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Photo courtesy of NOAA

Bottomfish Identification: Sculpins

Great Sculpin
Myoxocephalus polyacanthocephalus

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

Description: The body of the great sculpin is dark olive green on the dorsal surface with four dark saddles along the back.  The belly is pale, often white or yellowish, and there are dark bars along the fins.  It has a large, elongated head and large eyes.  The spinous and soft dorsal fins are separated and there are 9-10 dorsal spines and 13-16 dorsal soft rays. This species lacks an anal spine. The distinguishing characteristics of this species are; a single long, strait spine on each preopercular bone that does not extend past the end of the gill plate; and scales on the head that appear as fleshy nodes (papillae).

Maximum Size: To 80 cm (31.4 in) in length, and 9 kg (19.8 lbs) in weight.

Maximum Age: At least 16 years old.

Range/Habitat: Great sculpin are common from the Bering Sea to Washington.  Their range extends through the Aleutian Island chain, to the Kamchatka Peninsula, to northern Japan.  They are found over sandy and muddy bottom from the intertidal to water depths of 240 m (787 ft).


  • 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.
  • Brogan, J. D., and D. M. Anderl. 2012. Great sculpin (Myoxocephalus polyacanthocephalus). Resource Ecology and Fisheries Management Division, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, NMFS, NOAA, 7600 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle WA 98115.