Typical Size
6-8" (1/8-1/4 lbs.)
Decent Size
9-10" (1/4-1/2 lb.)
Nice Size
11-13" (3/4-1 lb.)
18.2" (3 lbs. 13 oz.)
Awards Program
Qualifying Size

Genus/Species Myoxocephalus octodecimspinosus
Common Names longhorned sculpin, bonyhead, searobin
Hot Spots Hardings Ledge, Farnham Rock, Stone Ledge
Best Time Year Round
Best Baits clam, shrimp, seaworm
Best Method Bottom fishing with bait

Sculpin vary in color depending upon their habitat, but are typically light brown to yellow brown in color with darker mottling and patches on their top sides, becoming more pale in color lower. The underside is yellow-white to pure white. A small fish with an oversized bony head with spines protruding from it towards the body. The largest of the spines is the cheek spine which reaches past the gill cover and is used as a defense mechanism against predators. The body is much more narrow than the head with a larger first dorsal fin and smaller second dorsal. The body is scaleless and smooth, with the exception of small cartilaginous plates along the lateral line. Pectoral fins are short but fan out large.

Longhorn Sculpin
Sculpin are very common inshore and offshore on the south shore.
Sculpin have a great range from Nova Scotia to New Jersey in water from only 4 feet deep to waters near 400 feet. They live in a variety of habitats from areas of heavy structure to sandy bottoms, however, they are most often found on or near rock piles, jetties, piers, and shellfish beds. They tolerate temperature fluctuations well, living in 35 degree water in the winter and 70 degree water in the summer. A voracious feeder, sculpin can consume fish nearly as large as they are and eat numerous juvenile species of cod, cunner, herring, sand eels, hake, lobster, and crabs. Typically, though, their diet is heavy on shrimp and dead animal matter.

Sculpin are widespread in both shoreline areas and on deep offshore banks throughout their range. They do not appear anywhere in great numbers and are considered solitary fish.

Spawning takes place in the dead of winter both offshore and inshore. Once fertilized, sculpin eggs hatch in two to three weeks.

No one seeks out sculpin when they go fishing. We catch them always when fishing for other species and never when we want to. They offer no culinary qualities and are considered a nuisance by fishermen. Thankfully, they are very poor at stealing your bait. Often they just suck the bait in and savor the taste until the hook is set. They are small fish that offer no fight whatsoever and give little indication that they have consumed your offering until you reel up and notice the slight extra weight. Hooks and baits of all shapes and sizes will successfully catch sculpin and they can be caught on the most simple of rigging.

Sculpin are not known to take artificial lures, although you may entice a few with small jigs and shrimp teasers. Most sculpin taken on artificial lures are "foul hooked,"and incidental to fishing for other species such as cod.

Fishing for sculpin is neither important commercially, nor recreationally, mainly due to their small size. Here on the south shore of Massachusetts, no one goes out fishing strictly targeting sculpin. I've never known of someone eating one, occassionally, though, I have seen them used for lobster bait.