California Lizardfish

From 27th Trip: Native Sun 3/4 Day Trip 12/21

Family: Synodontidae (Lizardfishes)

Genus and Species: Synodus lucioceps

Description: The California lizardfish has an elongate cylindrical body with a head and mouth which are lizard-like in appearance. The body is a uniform brown on the back and sides shading to tan or white on the belly. Because of its elongated body and mouth full of sharp teeth, California lizardfish are occasionally mistaken for the California barracuda. The barracuda, however, is silvery rather than brown and has two dorsal fins of approximately equal size with a wide space between them. The lizardfish has only a single dorsal fin with a tiny fleshy fin behind it.

Range: The California lizardfish occurs from Guaymus, Mexico, to San Francisco, California, but is not common north of Point Conception, California. This species generally occurs over sandy bottoms in shallow water ranging from 5 to 150 feet, but has been taken at depths up to 750 feet.

Natural History: The California lizardfish spend most of their time sitting on the bottom with the body at a slight angle, propped up in the front end by the ventral fins. This inactivity ends rapidly when small fishes or squid swim into the area and the fish dart upward to grab one, usually swallowing the prey in one gulp. This species is believed to spawn during the summer months when adult fish have been observed to congregate on sandy patches. Young lizardfish, less than 3 inches long, are nearly transparent, elongate, scaleless, with a row of large black spots under the skin of the belly.

Fishing Information: The California lizardfish, while not sought by most anglers, is taken incidentally in fairly large numbers by anglers fishing for other shallow water bottomfishes like halibut. California lizardfish can be caught on a wide variety of cut baits fished on the bottom.

Other Common Names: candlefish, lizardfish.

Largest Recorded: 25.17 inches; no weight recorded; however, it is reported to reach 4 pounds.

Habitat: Shallow Sandy Environment

About the Author

Sean loves to fish in Southern California and this site is his journal of his adventures in fishing. He started fishing when he was a little guy with his dad David, and has continued to this day with his family. In his day job, Sean has been a graphic designer for over 15 years, designing everything from in-store displays and signage for supermarkets to e-commerce auction sites for an online consumer electronics company. He was a web and graphic designer then later an art director for McMullen Argus Publishing (Primedia), building and working on sites for Lowrider Magazine and Super Chevy, plus 30 other automotive magazine sites. Sean seized the opportunity to teach other aspiring designers - a passion that took him first to Learning Tree University and then to Golden West College in Huntington Beach, CA, where he has been an integral part of the renowned digital arts department for more than ten years. Throughout his teaching career, Sean maintained a freelance business, designing for clients including the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (Los Angeles Area Emmy Awards), Image Comics and many more. See his work at