3 inches in length
Oyster reefs, eelgrass beds; stays in shallow waters near the shore during warmer months but will move to deeper waters in winter
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.
Bristle worms and small crustaceans
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.
Skilletfish feed mostly on bristle worms and small crustaceans such as amphipods and isopods.
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.
Did You Know?
- The skilletfish gets its name from its frying-pan-shaped body. It is also called an oyster clingfish because of its tendency to latch on to oyster shells.
- Skilletfish are good aquarium fish because they will usually cling to the sides of a tank, just as they cling 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.