Mexico. Globally, there are thirty seven species in the genus Synodus, of which eleven are found in Mexican waters, six in the Atlantic and five in the Pacific.

The Iguana Lizardfish have elongated tubular robust bodies that have a depth of 10 to 14% of standard length. The are mottled brown dorsally and are white ventrally. They have a row of white spots that follow the lateral line. All their fins are transparent. Their head is short (18-20% of standard length) and features a moderately long snout, small eyes, and a large, slightly oblique mouth that extends well past the eyes. Their mouth opens at the front and is equipped with many rows of fine pointed teeth. They have a straight lateral line. Their small adipose fin is above their anal fin; their caudal fin is forked; their dorsal fin is mid-body with its origin closer to the tip of the snout than to the adipose fin; their pectoral fins are long reaching past their pelvic fins; and their pelvic fins are large and found behind their pectoral fins. Their fins are spineless. A key to identification is that the anal fin base is equal in length to the dorsal fin base.

The Iguana Lizardfish are found on the bottom (demersal) within and over sandy and muddy bottoms in very deep waters at depths up to 300 feet. They reach a maximum length of 30 cm (11.8 inches). They are voracious ambush predators feeding primarily on small fish, krill, squid, and shrimp. They are a poorly studied species and very little is known about their behavioral patterns.

In Mexican waters the Iguana Lizardfish are found from Magdalena Bay southward along the southwest coast of Baja, in the southern two-thirds of the Sea of Cortez, and along the coast of the mainland south to Guatemala.

The Iguana Lizardfish can be confused with the Lance Lizardfish, Synodus scituliceps (chin knob, pectoral fins not reaching the pelvic fin origin, anal fin base longer than dorsal fin base).

The Iguana Lizardfish are uncommon and viewed by local fishermen as a by-catch of no value. Furthermore, their small mouths require small hooks for success. They are strictly a “catch-and-release”.

Iguana Lizardfish, Synodus sechurae. The identification is very straight forward as they are the only lizard fish in the Mexican waters of the Pacific where “A” in the above photograph is shorter in length than “B”.

Iguana Lizardfish, Synodus sechurae. Fish caught with Jimmy Camacho, Jimmy’s Sportfishing, Puerto Adolfo Lopez Mateos, Baja California Sur, (Jimmyhcamacho@gmail.com, 613-114-0761; 612-204-1960) within the coastal waters of Magdalena Bay, Baja California Sur, April 2016. Length: 25 cm (10 inches).

Iguana Lizardfish, Synodus sechurae. Fish caught with Jimmy Camacho, Jimmy’s Sportfishing, Puerto Adolfo Lopez Mateos, Baja California Sur, (Jimmyhcamacho@gmail.com, 613-114-0761; 612-204-1960) within the coastal waters of Magdalena Bay, Baja California Sur, May 2017. Length: 28 cm (11 inches).