Longfin Halfbeak

Longfin Halfbeak, Hemiramphus saltator

The Longfin Halfbeak, Hemiramphus saltator, whose Spanish common name is pajarito saltador is a species in the Halfbeak or Hemiramphidae Family, known collectively as pajaritos in Mexico. This fish is also known as the Jumping Halfbeak. Globally, there are ten species in the genus Hemiramphus, three of which are found in Mexican waters, two in the Atlantic and one in the Pacific.

The Longfin Halfbeaks have elongated cylindrical slender bodies. They are silvery-blue dorsally, white ventrally, and silvery on their sides with dark fins. The tip of their lower jaw is red-orange. They have transparent fins with the exception of the caudal fin which is dusky. Their lower jaw extends into a relatively short beak that is 20 to 22% of body length and the upper jaw is short and triangular. They have no teeth. Their anal fin has 11 to 13 rays; their caudal fin is deeply forked with the lower lobe being larger than the upper lobe; their dorsal fin has 12 to 15 rays; their pectoral fins are mid-sized, located high on the sides, and reach past the nasal pit when folded forward; and their pelvic fins are on the abdomen well back on the body. They have 25 to 32 gill rakers. Their anal and dorsal fins are well back on the body with bases opposite each other. Their lateral line is low on the body and they are covered with large smooth scales.

The Longfin Halfbeaks are a pelagic species normally found in coastal waters on the surface to depths of 70 feet. They reach a maximum length of 55 cm (22 inches). They feed on planktonic organisms and small fish. In turn they are preyed upon by birds, dolphins, dorado, marlins, porpoises, squids, and tuna. Reproduction is oviparous with females releasing large eggs containing a sticky substance that allows the eggs to attach to floating debris. They can often be observed “fleeing” when chased by large inshore predators. Although fairly common, they are a poorly studied species and very little is known about their behavioral patterns.

In Mexican waters the Longfin Halfbeak are found in all waters of the Pacific with the exception that they are absent from Cedros Island northward along the central and northwest coasts of Baja.

The Longfin Halfbeak can be easily confused with the California Halfbeak, Hyporhamphus rosae (caudal fin modestly forked), the Choelo Halfbeak, Hyporhamphus gilli (37 to 50 gill rakers), and the Pacific Silverstripe Halfbeak, Hyporhamphus naos (caudal fin modestly forked).

The Longfin Halfbeaks are of limited interest to most.

Longfin Halfbeak, Hemirampuhus saltator. Fish collected off the beach 3 miles north of Puerto Los Cabos, Baja California Sur, February 2004. Length 49 cm (19 inches). It had beached itself trying to avoid predation by a 25 pound Dorado that waited patiently for its return to the ocean.

Longfin Halfbeak (2)

Longfin Halfbeak, Hemirampuhus saltator. Fish courtesy of the commercial fishermen of the greater Los Cabos area, Baja California Sur, January 2011. Length: 39 cm (15.3 inches).