Species: Smoothhead Sculpin (Artedius lateralis)
Location: Oregon Coast
Date: June 20, 2018
Freshwater sculpins, especially the Cottus species, are among the most difficult-to-identify fish around.
Marine sculpins aren’t quite as tough, especially with the odd Rosylip Sculpin or Buffalo Sculpin kicking around, but there are a lot of them with blurred edges. One such fish is the Smoothead Sculpin. There are three fish in this genus (Padded, Smoothhead, and Scalyhead), and they’re insanely difficult to tell apart. Strangely, the Scalyhead Sculpin is supposed to be the most common but is the only one I’ve never caught.
Honestly, I don’t even really remember how he distinguished the two, but since I’ve only caught one more in that genus (another Smoothhead) since, it hasn’t been an issue.
But at least I know my flaws and don’t try to *smooth* over them.
In all seriousness, I used Coastal Fish Identification: California to Alaska and the Mola Marine PNW Sculpins 3.0 supplement to help me identify them. It turns out 9-out-of-10 dentists recommend cutting your teeth on both if you’re a Lifelister in the PNW.
One thing that is noticeable about these particular sculpins is their massive heads, especially compared to their tidepool peers.
The latest Smoothhead had me thinking it was a different, and it was. Because it was another Padded Sculpin.
I’ll get my Scalyhead eventually, though, so I’m not worried.