Northern Sea Robin

Common Sea Robin

Prionotus carolinus

Color: Combination of red, grey, and brown, with dark blotches along its back

             underside is dirty white or pale yellow

Size:    12 to 16 inches long

Habitat:          Smooth, hard-packed bottom of open Bay

Seasonal Appearance:           May to October

Sensitivity to Human Action                                                           







Distinguishing Features and Behaviors:

            The northern sea robin is distinguishable by a large, spiny head and tapering body. It can be easily identified by its rounded, fanlike pectoral fins that are so large that, when laid back, they over lap the anal and second dorsal fin.

            The three lower rays of the sea robin’s pectoral fins are long, broad feelers used to walk along the bottom. Sea robins used these lower fin rays as sense organs to stir up bottom sediments and find food.

            The head of the northern sea robin is encased in bony plates used as a shovel to dig up invertebrates from the mud. The front part of its upper jaw is concave, and there is a small spine in nostrils. The northern sea robin’s eyes are a distinctive peacock blue. The features of its head distinguish a sea robin from a similar- looking fish, the sculpin.

            The sea robin feeds on a wide variety of invertebrates, including shrimp, crabs, amphipods, squid, bivalve mollusks, and segmented worms. It has also been known to bite readily on any bait, suggesting a fairly nonselective feeding habit.

            Sea robins typically inhabit areas of hard, smooth ground but are not often seen among rocks or in the mud. These active swimmers are often found close to the surface, but when threatened, they will bury themselves in the sand, revealing only their eyes ant the top of their heads.


Relationship to People:

            Sea robins are plentiful in southern New England. Since they are well-known bait stealers, they can be nuisance to fishermen. Some people find these bottom dwellers good to eat and harvest them mainly by hook and line. Their numbers in Narragansett Bay have been slowly declining over the last several years, which may be due in part to incidental capture by increased commercial fisheries.

            These fish are interesting to encounter, often producing and audible “croak” when held out of the water.