Scalyfin Basslet, Liopropoma longilepis
The Scalyfin Basslet, Liopropoma longilepis, whose common Spanish name is cabrilla aleta escamosa, is a species in the Grouper or Epinephelidae Family, known as serranos in Mexico. Globally, there are twenty-seven species in the genus Liopropoma, of which six are found in Mexican waters, four in the Atlantic and two in the Pacific.
The Scalyfin Basslets have elongated bodies and pointed heads. They have a near horizontal profile with large eyes and a slightly upturned and very large mouth with a projecting lower jaw. Their upper body is red and transitions to white ventrally. They have a prominent straight red lateral line. There is a distinctive dark red line running from the top of their mouth horizontally to the back of their eyes. Their anal, caudal, and dorsal fins are red with yellow margins. Their pectoral fins are red and their pelvic fins are transparent. Their caudal fin is strongly concave. They have an exceedingly deep tail base that is similar in size to the depth of the body. They are covered with small rough scales.
The Scalyfin Basslets are found in and around rocky and coral reefs at depths between 290 and 750 feet. They reach a maximum of 26 cm (10 inches) in length and and weigh less than 450 grams (1 pound). A fish bigger than 15 cm is exceedingly rare. The 290-feet depth range and the maximum length for this species were established by a fish that we caught. They are an exceedingly rare very deep water species, which lacks significant scientific behavioral information and quality literature photos.
In Mexican waters the Scalyfin Basslets have a limited distribution being found in the southern half of the Sea of Cortez and along the coast of the mainland south to Guatemala. I have caught this fish in both the greater Loreto and Magdalena Bay areas with the fish photographed below establishing new northern range extensions for the species along the southwest coast of Baja and to the south-central portion of the Sea of Cortez.
The Scalyfin Basslet is straightforward to identify due to its unique coloration pattern. In body shape it is similar to the Rainbow Basslet, Liopropoma fasciatum, the latter having significant horizontal body striping.
The Scaylfin Basslet is a very rare catch by hook and line and too small to be of interest to most.
Scalyfin Basslet, Liopropoma longilepis: Fish caught out from coastal waters off El Tule, Baja California Sur, August 2013. Length: 26 cm (10 inches). Identification courtesy of H.J. Walker, Jr., Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA.
Scalyfin Basslet, Liopropoma longilepis. Fish caught from coastal water off Puerto Adolfo Lopez Mateos, Baja California Sur, April 2016. Length: 25 cm (9.8 inches).
Scalyfin Basslet, Liopropoma longilepis. Fish caught from coastal water off Loreto, Baja California Sur, October 2016. Length: 16.8 cm (6.6 inches). A first time documentation of the existence of this fish in the Sea of Cortez.