By Scott Boyd
There is no mistaking that cute little Grunt Sculpin when you find one. They are short and stocky (2 -3 inches) with a yellowish body, a pointed snout, and fins that are bright orange! They are typically found in shallow water, but have been found in waters as deep as 540 feet. This comical fish ranges from Southern California to the Bering Sea, and is actually fairly common, although so well camouflaged that it is actually some what of a prized find for photographers.
The Grunt Sculpin often uses its pectoral fins to crawl or hop over rocks and seaweed. When it does this it is hard to believe that it is a fish! The first time I saw one hopping around on a rock, I learned the hard way that if you laugh too hard, you suck lots of sea water around your regulator mouthpiece! These little guys are a riot to watch; although when laying eggs, the females can get aggressive and will often keep the males cornered and not let them out.
The common name is inspired by the grunting noise this fish makes when frightened or removed from the water. The Grunt Sculpin feeds on zooplankton (microscopic animals), invertebrates, fish larvae, and on a variety of small crustaceans. They have a life expectancy of about Four years. Most of the Grunt Sculpin that I observe have been at several sites in Hood Canal or Owens Beach in Tacoma. (Click on photos for a larger image)