How to Catch Houndfish (Giant Mexican Needlefish)

Want to fish for needlefish but don’t know where to start? The houndfish, also known as the Giant Mexican Needlefish is a monster and fun to catch!

It can be found worldwide in both tropical and warm temperate waters.

houndfish swimming near the surface
A beautiful houndfish swimming near the surface. Source: Bernard Dupont


Known as one of the most dispersed species of needlefish. The houndfish is common in the western Atlantic in waters that touch New Jersey and go up to the Caribbean and Brazil. It can grow up to 2 to 5 feet in length and is also known as crocodile needlefish and hound needlefish.

Compared to other fish in its species, the hound fish has a short and stout beak. It can be found in small groups swimming near the surface of the water and will strike artificial lures. That is why most anglers use a rod and reel combo to catch it.

Houndfish Facts

Scientific NameTylosurus crocodilus
Common Name(s)Houndfish
Identifying CharacteristicsIt has a stout and cylindrical body, shorter head compared to other needlefish and a short and stout beak.
Depth Range0 to 16 m
HabitatCommon in the western Atlantic in waters that range from New Jersey through to the Caribbean and Brazil
LimitsCheck your local regulations

Houndfish Habitat

Houndfish are pelagic which means that it can be found swimming over lagoons and reefs either in groups or alone. That’s where they feed on smaller fish and lay their eggs which attach to underwater objects via tendrils.

Yet, be careful when you are fishing for this species of needlefish. It is feared by anglers because its sharp beak can puncture skin and muscle especially when it leaps out of the water trying to escape your line!

How to Catch Houndfish

Giant Houndfish, Jacks and Sharks - Inshore Fishing in Florida - ft. Paul Cuffaro

Big needlefish are usually caught by anglers who are reeling other fish such as black bream which means they can be lured with almost any bait. It has a long snout that is full of sharp teeth that is pretty useful for catching small baitfish. But, even if they take lures, they are difficult to hook because of their small beaks.

Since the houndfish is a carnivore, use strips of squid and prawn on the hook or if you want to use artificial, choose ones that are made of soft plastic. This big needlefish is also quite acrobatic especially when it is hooked and will leap straight into the air to try and escape. Thus, rather than using heavy lures that can rebound on your head when the fish jumps, use a lighter one. This will get the job done and reduce the chances of injury.

Giant Mexican Needlefish Fishing Tactics

  1. Use lures with tail hooks to catch houndfish. The fish tends to mouth bait for a while before swallowing and can also tear apart bait completely without getting caught.
  2. You don’t need to use the heavy tackle to catch this giant needlefish. When it is hooked, the fish stays near the surface and doesn’t swim into rocks.

Houndfish Fishing Tips

  • Don’t reel in a houndfish when you hook one. Let it tire itself out when it starts jumping around to try and escape and then start reeling.
  • Houndfish are difficult to hook because of their small, beak-like snouts. If you do use a hook, give your line a swift jerk to set it once you get a bite. Make sure it is sharp enough to penetrate the hard jaws.

Houndfish Seasons

Like most needlefish mating season for houndfish falls between the months of April and May. During this time, the males compete for females. You can find quite a large needlefish in shallow waters while it is spawning.

hound fish swimming near the surface
Are you ready to catch one of these fighters? Source: Paul Asman

How to Clean Houndfish

  1. Lay the houndfish on its side on the cutting board.
  2. Make shallow incisions on top of the head right behind the eye and make another one near the anus. Do not cut the fish through.
  3. Grab the head and pull it off the body. The entrails should come out with it.
  4. Place the tip of the fillet knife at the incision you made near the anus and slit the fish to the top where the head was.

How to Cook Houndfish

Despite its ferocious look, the houndfish is quite delicious once it is cooked. Here is a needlefish recipe that you can try with this fish:

Giant Mexican Needlefish Recipe

  • Season the houndfish with the juice of one lime and some salt.
  • Place 1 cup of all-purpose flour in a paper bag, place the fish inside and shake the bag to coat it.
  • Shake the excess flour off the fish and place it on a cooking sheet. If you are cooking more than one fish, make sure they don’t touch.
  • Heat oil in a large and heavy frying pan and add the fish before the oil starts smoking.
  • Fry for 10 minutes each side till cooked through and crisp.
  • Place the cooked fish on a paper towel to drain.
  • Serve on a bed of lettuce leaves and lime wedges on top.


Q: What do needlefish eat?

A: Needlefish feed on smaller fish as well as shrimp, cephalopods, crustaceans, plankton, silversides, and killifishes. The freshwater variety feeds on insects, frogs, and tadpoles.

Q: Can you eat needlefish?

A: Even though needlefish such as the houndfish has many small bones, they are quite good to eat.

Q: Are crocodile needlefish dangerous?

A: Yes. This needlefish has a particularly strong beak and jaw which can penetrate flesh and bone like butter when it leaps out of the water.

Q: How do you catch small needlefish?

A: Use a small treble hook and small pieces of squid or fish as bait which won’t slip off. Make sure the hook is also small enough to fit in the needlefish’s mouth. Cast the hook in front of the fish’s face and work it to entice a bite. Allow the fish time to swallow and then reel it in.

Insider Advice

Houndfish may be difficult to catch, but that is what makes them worthwhile sport fish.

Be careful when you go fishing for it. It has a sharp beak that can run you through when it leaps out of the water.

If you have some fishing tips, tricks and strategies that worked for you share in the comments below and do share this guide if you liked it.

The Anglers Behind This Article:

Jon Stenstrom

Johanes Godoy

Sushmita Lo

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