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.


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.


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.

Did You Know?

  • The northern sea robin is the most common sea robin species in the Chesapeake Bay. Another species is the striped sea robin which is found in the Atlantic from Nova Scotia to Florida.
  • Anglers consider sea robins to be a nuisance because they steal bait and are unpleasant to handle. However, many people enjoy eating sea robins.

Sources and Additional Information