Meet the Locals: The Lizard Fish

Frankie Orrala, our Pier Angler Outreach Manager, introduces us to one of the more unusual animals in the Bay.

The lizard fish is a unique creature that inhabits the coast of California. It has a long brown body, which serves as camouflage in the sandy ocean floor habitats. It feeds on small fish and squid. The lizard fish develop and hatch their eggs outside their bodies and probably spawn during the summer.

Their name is derived from their elongated cylindrical body, with a head and mouth that resemble those of a lizard. The body goes from a brown color on the back to a white on the ventral sid . It has a dorsal fin on its back and a small average adipose fin, pelvic fins are yellowish and have a forked caudal fin. The lizard fish can grow up to 25 inches in size and weight up to 4 pounds. (Although the species we observed in the Southern California piers this year did not exceed 12 inches in length.)

Because of its body and long sharp teeth, lizard fish are occasionally mistaken for California barracuda. The barracuda however is silver instead of brown and has two dorsal fins of similar size with ample space between them.

The lizard fish of California is distributed from San Francisco to the Gulf of California in Mexico. Some species have been reported in the region of British Columbia in Canada and the Galapagos Islands. Although most commonly found in shallow sandy bottoms (5-150 meters), they have been sighted frequently this year by fishermen at almost all Southern California piers.

Lizard Fish