Player Scorpionfish, Scorpaena histrio
The Player Scorpionfish, Scorpaena histrio, whose common Spanish name is escorpión juguetón, 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, sixteen of which are found in Mexican waters, ten in the Atlantic and six in the Pacific.
The Player Scorpionfish have spine-laden compressed elongated oval-shaped bodies with a body depth that is 30 to 36% of standard length. They vary significantly in color and feature various shades of mottled reds and browns. The key to identification is a black blotch, occasionally with an orange center, on the lateral line above the middle of their pectoral fins. Their anal and caudal fins have bars with three white stripes for which they are named. Their head is enlarged, depressed, bulbous, very bony with numerous spines, and is deeper than it is broad. Their head and body are covered with numerous skin flaps. They have medium-sized eyes. There is a shallow depression (pit) before and after their eyes and the ridge below their eyes has one spine. Their gill cover has five well-developed spines with the first being the longest. Their fins are large with the anal fin having 3 spines and 5 rays; their caudal fin is slightly rounded; their dorsal fin has 12 spines and 10 rays; and their pectoral fins have 19 to 20 rays. Their bodies are covered with smooth scales.
The Player Scorpionfish are solitary individuals found at depths between 20 and 660 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, octopi, and shrimp. They reach a maximum length of 27 cm (11 inches), with this length established by a fish that I caught.
In Mexican waters the Player Scorpionfish are found in all waters of the Pacific with the exception that they are absent from the extreme northwest coast of Baja and the northern third of the Sea of Cortez.
The Player Scorpionfish can be confused with the Peruvian Scorpionfish, Scorpaena afuerae, the Rainbow Scorpionfish, Scorpaenodes xyris, and the Red Scorpionfish, Pontinus furcirhinus, however all three lack the black-orange spotting above the pectoral fin on the lateral line.
The Player Scorpionfish are generally too small and difficult to handle, thus are mostly a “catch and release”. Caution: As with all Scorpionfish, the Player Scorpionfish should be treated as “hazardous” and released as soon as possible, being careful not to allow their poisonous spines to penetrate the skin.
Player Scorpionfish, Scorpaena histrio, juvenile. Fish caught from coastal waters off Point Palmilla, Baja California Sur, March 2016. Length: 10.0 cm (3.9 inches).