From 23rd Trip: 1/2 Day Afternoon on the Icon 8/8/09


Family: Scorpaenidae (Scorpionfishes)

Genus and Species: Scorpaena guttata

Description: The body of the sculpin is stocky and slightly compressed. The head and mouth are large, as are the pectoral fins. The color is red to brown, with dark blotches and spotting over the body and fins.

Range: The sculpin occurs between Uncle Sam Bank, Baja California, and Santa Cruz, California, with an isolated population in the Gulf of California. They are caught over hard, rocky bottoms at depths ranging from just below the surface to 600 feet. Some may occasionally be taken over sand or mud bottoms.

Natural History: The diet of the sculpin includes crab, squid, octopus, fishes and shrimp. Sculpin first spawn when they are 3 or 4 years, and they may live 15 years or longer. Spawning takes place from April through August, and probably occurs at night. The eggs are embedded in the gelatinous walls of hollow, pear shaped egg-balloons. The paired egg-balloons, each 5 to 10 inches long are joined at their small ends. The walls of these “balloons” are about 0.1 inch thick, transparent or greenish in color, and contain a single layer of eggs. Each egg is about 0.05 inch in diameter. The “balloons” are released at the bottom of the sea and rise rapidly to the surface. The eggs hatch within 5 days.

Fishing Information: Sculpins readily take a hook that has been baited with a piece of squid or fish and lowered to the bottom in a rocky area where they are known to inhabit. A lot of rebaiting time can be saved by utilizing a “difficult to steal” bait. At times, a considerable amount of chumming with ground fish will attract sculpins to the surface. Hooked sculpins are not noted for their fighting qualities. The sculpin is the most venomous member of the scorpionfish family in California. Its dorsal, pelvic and anal fin spines are associated with venom glands and are capable of causing an extremely painful wound. Penetration of the skin by any of these spines is followed almost immediately by intense and excruciating pain in the area of the wound. Many treatments have been used for sculpin stings, but immersion of the affected part in very hot water seems to be the most effective. Multiple punctures can be quite serious, producing shock, respiratory distress or abnormal heart action and may require hospitalization of the victim.

Other Common Names: spotted scorpionfish, scorpion, rattlesnake, bullhead, scorpene, California scorpionfish.

Largest Recorded: 17 inches; no weight recorded; however, a 15.25 inch female weighed 3.5 pounds.

Habitat: Shallow Rocky Environment

From the California Department of Fish and Game

About the Author

Sean loves to fish in Southern California and this site is his journal of his adventures in fishing. He started fishing when he was a little guy with his dad David, and has continued to this day with his family. In his day job, Sean has been a graphic designer for over 15 years, designing everything from in-store displays and signage for supermarkets to e-commerce auction sites for an online consumer electronics company. He was a web and graphic designer then later an art director for McMullen Argus Publishing (Primedia), building and working on sites for Lowrider Magazine and Super Chevy, plus 30 other automotive magazine sites. Sean seized the opportunity to teach other aspiring designers - a passion that took him first to Learning Tree University and then to Golden West College in Huntington Beach, CA, where he has been an integral part of the renowned digital arts department for more than ten years. Throughout his teaching career, Sean maintained a freelance business, designing for clients including the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (Los Angeles Area Emmy Awards), Image Comics and many more. See his work at