Hemilepidotus Hemilepidotus



Nearshore, Coral Reefs

1 - 3 pounds

12" - 20"

Red Irish Lord

Red Irish Lord (Hemilepidotus hemilepidotus) Description

The Red Irish Lord is a bottom-dwelling saltwater fish. It’s part of the sculpin family. Its body has an assortment of colors, primarily red, with brown, white, blue, and yellow. It has a slim body with dorsal and anal spines. They use these colors to help them camouflage with their surrounding corals and anemones. They can also change their vibrant colors to match their environment. Not only does it use its camouflage to protect itself, but it’s also used for ambushing its prey.


Size and Diet

The Red Irish lord is a medium-sized fish. The biggest Red Irish lord ever caught was 20 inches long and  3.19 lbs. However, the average size of this fish is 12 inches.

They mostly eat other bottom-dwelling fish along with crustaceans such as crabs, shrimp,  mussels and barnacles.


Interesting Facts

  • Like other sculpins, it only has scales partially – lacking scales on its underside.
  • It has barbels in its nasal and mouth areas like its other Irish Lord relatives, such as the Brown Irish Lord and Yellow Irish Lord. The Red Irish lord has 4 to 8 barbels on its nasal area.
  • Red Irish Lords have a tendency to be purely dormant until a crab crawls on top of them. Once they detect the crab, they'll snap at them.


Fishing Techniques - How to Catch the Red Irish Lord

As game fish, they aren’t as popular as other fish but there’s a thrill for an angler if you can target this bottom-dwelling fish with your setup. The best fishing method to catch a dweller fish like the Red Irish is by using a drop shot rig. First, look for the rocky crevices or corals where they may be hiding. Drop cast your line in the spot you’ve found. Wait for your lure to hit the bottom and don’t reel in once your sure that it’s an actual fish strike. Be careful also when handling this fish, you don’t want to get pierced by their spines.

Use a 5 to7 feet medium or lightweight rod equipped with a 10-20 lb braided line. For the reel, a 3-ounce pyramid weight in the mainline works well. Some anglers use the surrounding rocks if they don’t carry weights with them. They would use a cable tie to tightly attach the rock to the line and it works fine. The Red Irish lord has a big mouth. Use hook sizes of #1 to 2/0.

For lures, use scampi tails or bucktails. The best baits to use for this fish are shrimps and crabs.


Habitat and Distribution

They are mostly found at the bottom of shallow waters, hiding near rocky reefs. Their depth range can go as deep as 165 feet. The Red Irish lord prefers temperate waters. Their spawning season usually happens in winter. They are non-migratory species and often never leave their range. If you want to catch this game fish, you can also check man-made structures such as piers, jetties, ports, or harbors.

Their range is mostly from the North Pacific Ocean – from the Bering Sea to Southern California. In the US you can primarily fish the Red Irish Lord in Alaska and Monterey Bay, California. Other places to catch them in Alaska are in Shotgun Cove and the Mud Bay. Washington also has a good population of Red Irish lords.