Sculpins: Family Cottidae
Species: Enophrys bison (Girard, 1854); from the Greek words en (on), ephrys (eyebrow), and bison (referring to the two bison-like horns or spines on the head).
Alternate Names: Often called bullhead and mistaken for cabezon. Called büffelgroppe in Germany, glowacz bizonik in Poland.
Identification: Their coloring is dark gray, green, or brown above with purplish bony plates on head and side. Anglers should be careful of the large sharp spines behind the head.
Size: To 14.6 inches; most caught from piers are between 10 and 12 inches.
Range: From Monterey Bay, central California, to Uyak Bay, Kodiak Island, Alaska and Amchitka Island, Alutian Islands. Common from bout San Francisco, northern California, to Kodiak Island, Alaska.
Habitat: Found in shallow-water areas, both oceanfront and in bays. Found from intertidal areas to a recorded depth of 636 feet.
Piers: I have seen these caught at the Fort Baker Pier, Point Arena Pier (fairly frequently), Eureka Municipal Wharf and Citizens Dock (Crescent City).
Cabezon and Buffalso Sculpin at the Point Arena Pier
Shoreline: An infrequent catch by shore anglers.
Boats: An inshore species, rarely taken from boats.
Bait and Tackle: These fish will hit almost any bait, but most commonly seem to be caught on pile worms or a chunk of shrimp or squid. Light to medium tackle is the rule and no one, to my knowledge, fishes specifically for these fish.
Food Value: This fish is so ugly it deserves to go back. If you persist in eating them, remember that the soft flesh tastes bland so bring on your Creole seasoning. Of course you could surprise your friends with a hors d’oeuvre platter made from staghorn sculpin and buffalo sculpin. Perhaps some deep-fried sculpin-tots with a little sweet-and-sour dipping sauce? If you do make such a plate, be sure you leave a couple of buffalo sculpin heads in the middle of the plate to add a little authentic atmosphere to the party.
Comments: The unofficial winner of the Pier Fishing in California Message Board “ugly fish” contest. Usually when these fish are caught they evoke considerable comment from the onlookers. They are fairly uncommon (except at Point Arena), they are ugly, and most people have no idea what they are. They also will give off a low hum which you can feel as you hold the fish.