Q: Friends of mine on the boat Notorious, based in Puerto Vallarta, pulled up this weird-looking fish one afternoon. We've never seen one here before and wonder if these unusual fish are showing up now because of the unseasonably cool water temperatures. Can you tell us more about this fish and whether it's edible?
Capt. Josh Temple
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
A: You have caught a fairly off-the-wall fish. It's clearly a lizardfish, and the consensus among us fish-heads is that it is the iguana lizardfish, Synodus sechurae. This species lives from the outer coast of southern Baja California into the Gulf of California and down to Peru, from shallow waters to at least 240 feet. They reach about a foot in length. All lizardfish live over sand and mud, and they spend much of their time buried in the sediment with just their eyes and mouths exposed. When you see them like that, they resemble the Cheshire Cat with gas pains. Lizardfish are voracious fish eaters; they simply explode from the sand when prey swim by. My guess is that this species is pretty abundant in the Puerto Vallarta area. However, its small size and the fact that it avoids the usual reef fishing grounds make it an uncommon catch. The iguana lizardfish is pretty small to be the target of a fishery, and even the large species that lives off California is only occasionally eaten, as they tend to be soft and bony.
- Milton Love