Peruvian Scorpionfish

Peruvian Scorpionfish, Scorpaena afuerae

The Peruvian Scorpionfish, Scorpaena afuerae, whose common Spanish name is rascacio párlamo, is a species in the Rockfishes and Scorpionfishes or Scorpaenidae Family, known collectively as escorpiónes or lapóns in Mexico. Globally, there are fifty-nine species in the genus Scorpaena, 16 of which are found in Mexican waters, ten in the Atlantic and six in the Pacific.

The Peruvian Scorpionfish have spine-laden compressed rectangular-shaped bodies that taper posteriorly; their body depth is 33 to 37% of standard length. They are scarlet red with brown mottling. With the exception of the anterior portion of the dorsal fin, their fins have irregular bars and darker spotting. Their head is enlarged, depressed, bulbous, and very bony with numerous spines. They have small eyes. There is a deep depression (pit) before and after their eyes and the ridge below their eyes has 3 or 4 spines. Their gill cover has 5 spines; the first is the largest and the second is well developed. There is a row of 3 spines behind their eyes and two spines at the upper edge of their gill cover. They feature skin flaps above and in front of their upper jaw, which are absent from their lower jaw and body. Their fins are large with the anal fin having three spines and 5 rays; their caudal fin is rounded with a ragged margin; their dorsal fin has 12 spines and 9 or 10 rays; and their pectoral fins have 19 to 21 rays. They have 15 or 16 gill rakers. Their bodies are covered with smooth scales.

The Peruvian Scorpionfish are found at depths between 115 and 330 feet within rocky structures and rubble bottoms. They reside on the bottom during daylight hours but become voracious predators during the night, feeding on small crabs, small fish, octopus, and shrimp. They reach a maximum length of 38 cm (15 inches), with this length established by a fish that I caught.

The Peruvian Scorpionfish were believed to only reside in waters of Costa Rica, the Cocos Islands, and Peru but I have caught this species in and around Gordo I (109.2oW, 23.1oN), 25 miles into the Sea of Cortez and also in waters west of Todos Santos, establishing the presence of this species in Mexican waters of the Pacific.

The Peruvian Scorpionfish is very similar in appearance and can be confused with the California Scorpionfish, Scorpaena guttata (heavily spotted body and fins) and the Red Scorpionfish, Pontinus furcichinus (long third dorsal spine).

The Peruvian Scorpionfish are retained and consumed by subsistence fishermen but are generally too small and difficult to handle, thus are mostly a “catch and release”. Caution: As with all Scorpionfish, the Peruvian Scorpionfish should be treated as “hazardous” and released as soon as possible, being careful not to allow their poisonous spines to penetrate the skin.

Peruvian Scorpionfish

Peruvian Scorpionfish, Scorpaena afuerae. Fish caught from coastal waters off Puerto Los Cabos, Baja California Sur, August 2004. Length: 20 cm (7.9 inches).