California Scorpionfish
Scorpaena guttata

Physical Description

  • Typical rockfish shape
  • 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

Range

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

Habitat

  • Shallow rocky reefs
  • Caves, crevices, wrecks and pipes
  • Shallow water to 620 feet

Diet

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

Predators

  • California two-spotted 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 return to the same spawning grounds year after year, and can live up to 21 years. 

Sources: Pierfishing.com; Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

Photo: David R. Andrew

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