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Scorpaena Guttata




1 - 2 pounds

17" - 17"

California Scorpionfish Game Fish Quality Decent
California Scorpionfish Meal Quality Excellent

California Scorpionfish

California Scorpionfish
Also Known As: Sculpin  

California Scorpionfish (Scorpaena guttata) Description

The California scorpionfish has a slender, rectangular-shaped body that is characterized by dark spotting and smooth scales. Their coloring can range from red to brown mixed in with some lavender or white. Adult California scorpionfish have large spotting on their anal, caudal, dorsal, and pectoral fins. Juvenile California scorpionfish have none. This spotting is also a great way to distinguish this fish species from other scorpionfish such as the Peruvian, Rainbow, and Player scorpionfish, as these latter three have none.

The head of the California scorpionfish is large and has a significant number of spines. Its fin spines are also notable as they are venomous, so anglers are cautioned to handle them with utmost care. Their venoms may not be deadly, but they can be quite painful.


Diet and Size

The California scorpionfish reach 6 to 7 inches upon maturity, but they can grow up to 17 to 19 inches. The world record for this species is at 4 pounds. The oldest on record lived up to 21 years.

The California scorpionfish are carnivorous and nocturnal in their feeding habits. They mostly subsist on other fish, octopus and squid, and crustaceans. They are quite partial towards ridgeback prawn and yellow rock crab, favoring the juvenile crab during winter and fall. As for the fish, this species enjoy the Californian anchovy and spotted cusk-eel.


Interesting Facts about California Scorpionfish

  • The California scorpionfish is known to be one of the most venomous fish species in the waters of California. The sting of their venomous spines has been compared to that of the rattlesnake.
  • The venom of this fish is considered cardiotoxic.
  • The California scorpionfish is quite the camouflage master. They use this to their advantage when catching prey. They often lie in wait behind rocks before quickly attacking their prey by sucking them up through their jaws and expanding their buccal cavity.
  • These fish species have their special spot in the waters when they spawn. They return to the same place every year to spawn. This happens from April to September, but the peak season occurs from June to July.
  • The California scorpionfish may seem unattractive because of their infamous spines, but when handled properly, they can be quite tasty especially when fried with panko breading.


California Scorpionfish - Fishing Techniques

The California scorpionfish is tricky to handle when caught because of its venomous spines. they are easily baited and are around all year round, with fishing peak seasons from January to April. They can usually be found near rocky bottoms, with depths of 600 feet or more. To catch them, anglers will do well with size 4 hooks baited with their choice of young crustaceans. However, these game fish are not that picky when it comes to food. Anglers can still use the usual anchovies, mackerel, or squid and they will bite.

To help lure a number of them near your area, anglers can use tiny pieces of sea urchin, mussels, or squid.

Some also enjoy catching this fish species through spearfishing especially in reefs that are shallow. Fishing for them can also be quite a challenge as they move very quickly and are very good at camouflaging themselves against rocks and reefs.


Habitat and Distribution

The California scorpionfish are native to the temperate waters of the eastern Pacific Ocean. Their population is distributed from Santa Cruz, California to Baja California Sur. Some can also be found in the Gulf of California.

These fish species are bottom-dwellers, though they are usually in shallow waters up to 30 meters near rocks and reefs. They stick to the rocky bottoms and live in underwater caves as well.

The California scorpionfish like to move about as well, with some traveling up to 200 to 350 kilometers.