Popeye Catalufa, Pristigenys serrula
The Popeye Catalufa, Pristigenys serrula, whose common Spanish name is catalufa semáforo, is a species in the Bigeye or Pricanthidae Family, known collectively as catalufa in Mexico. Globally, there are only four species in the genus Pristigenys, two of which are found in Mexican waters, one in the Atlantic and one in the Pacific.
The Popeye Catalufa are characterized by a strongly compressed, distinctively deep oval body that have a depth that is 49 to 53% of standard length, and a large upturned mouth with a projecting lower jaw. The Popeye Catalufa is a uniform pink to crimson color with juveniles having faint dark bands on their sides; these fade rapidly soon after collection. The outer edges of their rounded caudal and pelvic fins are black. Their dorsal fin is continuous with ten spines. As their central spines are the longest, they are used as a key to identification. Their pelvic fins are long and are broadly attached by a membrane to the belly and positioned in advance of the pectoral fins. They have large scales.
The Popeye Catalufas are found over and within rocky bottoms at depths up to 820 feet. They reach a maximum length of 35 cm (14 inches). This length was established by a fish that I caught. They are reported to be nocturnal feeders, however I have caught them with some frequency mid-day on cut squid at depths between 150 and 200 feet in the greater Los Cabos area. They are a rare and poorly studied species and as such there is very limited information available about their behavioral patterns.
In Mexican waters the Popeye Catalufas are found in all waters of the Pacific with the exception that they are absent from the extreme northern portions of the Sea of Cortez.
The Popeye Catalufas are not a difficult fish to identify due to their wide oval bodies and strongly upturned mouths. They are most easily confused with the Bulleye, Cookeolus japonicus, which feature exceedingly long pelvic fins.
The Popeye Catalufas are very marginal table fare being retained only by subsistence fishermen and thus considered a “catch and release.”
Popeye Catalufa, Pristigenys serrula, juveniles. Both fish provided by the commercial fishermen of the greater Los Cabos area, Baja California Sur, July 2005. Length: 3.5 cm (1.4 inches) and 6.8 cm (2.7 inches), respectively. Note the interesting change in the body shape of this species from juvenile (round) to the adult (oval). Identifications courtesy of H.J. Walker, Jr., Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA
Popeye Catalufa, Pristigenys serrula. Fish caught from coastal waters off Point Palmilla, Baja California Sur, March 2014. Length: 32 cm (13 inches).Popeye Catalufa, Pristigenys serrula. Fish caught from coastal waters off Loreto, Baja California Sur, February 2015. Length: 32 cm (13 inches). Photo courtesy of Bob Wheaton, Loreto.