Physical Description

  • Cabezon comes from Spanish for ‘large head,’ which is a main characteristic of these fish.
  • A large, scaleless fish with a broad bony support extending from the eye across the cheek just under the skin.
  • They have 11 spines on their dorsal fin (upright fin on their back) and a thick spine before their eyes.
  • They can reach 3 feet in length and 31 pounds in weight.
  • Their skin and mouth can look blue.
  • Females are larger than males (#42).
  • Females greenish in coloration, with lots of mottling to help with camouflage.


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


  • Found in rocky, muddy, and sandy bottoms, and kelp beds.
  • Juveniles settle in pools within the intertidal zone (area of shoreline covered at high tide and uncovered at low tide).
  • Found at depths of 0-656 feet.


  • 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 (aquatic arthropods like crab and lobster), mollusks (invertebrates like squid and octopus), 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. Their meat 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: Herb Gruenhagen