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Bottomfish Identification: Sculpins

Red Irish Lord
Hemilepidotus hemilepidotus

Occasionally caught by recreational harvesters in Puget Sound. Caught incidentally in the commercial fishery off the outer Washington coast.

Description: The body of the red Irish lord is predominantly red, with white, brown and black mottling.  It has a large head and large eyes.  It has 10-12 dorsal spines, 18-20 dorsal soft rays, and 35 vertebrae. The distinguishing features of this species are; it has a continuous dorsal fin notched after the third spine and again between the spinous and soft rays, the nostrils do not have fleshy flaps, and the preopercular spines are comparatively small.   A stripe of scales four or five wide below the dorsal fin is followed by an unscaled area to the lateral line, then a second band of scales beneath the lateral line.

Maximum Size: To 51 cm (20 in) in length, and 1.11 kg (2.45 lbs) in weight.

Maximum Age: At least 6 years old.

Range/Habitat: Red Irish lord are common from the Bering Sea, Alaska to Washington, and are rare south to Central California.  They are found in shallow rocky waters.  Red Irish lord tend to rest on the bottom, blending in with their surroundings.  They are found from shallow waters to depths of 450 m (1,476 ft).

Fun Fish Fact:  Red Irish lord can change colors to blend in with their surroundings.


  • Froese, R. and D. Pauly, eds., 2008. Hemilepidotus hemilepidotus in FishBase. December 2008 version.
  • Humann, P. and H. Hall, 1996. Coastal fish identification: California to Alaska. New World Pubns Inc.

Photos: S. Axtell and V. Okimura