Machete, Elops affinis

The Machete, Elops affinis, whose Spanish common name is machete del Pacifico, is a species in the Tenpounder or Elopidae Family, known collectively as machetes in Mexico. This fish is also known as the Ladyfish. Globally, there are only six species in the genus Elops, three of which are found in Mexican waters, two in the Atlantic and one in the Pacific.

The Machetes have elongated cylindrical bodies with an oval cross section. They are dark blue-green dorsally transitioning to silver ventrally with blue reflections. Their caudal and dorsal fins are dark and their other fins have a light yellow tint. Their head has large eyes with fatty eyelids. They have an oblique mouth at the front that reaches past the eyes and has a projecting lower jaw. Their fins have no spines. The anal fin has 12 to 18 rays, and is located well behind the dorsal fin, and has a shorter base than the dorsal fin base; the caudal fin is deeply forked; the dorsal fin is located mid-body and has 20 to 27 rays; the pectoral fins are low on the body and just behind the gill covers; and the pelvic fins originate under the front half of the dorsal fin base. They have 16 to 20 gill rakers. They have a prominent lateral line that runs the length of the body. They are covered with very noticeable scales.

The Machetes are a shallow inshore pelagic species found over sandy bottoms at depths up to 33 feet. They reach a maximum length of 91 cm (36 inches). They are known to enter estuaries and freshwater. They aggregate in large schools and are twilight predators feeding on small fish (especially herring) and shrimp. They are a poorly studied species and very little is known about their behavioral patterns.

In Mexico the Machetes are found in all waters of the Pacific.

The Machete is an easy species to identify but can be confused with the Eastern Pacific Bonefish, Albula esuncula (small mouth that does not extend to eyes; pelvic fins that originate at rear of dorsal fin), the Milkfish, Chanos chanos (large eyes; small mouth; strong lateral line; short pointed dorsal fin), and the Pacific Shafted Bonefish, Albula nemoptera (prolonged filamentous last dorsal fin ray; long last anal fin ray; dorsal ray longer than anal ray).

The Machetes are referred to “ten-pounders” due to their terrific strength and stamina, although they seldom exceed three pounds. When hooked they can provide recreational anglers with quite a tussle. They are a targeted game fish in some areas but are not of commercial interest. They are not edible due to the numerous small bones found throughout their body.

Machete (1)

Machete, Elops affinis. Fish caught from shore at Km 21, Cabo Real, Baja California Sur, November 2008. Length: 48 cm (19 inches).