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Skilletfish

Gobiesox strumosus

The skilletfish is a small, frying pan-shaped fish with a broad, flat head. (Virginia Institute of Marine Science)
The skilletfish is a small, frying pan-shaped fish with a broad, flat head. (Virginia Institute of Marine Science)

The skilletfish is a small, frying pan-shaped fish often found clinging to oyster shells in the middle and lower Chesapeake Bay.

Appearance:

The skilletfish has a frying pan-shaped body that grows to about 3 inches in length. It varies in color from pale gray to dark brown with a mottled pattern, and has a dark band at the base of its rounded tail fin. A large suction disc, formed by modified pelvic fins, appears on the underside of the body. It has a broad, flat head with tiny eyes, strong teeth and fleshy lips.

Habitat:

Usually lives among oyster reefs, but may also be found within eelgrass beds. Stays in shallow waters near the shore during warmer months but will move to deeper waters in winter. Almost always clings to rocks or shells with suction disc.

Range:

Common year-round throughout the lower and middle Chesapeake Bay and its rivers. Range extends as far north as the Magothy River in Anne Arundel County, Maryland.

Feeding:

Skilletfish feed mostly on bristle worms and small crustaceans such as amphipods and isopods.

Predators:

Brown speckled coloring allows the skilletfish to blend in with oyster shells and bottom sediments. It hides from predators within small crevices of oyster reefs, but low tides can leave the fish vulnerable to birds.

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

Spawning occurs in April to August. The female lays a few hundred sticky, amber-colored eggs into an empty oyster shell. The male guards the eggs until they hatch.

Other Facts:

  • Also called oyster clingfish because of its tendency to latch on to oyster shells
  • Gets its name from its frying pan-shaped body
  • A good aquarium fish because it will usually cling to the sides of a tank, just as it clings to shells in the Bay
  • With some luck, you can find a skilletfish hiding in an empty oyster shell in the Bay’s shallows. Skilletfish latch on to objects so tightly that they will stay stuck on a shell if you take it out of the water!

Sources and Additional Information:




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