Pacific Spadefish

Pacific Spadefish, Chaetodipterus zonatus

The Pacific Spadefish, Chaetodipterus zonatus, whose common Spanish name is chambo, is a species in the Spadefish or Ephippidae Family, known collectively as peluqueros in Mexico. Globally, there are only three species in the genus Chaetodipterus, two of which are found in Mexican waters, one in the Atlantic and one in the Pacific.

The Pacific Spadefish have highly compressed deep oval bodies with a depth that is 61 to 65% of standard length. They are silvery white to grayish with six wide vertical black bars on their body. Their anal and pelvic fins are dusky black and their caudal and pectoral fins are yellowish. Their rounded head has a very short blunt snout and a small mouth that opens at the front with small brush-like teeth in bands. Their anal fin has three spines and 16 to 20 rays and their caudal fin is slightly concave. Their dorsal fin has nine low spines, the third being the longest, and 18 to 23 rays with the spines being well-developed and connected by a membrane and separated from the rays. Their pectoral fins are short and their pelvic fins are under the pectoral fins. Their anal and dorsal fins are similarly shaped and located well back on the body. Their lateral line forms a gradual and continuous arch and is highly visible. Their body is covered with scales.

The Pacific Spadefish inhabit bays and inlets with sand or rubble bottoms and are found at depths up to 350 feet. They reach a maximum length of 66 cm (26 inches). They feed on algae and a variety of benthic and planktonic invertebrates including gorgonian corals, polychaete worms, sponges, tunicates, and zoantharians.

In Mexican waters the Pacific Spadefish are found in all waters of the Pacific.

Due to its body depth and barring pattern, the Pacific Spadefish cannot be confused with any other species.

The Pacific Spadefish are considered an excellent food fish. They are classic nibblers and very difficult to catch via hook and line. They are a by-catch of open sandy bottom trawlers.

Pacific Spadefish, Chaetodipterus zonatus. Fish caught from coastal waters off Mazatlán, Sinaloa, October 2014. Length: 28 cm (11 inches). Catch and photo courtesy of George Brinkman, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.

Pacific Spadefish, Chaetodipterus zonatus. Fish caught from coastal waters off Puerto Adolfo Lopez Mateos, Baja California Sur, March 2017. Length: 30 cm (12 inches).

Pacific Spadefish, Chaetodipterus zonatus. Fish provided by the commercial fishermen of Bahía Kino, Sonora, November 2014. Length: 39 cm (15 inches). Photo courtesy of Maria Johnson, Prescott College, Kino Bay Center, Kino Bay, Sonora.