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).
Gar, barracuda, candlefish.
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.
Up to 25 inches and around 4 pounds; most caught off piers are under 14 inches.
From Guaymas, Mexico to San Francisco but uncommon north of Point Conception.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.