California Scorpionfish

Fish Of the MonthSpecies: Scorpaena (referring to scorpionfish) and guttata (which pertains to a form of small drops or spotting).

Alternate Names: Commonly called sculpin although also called scorpion fish and little poker.

Identification: Typical rockfish shape, color is red (deeper water) to brown (more shallow water) with spotting over the body and fins. Fin spines are venomous and can cause a very painful, although not fatal, wound.

Size: To 17 inches although most caught off piers are under 12 inches long.

Range: From the Gulf of California and Uncle Sam Bank, Baja California, to Santa Cruz - although rare north of Point Conception.

Habitat: Shallow rocky areas, frequently in caves and crevices.

Piers: Although scorpionfish are most common around rocky areas and reef areas, I have seen them caught at almost every oceanfront pier in Southern California. Best piers are Balboa Pier, Newport Pier, Hermosa Beach Pier, the Redondo Harbor Sportfishing Pier, Green Pleasure Pier in Avalon, and the Cabrillo Pier.

Bait and Tackle: A high/low leader with no. 4 hooks and baited with a piece of shrimp, squid, or anchovy seems to work best.

Food Value: An excellent eating, mild flavored fish that is excellent fried.

Comments: These fish are delicious to eat and but handle with extreme care. California scorpionfish are the most venomous member of the family found in California. If handled in a careless manner and a puncture wound occurs, there will usually be intense pain and perhaps swelling - which should subside after a few hours. If possible, soak the affected area in hot water as soon as possible. Multiple punctures may require doctor's attention or even hospitalization.