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Bottomfish Identification: Sharks, Skates and Ratfishes

Spiny Dogfish
Squalus suckleyi

Caught in the commercial fishery off the outer Washington coast with longline, troll, trawl, and jig handline gear. Also caught by recreational harvesters off the outer Washington coast and in Puget Sound.

Description: A small coastal shark that typically has a dark brown to grey body with a white belly.  Occasionally this species has white spots on the upper body.  Spiny dogfish have a single, prominent, mildly venomous spine at the front of each dorsal fin.  This species lacks an anal fin, as do all of its relatives (Squaliform sharks).  The snout is long, flattened and pointed.  Teeth in both jaws are flat with sharp edges, forming a continuous cutting edge.

Maximum Size: To 160 cm (5.25 ft) in length, most adults between 61-122 cm (2-4 ft) in length.  This species is larger in the northern part of their range.

Maximum Age: At least 40 years old.

Range/Habitat: A temperate shark found in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans but not in the tropics.  On the west coast it ranges from Alaska to central Baja, California.  It is a coastal species that is common in shallow bays from Alaska to central California. Spiny dogfish has been caught at depths up to 488 m (1,601 ft).

Fun Fish Facts: Spiny dogfish have the longest gestation time of any vertebrate known – 24 months!  Spiny dogfish is one of the key species utilized to make fish and chips.


  • Eschmeyer, W.N., E.S. Herald and H. Hammann, 1983. A field guide to Pacific coast fishes of North America. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, U.S.A. 336 p.
  • Nammack, M. F., J. A. Musick, and J.A. Colvocoresses, 1985. Life history of spiny dogfish off the northeastern United States. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, 114(3), 367-376.
  • Wilkins, M. E., M. Zimmermann, and K.L. Weinberg, 1998. The 1995 Pacific West Coast bottom trawl survey of groundfish resources: estimates of distribution, abundance, and length and age composition. US Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service, Alaska Fisheries Science Center.

Photo: V. Okimura