California Scorpionfish
Scorpaena guttata

Physical Description

  • Has a typical rockfish shape, with heavy body and strong head
  • Has a strong dorsal fin, with large spines that are venomous
  • Red coloring in deeper water, brown in shallower water, yellow bellies
  • Dark spots all over body and fins
  • Length up to 17 inches long


  • Santa Cruz, California to central Baja California
  • Found out to Guadalupe Island
  • Uncommon north of Point Conception


  • Live on shallow rocky reefs
  • Live in caves, crevices, wrecks and pipes
  • Found in shallow water to 620 feet


  • They return to the same spawning grounds year after year
  • They form large spawning aggregations of many fish
  • Females generally outnumber males
  • Some mature at 1 year, half mature by 2 years, all mature by 4 years
  • Spawning occurs from April to September, peaking from June-July
  • Spawning occurs externally, and the eggs are embedded in a gelatinous, hollow pear-shaped balloon
  • Eggs float near the surface and hatch within 5 days


  • Nocturnal ambush predators
  • Eat small crabs, octopus, shrimp, northern anchovy, squid, spotted cusk-eel, yellow rock crab, ridgeback prawn, California two-spot octopus


  • California two-spot octopus, sharks, rays

Interesting Facts

  • Commonly called sculpin, but they are not a true sculpin. They used to be called spinefish. Scorpaena comes from the Greek word scorpion, referring to their poison spines.
  • A sting from their spines is said to hurt as much as a rattlesnake bite! 
  • They can live up to 21 years. 

Sources:; Cabrillo Marine Aquarium;

Photo: David R. Andrew

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