- Cabezon comes from Spanish for ‘large head,’ which is a main characteristic of these fish
- A large, scaleless fish with a broad bony support extending from the eye across the cheek just under the skin
- They have 11 spines on their dorsal fin (upright fin on their back) and a thick spine before their eyes
- They can reach 3 feet in length and 31 pounds in weight
- Females are larger than males (#42)
- Females greenish in coloration, with lots of mottling to help with camouflage
- Their skin and mouth can look blue
- Native to the Pacific coast of North America
- North Alaska to central Baja California, Mexico
- Found in rocky, muddy, and sandy bottoms, and kelp beds
- Juveniles settle in pools within the intertidal zone (area of shoreline covered at high tide and uncovered at low tide)
- Found at depths of 0–656 feet
- Adults spawn on rocky outcroppings in shallow water
- Males guard the eggs until they hatch
- The larvae drift in the plankton for 3-4 months before hiding in kelp mats as larval fish
- The larval fish then settle in the intertidal zone as juvenile fish
- Cabezon feed on crustaceans (aquatic arthropods like crab and lobster), mollusks (invertebrates like squid and octopus) , fish, and fish eggs
- Larger fish, marine mammals
- Cabezon spines, internal organs, and eggs are considered toxic to humans, but their meat can be consumed. Their meat is blue, but will turn white when cooked.
- Unlike most fish, cabezons lack a swim bladder. Thus, there is no damage to their tissues when they are brought up from deep pressure (depths) quickly.
- Cabezon are the largest sculpin species.
Sources: California Sea Grant; FishBio; Ben Frable, Scripps Institution of Oceanography; Monterey Bay Aquarium
Photo: Herb Gruenhagen