Sonora Scorpionfish

Sonora Scorpionfish, Scorpaena sonorae

The Sonora Scorpionfish, Scorpaena sonorae, whose common Spanish name is escorpión de Sonora, 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 Sonora Scorpionfish have spine-laden compressed elongated oval-shaped bodies that taper toward the tail; their body depth is 28 to 32% of standard length. They vary significantly in color and feature various shades of mottled reds and browns with irregular dark bars on their sides and white on their belly. A key to identification is a large round dark spot on their soft dorsal fin. Their anal fin is red with wide bars; their caudal fin has black and white bars; their pectoral fins are deep red and disproportionately large; and their pelvic fins are reddish. These fins all have black margins. Their head is very bony with numerous spines and a short snout. Their head and body are covered with numerous skin flaps. They have large eyes. They have small weakly developed depressions (pits) before and after their eyes and the ridge below their eyes has zero to two small spines. Their anal fin has 3 spines and 5 rays; their caudal fin is straight; their dorsal fin has 12 or 13 spines and 8 or 9 rays; and their pectoral fins have 19 to 21 rays. Their bodies lack skin flaps and are covered with smooth scales.

The Sonora Scorpionfish are found at depths up to 300 feet. They reach a maximum length of 18.0 cm (7.1 inches). They are a small and very rare species and virtually nothing is known about their behavioral patterns.

In Mexican waters the Sonora Scorpionfish are found in all waters of the Pacific with the exception that they are absent from Magdalena Bay northward along the central and northwest coasts of Baja.

The Sonora Scorpionfish cannot be confused with any other species due to its Scorpionfish-like appearance and the dark blotch on the top of its soft dorsal fin.

The Sonora Scopionfish is rare and small and of limited interest to most.

Caution: As with all Scorpionfish, the Sonora Scorpionfish should be treated as “hazardous” and released as soon as possible, being careful not to allow their poisonous spines to penetrate the skin.

Sonora Scorpionfish, Scorpaena sonorae. Fish provided by the commercial fishermen of the greater Los Cabos area, Baja California Sur, December 2009. Length: 13 cm (5.1 inches). Identification courtesy of Dr. John Hyde, NOAA, La Jolla, CA.

Sonora Scorpionfish, Scoraena sonorae. Fish provided by the commercial fishermen of Bahía Kino, Sonora, March 2015. Length: 10.9 cm (4.3 inches). Photo courtesy of Maria Johnson, Prescott College Kino Bay Center, Kino Bay, Sonora.