Physical Description

  • Cabezon is from the Spanish for ‘large head,’ which is a main characteristic of these fish.
  • Large, scaleless fish with a broad bony support extending from the eye across the cheek just under the skin.
  • It has 11 spines on its dorsal (back) fin. Has a stout spine before the eye.
  • Can reach 3 feet in length and 31 pounds in weight.
  • Females (#67) are larger than the males.
  • Males are red, with lots of mottling to help with camouflage.
  • Their skin and mouth can look blue.


  • Native to the Pacific coast of North America.
  • North Alaska to central Baja California, Mexico.


  • Live in rocky, muddy, and sandy bottoms, and kelp beds.
  • Juvenile fish settle in intertidal pools before moving to rocky reefs and kelp forests.
  • Found at depths of 0–656 ft.


  • Adults spawn on rocky outcroppings in shallow water.
  • Males guard the eggs until they hatch.
  • The larvae drift in the plankton for 3-4 months before hiding in kelp mats as larval fish.
  • The larval fish then settle in the intertidal zone as juvenile fish.


  • Cabezon feed on crustaceans, mollusks, fish, and fish eggs.


  • Larger fish, marine mammals.

Interesting Facts

  • Cabezon spines, internal organs, and eggs are considered toxic to humans, but their meat can be consumed. It is blue, but will turn white when cooked.
  • Unlike most fish, cabezons lack a swim bladder. Thus there is no damage to their tissues when they are brought up from deep pressure (depths) quickly.
  • Cabezon are the largest sculpin species.

Sources: California Sea Grant; FishBio; Ben Frable, Scripps Institution of Oceanography; Monterey Bay Aquarium

Photo: Mark Royer