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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:

  • Frying pan-shaped body
  • Varies in color from pale gray to dark brown with a mottled pattern
  • Large suction disk on the underside of the body, formed by modified pelvic fins
  • Broad, flat head with tiny eyes, strong teeth and fleshy lips
  • Dark band at the base of a rounded tail fin
  • Grows to about 3 inches long

Habitat:

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

Range:

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

Feeding:

  • Feeds mostly on bristle worms and small crustaceans such as amphipods and isopods

Predators:

  • Brown speckled coloring allows it to blend in with oyster shells and bottom sediments
  • Hides from predators within small crevices of oyster reefs

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

  • Spawns in April-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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