Shrimp Eel, Ophichthus gomesii
The Shrimp Eel, Ophichthus gomesii, whose common Spanish name is tieso camaronero, is a species in the Snake Eel or Ophichthidae Family, known collectively as tiesos in Mexico. Globally, there are 66 species in the genus Ophichthus, of which nine are found in Mexican waters, three in the Atlantic and six in the Pacific.
The Shrimp Eels have elongated, cylindrical, and snake-like bodies that taper toward the tail. They are brown to gray dorsally and transition to a lighter color ventrally without additional markings. They lack a caudal fin and possess an external jugostegalia (basket-like structure of overlapping free rays) behind their head on the ventral side. They have a conical head, large eyes located over the rear of their large mouth, and small conical teeth. Their dorsal fin originates behind the gill slits. They have long and well-developed pectoral fins that are pointed to rounded. They lack pelvic fins. Their tail is fleshy and ends in a blunt point; it is 62% to 65% of total length. They have a complete lateral line.
The Shrimp Eels are found demersal in bays and backwater over soft muddy bottoms as well as in and around rocky reefs at depths up to 1,500 feet. They reach a maximum length of 91 cm (36 inches). They are nighttime predators that take shelter during daylight hours. Reproduction is oviparous. They are a poorly studied species and very little is known about their behavioral patterns.
In Mexican waters, the Shrimp Eels are found in all waters of the Atlantic.
The Shrimp Eel is straightforward to identify and cannot be easily confused with any other species.
From a conservation perspective, the Shrimp Eels are currently considered of Least Concern, having a wide distribution and being common throughout their range. They are very abundant in some areas. They are caught as a by-catch of shrimp trawlers and normally discarded. They are of limited interest to most except to subsistence fishermen and are normally a catch and release.
Shrimp Eel, Ophichthus gomesii. Fish caught from Charleston Harbor, South Carolina, July 2011. Length: 29 cm (11 inches). Catch, photo, and identification courtesy of Josh Leisen (lifelistfishing.com), Gaylord, MI.