University of California
California Fish Website

Fish Species


 Common Name Staghorn Sculpin
 Scientific Name Leptocottus armatus
 Native Yes
 Identification
Pacific staghorn sculpin, at Corona del Mar, CA on 22 May 2007. Photo by  Jonathan S. Klenk, PADI IDCS 179360.
Pacific staghorn sculpin, at Corona del Mar, CA on 22 May 2007. Photo by Jonathan S. Klenk, PADI IDCS 179360.

Pacific staghorn sculpin caught in Suisun Marsh, CA on 20 August 2008. Photo by Amber Manfree.
Pacific staghorn sculpin caught in Suisun Marsh, CA on 20 August 2008. Photo by Amber Manfree.

Pacific staghorn sculpin (head) caught in Suisun Marsh, CA on 20 August 2008. Note the large, branched spine (the
Pacific staghorn sculpin (head) caught in Suisun Marsh, CA on 20 August 2008. Note the large, branched spine (the "stag horn" or "antler") on each operculum, raised in defense. Photo by Amber Manfree.

  • 12-15 cm SL at maturity, typically at age 1
  • Large flat head, small eyes, gill covers extend into antler-like projections with 3-4 spines, narrow caudal peduncle
  • Long jaw extends ahead of eyes and bears significant teeth
  • Fin rays: pelvic 4, 1st dorsal 7 spines, 2nd dorsal 17 rays, anal 17 rays
  • Smooth skin is grayish olive on back, yellow on sides, white on underside
  • 1st dorsal fin has dark splotch on tail end, other fins have bars
 Life History The Pacific Staghorn Sculpin spend most of their lives in salt and brackish waters, though they are capable of adapting to fresh water as well as extremely saline waters. The larvae begin their lives in the estuary where they spread out onto a soft and sandy substrate. As they develop into juveniles, the young fish depart in many directions including into freshwater. Most fish found in freshwater or less salty areas are the young juveniles which feed on amphipods, invertebrates, small fish, and aquatic insect larvae. The older Pacific Staghorn Sculpins tend to be the farthest upstream, giving way for more young fish to push up from the marine or estuary environments. The marine dwelling fish may follow the tide and have a diet of crabs, shrimp, and fish. Most Pacific Staghorn Sculpins feed actively at night, though they may eat throughout the day. Throughout the west coast spawning occurs in saltwater or brackish water from October to April, though in California the Pacific Staghorn Sculpin spawn in January and February.

Webmaster Email: mailto:rfkeiffer@ucanr.edu?subject=CalFish Website Query