Spotted Lizardfish

Spotted Lizardfish, Synodus evermanni

The Spotted Lizardfish, Synodus evermanni, whose common Spanish name is chile cadena, is a species in the Lizardfish or Synodontidae Family, known collectively as chilies in Mexico. Globally, there are thirty-seven species in the genus Synodus, eleven of which are found in Mexican waters, six in the Atlantic and five in the Pacific.

The Spotted Lizardfish have elongated tubular robust bodies with a depth that is 12 to 16% of standard length. Overall they have a grayish brown coloration, which is silvery white on the sides and white ventrally. They have eight or nine dark blotches along the lateral line. Their adipose and pectoral fins are dark; their anal, dorsal, and pelvic fins are transparent; and their caudal fin is dusky. Their head is long (26-28% of standard length) and features a long, sharply-pointed snout, large eyes, a lower jaw that ends in a flesh knob, and a large, slightly oblique mouth that extends well past the eyes. Their mouth opens at the front and is equipped with many rows of fine pointed teeth. They have a straight lateral line. Their small adipose fin is above their anal fin; their anal fin base is shorter than their dorsal fin base; their caudal fin is forked; their dorsal fin is mid-body and originates closer to their adipose fin than their snout tip; their pectoral fins are mid-sized; and their pelvic fins are large and found behind their pectoral fins. Their fins are spineless.

The Spotted Lizardfish are found on the bottom (demersal) within and over sandy and muddy bottoms in very deep waters at depths up to 1,000 feet. They reach a maximum length of 48 cm (18.9 inches). They are voracious ambush predators feeding primarily on small fish, krill, squid, and shrimp. They are a poorly studied species and very little is known about their behavioral patterns.

In Mexican waters the Spotted Lizardfish are found from Guerrero Negro southward along central and southwest coasts of Baja, in the southern two-thirds of the Sea of Cortez, and along the coast of the mainland south to Guatemala.

The Spotted Lizardfish can be confused with the Calico Lizardfish, Synodus lacertinus (caudal and dorsal fins with prominent bars).

The Spotted Lizardfish are a fairly common by-catch at certain times of the year taken out of very deep water while trying to “make bait”; they are also a frequent by-catch of deepwater shrimp trawlers. Furthermore, their small mouths require small hooks for success. They are strictly a “catch-and-release” and of no value to local fishermen.

Spotted Lizardfish (1)

Spotted Lizardfish, Synodus evermanni. Fish caught from coastal waters off Puerto Los Cabos, Baja California Sur, February 2004. Length: 15 cm (5.9 inches).

Spotted Lizardfish, Synodus evermanni. Fish caught from coastal waters within Bahia de Los Angeles, Baja California, November 2017. Length: 18 cm (7.1 inches). Catch and photo courtesy of Chris Wheaton, Fullerton, CA.