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Northern Sea Robin

Prionotus carolinus

The northern sea robin uses its finger-like pelvic fins to feel for and uncover its prey. (U.S. Geological Survey)
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The northern sea robin uses its finger-like pelvic fins to feel for and uncover its prey. (U.S. Geological Survey)

The northern sea robin is an unusual-looking fish with a mottled body, wing-like fins and a flat, bony head. It visits the deep waters of the lower Chesapeake Bay from spring through early winter.

Appearance:

The northern sea robin has a tapered body that gets thinner toward the tail, growing to 12 to 16 inches in length. It has a mottled grayish or reddish-brown back and a whitish belly. Sharp spines appear on its cheeks, neck, sholders and above each eye. It has a flat, bony head with bright blue eyes. It has three finger-like pelvic fins, large wing-like pectoral fins and two separate dorsal fins: one spiny and one smooth. The spiny dorsal fin has a black spot between the fourth and fifth spines.

Habitat:

Bottom-dweller that lives over deep, sandy flats and channels.

Range:

Visits the Chesapeake Bay from spring through early winter, moving offshore or to warmer southern waters in winter. Most common in the lower Bay, but have been collected as far north as the Potomac River.

Feeding:

The sea robin is a bottom-feeder that uses its modified pelvic fins to feel for and uncover its prey, which includes crabs, shrimp, bivalves and other fish.

Voice:

The sea robin uses its swim bladder to make a croaking sound, similar to a frog’s croak.

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

Spawning occurs from late spring through summer. The female lays its eggs over a sandy area. Eggs hatch within 60 hours. Parents do not care for their young.

Other Facts:

  • The northern sea robin is the most common sea robin species in the Chesapeake Bay.
  • Anglers consider sea robins to be a nuisance because they steal bait and are unpleasant to handle. However, they are tasty to eat.

Sources and Additional Information:




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