Wolffish (Anarhichas lupus)

Eel-like in body shape, wolffish are blenny relatives that live in the cold to arctic waters of the Atlantic and the Pacific. They are members of the Anarhichadidae family, which encompasses seven species.

The wolffish lacks pelvic fins, and the dorsal fin, which begins just behind the head, extends to the caudal fin but is not joined to it. The anal fin extends about half the length of the ventral surface. Wolf fish have powerful jaws and numerous broad teeth that are used to crush the shells of mollusks and crustaceans. They also have sharp canine teeth.

The Atlantic wolffish (Anarhichas lupus)inhabits the western Atlantic from southern Labrador and western Greenland to Cape Cod, rarely occurring as far south as New Jersey.

The sides of its brownish-gray to purplish body are crossed by as many as a dozen vertical black bars. It is sedentary and rather solitary and is commonly found at depths of 45 to 65 fathoms. Populations tend to be localized. Although it appears sluggish, it is easily provoked, can move rapidly for short distances, and gives severe bites.

Wolffish (Anarhichas lupus)
Wolffish (Anarhichas lupus)

Individuals can attain a length of 5 feet and a weight of 40 pounds. They prey on mollusks, crabs, lobsters, and sea urchins. The Atlantic wolffish is seldom caught by anglers and is usually taken commercially by otter trawls. It is over-exploited and depleted in the western Atlantic.

Also in the North Atlantic and with similar ranges are the spotted wolffish (A. minor) and the northern wolffish (A. denticulatis). In the North Pacific, the very similar Bering wolffish (A. orientalis) occurs from the Aleutian Islands in Alaska southward to central California. The wolf-eel (Anarrichthys ocellatus) has a similar range; it reaches a length of 6.5 feet. These species are also caught by commercial trawlers.