sculpin, common name for a member of the large family Cottidae, bizarre fishes with large, spiny or armored heads and short, tapering bodies, found in both marine and freshwater habitats. The family includes the muddlers and some species called bullheads. Sculpins are cosmopolitan in arctic and northern waters. They feed at the bottom on crabs and small fishes. Of little food value, they are occasionally used as bait. The longhorned sculpin (1 ft/30 cm) and the shorthorned sculpin have sharp spines on the head. Sculpins have no scales, but are variously adorned with prickles on the head and fins. The sea raven has large teeth and a prickly skin and swells when caught. The cabezon of the Pacific reaches a weight of 25 lb (11.3 kg). The muddlers are a widespread freshwater group found in northeastern and Mississippi basin streams with gravel bottoms. They have huge pectoral fins shaped like butterfly wings with which they hang onto stones. The grotesque sea robins and flying gurnards, with fins modified into "wings" and "talons" for creeping on the ocean floor, resemble the sculpins but are of a different family. Sculpins are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Osteichthyes, order Perciformes, family Cottidae.
or bullhead or sea scorpion

Any of about 300 species (family Cottidae) of inactive, bottom-dwelling fishes found principally in northern regions. Sculpins are slender and tapered and have one or more spines on the gill covers, large fanlike pectoral fins, and smooth or spiny skin. The head is usually wide and heavy. Most species live in shallow seawaters, some live in deeper waters, and others inhabit fresh water. The largest species grow to 2 ft (60 cm) long; the miller's-thumb (Cottus gobio), common in European lakes and rivers, is only about 4 in. (10 cm) long. Other species of Cottus are found in Asia and North America.

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(For the American submarines named "Sculpin" go to: USS Sculpin)

A Sculpin is a fish that belongs to the Order Scorpaeniformes, Suborder Cottoidei and Superfamily Cottoidea that contains 11 families, 149 genera, and 756 species according to though these totals will likely change as more molecular work is done. The currently recognized families are:

The vast majority of these species live in salt water; only the Abyssocottids, Comephorids, and a few species of Cottids living in fresh water. These bottom feeders are generally not considered good to eat, and have sharp spines rather than scales. Sculpin can live for several hours out of water if kept moist. They use their large pectoral fins to stabilize themselves on the floor of flowing creeks and rivers.

The easiest fishing method for Sculpin is a dropper loop setup with live or dead anchovies. Other good baits include squid and shrimp. Sculpin have also been caught on large plastic baits such as scampi and large grubs. Line size is not especially important as most Sculpin are caught in deeper water. Suitable hook sizes range from 1/0 to 3/0 Sculpin are not particularly fussy.

Sculpin stings are very painful and are often associated with swelling and reddening of the affected area. The most common treatment for a Sculpin sting is to submerge the stung area in warm to hot temperature water. The heat will help to denature the proteins in the poison and to relieve the pain of the sting. Sculpin are found in Fresh and Salt water. The freshwater ones are called "muddlers" or "Miller's Thumbs" and are often used as bait for Brown Trout and bass. Saltwater Staghorn Sculpins are used as bait for large Pacific Striped Bass. All but the Staghorn have large, sharp teeth, and some, like the large Sea raven, can inflict serious bites on people. Their venomous spines are on both dorsal fins, the pectoral fins, pelvic fins, anal fins, and several on the gill cover.

SOURCES: McClanes guide to freshwater fishes of North America. McClanes Guide to Saltwater fishes of North America. BY AJ McCLANE. The New Fishing Encyclopedia.

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