Sea Robin

Sea robins are mostly tropical and subtropical fish of the Triglidae family, characterized by split pectoral fins that consist of stiff separate rays on the lower half and broad, soft, winglike rays on the upper half. The upper rays are not as large as in the similar-looking flying gurnard but are used for the same purpose—swimming. The lower rays are used to find food by sifting through debris and turning over rocks.

Sea robins also use their pelvic and pectoral fins to “walk” across the bottom as they search for fish, shrimp, squid, clams, and crabs to satisfy their insatiable appetites. They are often brightly colored, are capable of making loud noises by vibrating muscles attached to their air bladders, and inhabit moderately deep waters. These fish spawn throughout the summer, their eggs float on the surface, and the young grow quickly during the first year.

One of the more well-known fish of this group is the northern sea robin (Prionotus carolinus), which occurs from Nova Scotia to northern South America but is uncommon north of Massachusetts. It averages 12 inches in length and may reach a length of 18 inches.

A black, mottled fish with an olive-brown or gray background, the northern sea robin has a large head that is covered with bony plates and spines and has a distinct black chin. It is a bottom-dweller, moving close to shore during the summer and to deeper water in the winter.

Other Atlantic species are the striped sea robin (P. evolans), which is distinguished by a few dark bands on its sides, and the leopard sea robin (P. scitulus), an almost footlong species with dark blotches, common in the Gulf of Mexico and the southern Atlantic.


At least 19 species occur in the Atlantic and a few in the Pacific off the coasts of the United States and Canada.