I caught a couple of these fine fish while tidepooling in the Golden State. Though it may look like an eel, due to its flattened, elongated body – it is in the same order as many other more “conventionally shaped” fish, such as Striped Bass.
Fully grown adult Rock Gunnels can reach a foot in length. Their coloration is highly variable, ranging from hues of yellow-green to brown to crimson.
This neat creature may remain above the waterline at low tide, sheltered beneath rocks and algae; it can breathe air if necessary. They are frequently encountered on rocky shorelines and splash around noticeably when uncovered.
The Rock Gunnel uses habitat sheltered by rocks and algae both above and below the waterline, which is likely to protected it from its natural predators – seabirds, fish and marine mammals.
Thought to spawn during Winter, its eggs are laid on the underside of a shell or under a stone in a nest prepared by the male. The male guards the eggs, fanning them with his tail.
The Rock Gunnel is found in the coastal waters of North America and Europe. It is thought to feed mainly on small crustaceans, polychaetes and mollusks.
This fish is also known as the “Butterfish” due to its slipperiness.