California Scorpionfish, Scorpaena guttata: The California Scorpionfish is characterized by its overall scorpionfish-like appearance with a spine-laden, thick body and large flexible fins. The coloration varies from bright red to light brown, occasionally with lavender streaks across the head. The head is covered with numerous spines, short barbells, and skin flaps.
The California Scorpionfish is covered with dark brown spots that cover the entire body and fins. It is found from tide pools to 600 feet deep in the water column, in and around rocky structures, hard bottoms, and occasionally over mud and sand bottoms. The California Scorpionfish is normally between 7 and 14 inches in length, reaching a maximum of 17 inches. It resides on the bottom during daylight hours but becomes a voracious predator during the night, feeding on small crabs, small fish, octopi, and shrimp. It spawns in late spring.
In Mexican fishing waters, the California Scorpionfish is found along the Pacific side of the Baja California peninsula south to Magdalena Bay, and there is also a small population in the northern portion of the Sea of Cortez. We have also documented the southerly range extension of this species as far south as 23.41N and 110.23W, which is previously unknown.
The California Scorpionfish is a target of the California sport fishing industry and is of declining commercial interest although still considered a delicacy in Asia.
This fish species is a member of the family Scorpaenidae. In general they have large, bulbous heads with numerous spines, skin flaps, and large protruding eyes. Family members have venomous spines in the fore dorsal, ventral, and anal fins. Puncture wounds from these spines are painful but seldom life-threatening. Scorpionfish are masters at camouflage and can change color and shape to blend with the background. Concealed, they rest motionless on the bottom, waiting for unsuspecting prey. There are a total of 161 species from 21 genera known in the Indian-Pacific Ocean region.