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Sculpins
PacificStaghornSculpin
Scientific Name Cottoidea
Conservation Status Data Defficient
Family Chordata
Habitat Ocean Rims
Food Plankton and small crustaceans


A Sculpin is a fish that belongs to the order Scorpaeniformes, suborder Cottoidei and superfamily Cottoidea that contains 11 families, 149 genera, and 756 species, though these totals will likely change as more molecular work is done. The currently recognized families are:

  • Abyssocottidae: deepwater Baikal sculpins (22 spp)
  • Agonidae: poacher (fish) (47 spp)
  • Bathylutichthyidae the antarctic sculpin (1 sp)
  • Comephoridae: Baikal oilfishes (2 spp)
  • Cottidae: common sculpins (~275 spp)
  • Ereuniidae: deepwater sculpins (3 spp)
  • Hemitripteridae: searavens (8 spp)
  • Psychrolutidae: fathead sculpins (35 spp)
  • Rhamphocottidae: the grunt sculpin (1 sp)

The vast majority of these species live in salt water; only the Abyssocottids, Comephorids, and a few species of Cottids living in fresh water. These bottom feeders are generally not considered good to eat, and have sharp spines rather than scales. Sculpin can live for several hours out of water if kept moist. They use their large pectoral fins to stabilize themselves on the floor of flowing creeks and rivers.

The easiest fishing method for Sculpin is a dropper loop setup with live or dead anchovies. Other good baits include squid and shrimp. Sculpin have also been caught on large plastic baits such as scampi and large grubs. Line size is not especially important as most Sculpin are caught in deeper water. Suitable hook sizes range from 1/0 to 3/0 Sculpin are not particularly fussy.

Sculpin stings are very painful and are often associated with swelling and reddening of the affected area. The most common treatment for a Sculpin sting is to submerge the stung area in warm to hot temperature water. The heat will help to denature the proteins in the poison and to relieve the pain of the sting. Sculpin are found in Fresh and Salt water. The freshwater ones are called "muddlers" or "Miller's Thumbs" and are often used as bait for Brown Trout and bass. Saltwater Staghorn Sculpins are used as bait for large Pacific Striped Bass. All but the Staghorn have large, sharp teeth, and some, like the large Sea raven, can inflict serious bites on people. Their venomous spines are on both dorsal fins, the pectoral fins, pelvic fins, anal fins, and several on the gill cover.

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