Species Profile - Sea Robin
Possibly one of the easiest fish to catch in the coastal waters of Massachusetts, sea robins (and there are two different species) are an interesting and often overlooked bycatch species when targeting the more popular black sea bass, tautog, and other bottom-dwelling species.
Sea robins are members of the family Triglidae and are fish that emit “grunting” sounds when caught and handled. The loud drumming sound the fish create is caused by a vibration of the swim bladder. Sea robins can be easily differentiated from sculpins by the presence of bony plates encasing their entire heads.
The northern sea robin and striped sea robin are the two most commonly caught species in Massachusetts and have elongated pectoral fins with the first two to three rays of those fins being separate. These rays act as feelers for the fish as they sense for crustaceans and small prey items on the bottom of the ocean floor. The robin name comes from the appearance of the pectoral fins which are very large and “wing-like”. To distinguish between the two species one only needs to look for the horizontal black stripes that run the entire length of the body on the striped sea robin. The striped sea robin grows a bit larger in size than the northern sea robin but often are not seen or caught much further north than the Cape Cod Canal.
Sea robins are opportunistic feeders and will eat many different things including squid, crabs, shrimp, amphipods, and small fish. They are often considered a nuisance to fishermen and don’t have a ton of meat; however they can be taken home and are quite delicious to eat!