California Lizardfish
Synodus lucioceps

Physical Description

  • A long, skinny, cylindrical fish
  • Flat, lizard-like head, with a snout that is almost triangular and long, pointed teeth
  • Mostly brown and greenish-brown coloring with copper lustrous coloring on sides and lighter grey belly
  • Lower jaw and fins are yellow
  • Juvenile fish are nearly transparent, scaleless, and have dark blue diamonds running along the belly
  • Adults grow to be up to 25 inches in length


  • Cape Beal, British Columbia to Guaymas, Mexico
  • Gulf of California, Mexico


  • Live in shallow, sandy areas
  • Common from depths of 5150 feet, but up to 750 feet


  • They begin to spawn during the summer months when adult fish start to assemble in sandy patches
  • Spawning peaks in the fall


  • Squid, topsmelt, anchovies, krill, and other small fishes
  • They are ambush predators who sit on the bottom until prey swims past


  • California sea lion

Interesting Facts

  • Because of its appearance, it is often called the candlefish.
  • The USS Lizardfish was a Navy submarine during World War II that successfully engaged in several battles. The sleek sub was named for the long, slender fish.

Sources:; California Department of Fish and Wildlife; Dana Point Fishing Company

Photo: Herb Gruenhagen

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