Physical Description

  • Long, skinny, eel-like fish.
  • Cream to brown in color with large dark spots all over.
  • Rounded head and snout.
  • Low dorsal (back) and tail fins. Pelvic (bottom) fins just two long, thin rays under eyes.
  • Common length for adult about 12 inches; maximum length about 16 inches.
  • Juveniles lack dark spots.


  • Found from Washington to Baja California, Mexico.
  • Also found from Costa Rica to Ecuador and Galapagos Islands.


  • Live in mud, eelgrass, estuaries, mangroves, and rock rubble.
  • Often burrow tail-first in sand, into mucus-lined holes.
  • Found at depths of 0-920 feet.


  • The female lays oval eggs that float in a single gelatinous mass.
  • When the eggs hatch, they become planktonic larvae and planktonic juveniles for an extended time before settling as their adult stage on the seafloor.


  • Shrimps, crabs, bony fishes, polychaete worms, small clams.


  • California sea lions, cormorants, gulls, porpoises.

Interesting Facts

  • They have smooth scales set at oblique (slanted) angles along their whole bodies, but no scales on their head.
  • They are only active at night.
  • Fossils show that this species was around in the Pliocene, 1.8 million years ago!

Sources: FishBase;; Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute; CalCOFI;

Photo: Herb Gruenhagen