Longjaw Leatherjack, Oligoplites altus
The Longjaw Leatherjack, Oligoplites altus, whose common Spanish name is piña bocona, is a member of the Jack or Carangidae Family, known collectively as jureles and pámpanos in Mexico. There are only six global members of the genus Oligoplites, three of which are found in Mexican waters, two in the Pacific and one in both the Atlantic and the Pacific.
The Longjaw Leatherjacks have elongated very compressed bodies with a depth that is 28 to 32% of standard length. They are uniformly silvery-green with a yellowish belly and yellow caudal and pectoral fins. Their head has a pointed snout and their mouth ends at the rear margin of the eyes. They have eight to thirteen gill rakers. Their anal and dorsal fin bases are of equal length and both end with 11 to 15 semi-detached finlets. Their caudal fin is deeply forked and their pectoral fins are short. Their lateral line is slightly arched above the pectoral fins but is generally straight. Their body is covered with small needle-shaped scales and has no scutes.
The Longjaw Leatherjacks are a pelagic schooling species found inshore and in estuaries over sandy bottoms at depths up to 100 feet. They reach a maximum length of 56 cm (22 inches). They are a poorly studied species and very little is known about their behavioral patterns.
In Mexican waters the Longjaw Leatherjack are found throughout the Pacific with the exception that they are absent from Guerrero Negro northward along the central and northwest coasts of Baja. They are more common in the upper Sea of Cortez.
The Longjaw Leatherjack can be easily confused with the Shortjaw Leatherjack, Oligoplites refulgens (more aerodynamic; jaw only extends to pupils) and the Leatherjack, Oligoplites saurus (long jaw; clear anal and dorsal fins; yellow caudal fin).
The Longjaw Leatherjacks are considered an excellent foe on light tackle and provide a strong fight with jumping. They are also caught with nets by commercial fishermen. As a food fish, they are considered somewhere between marginal and good. Their dorsal and anal spines are reported to be venomous, and should be avoided.
Longjaw Leatherjack, Oligoplites altus, juvenile. Fish caught with a cast net off a pier in Puerto Adolfo Lopez Mateos, Baja California Sur, October 2017. Length: 11.7 cm (4.6 inches).
Longjaw Leatherjack, Oligoplites altus. Fish caught out from coastal waters off the New Mazatlán Marina, Sinaloa, April 2015. Length: 32 cm (13 inches). Catch and photo courtesy of George Brinkman, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.
Longjaw Leatherjack, Oligopiltes altus. Fish provided by the commercial fishermen of Bahía Kino, Sonora, November 2015. Length: 33 cm (13 inches). Photo and identification courtesy of Maria Johnson, Prescott College Kino Bay Center, Kino Bay, Sonora.
Longjaw Leatherjack, Oligopiltes altus. Fish caught from coastal waters off Puerto Adlolfo Lopez Mateos, Baja California Sur, February 2017. Length: 42 cm (17 inches). Catch and photo courtesy of Brad Murakami, Surrey, British Columbia, Canada.