California Lizardfish

Species: Synodus lucioceps; from the Greek word synodus (the ancient name of a fish in which the teeth meet), and the Latin word lucioceps (pike head).

Alternate Names: Gar, barracuda, candlefish.

Identification: They are cylindrical with a broad lizard-like head and a mouth full of large canine-like teeth. Their coloring is mostly brown above and lighter below.

Size: Up to 25 inches and around 4 pounds; most caught off piers are under 14 inches.

Range: From Guaymas, Mexico to San Francisco but uncommon north of Point Conception.

Habitat: Prefers shallow, sandy areas 5 to 150 feet deep and spends a considerable amount of time sitting on the bottom with the body at a slight angle waiting for food to swim by.

Piers: Most common on piers in Southern California, although I have caught them as far north as the Monterey Wharf No. 2. Best bets: Imperial Beach Pier, Ocean Beach Pier, Shelter Island Pier, Dana Point Harbor Pier, Balboa Pier, Newport Pier, Seal Beach Pier, Malibu Pier and Goleta Pier.

Bait and Tackle: : Commonly caught when fishing the bottom for other species. Seem to hit any bait but live anchovies get the best results. Use light or medium tackle and a size 6 to 2 hook.

Food Value: Reportedly, they are good to eat but quite bony. Some people say the flesh has a strong "fishy" odor and an iodine taste, but others say they are good eating. I'm not sure.

Comments: Up until the '90s I would have said this was an uncommonly caught fish; I had caught one at Newport Pier, one at Port Hueneme Pier and one at Monterey Wharf No. 2. However, I have seen many caught since the mid-'80s. In particular, piers in San Diego Bay and the Los Angeles area have seen a tremendous increase in the catch of lizardfish. Several people have reported that small lizardfish make good halibut bait.