Longspine Snipefish

Longspine Snipefish, Macroramphosus scolopax

The Longspine Snipefish, Macroramphosus scolopax, whose common Spanish name is trompetero copete, is a member of the Snipefish or Macroramphosidae Family, known collectively as trompeteros in Mexico. This species is under current discussion within the scientific community as some believe that the Longspine Snipefish is an adult Slender Snipefish, Macroramphosus gracilis and not a stand-alone species. Historically it was known as Macrohamphosidae scolopax. The Macroramphosidae Family contains twelve members placed in five genera. Globally, there are two species in the genus Macroramphosus, both of which are found in all Mexican waters of the Atlantic and the Pacific.

The Longspine Snipefish have moderately elongated bodies with an elongated head and an extremely long, slender, and tube-like snout. They are reddish-pink dorsally and silver ventrally. They have large eyes and a very small mouth located at the tip of their snout. Their anal fin has 18 to 20 rays and their caudal fin is forked. They have two dorsal fins: the first is found well behind mid-body and has six to eight stout spines with the second spine being enlarged and serrated; and the second is small with 11 to 13 rays. Their pelvic fins are small and found well behind mid-body and the pectoral fins. They are devoid of scales.

The Longspine Snipefish are a pelagic species found in large schools over sandy and muddy bottoms from midwater to seabeds at depths up to 2,000 feet. They reach a maximum length of 20.0 cm (7.9 inches). Juveniles feed on pelagic invertebrates and adults feed on benthic invertebrates. Reproduction is oviparous with dimorphic individuals changing colors during the mating process. Their planktonic eggs and larvae are pelagic. They are a poorly studied species and very little is known about their behavioral patterns.

The Longspine Snipefish can be confused with the Slender Snipefish, Macroramphosus gracilis (narrower body with dark blue tinges found at water depths above 400 feet) but they actually might be one and the same species.

The range of the Longspine Snipefish is not well documented and subject to controversy.  For example, the American Fishery Society lists it as an Atlantic Ocean only species in North American waters while other authorities believe it to be a resident of North American waters of the Pacific as well. The catch below, if the identification is correct, documents the presence of this species in North American waters of the Pacific. They are normally found far out at sea but will visit coastal waters on occasion.

The Longspine Snipefish are seldom seen by humans and of limited interest to most. They are caught as a by-catch of bottom trawlers at a level of 35,000 tons per annum and utilized to make fishmeal and fish oil. From a conservation perspective they are considered of Least Concern due to their wide global distribution.

Longspine Snipefish, Macroramphosus scolopax. Two photos of a fish regurgitated by a yellowtail in coastal waters off Newport Beach, California, September 2015. Length 7.1 cm (2.8 inches). Catch and photo courtesy of Captain Jeffery Markland of the Thunderbird, Newport Beach, CA. Identification courtesy of Chris Wheaton, Loreto, Baja California Sur.