• Family: Cottidae (Sculpins)
• Other Names: Great Lakes Mottled Sculpin and Northern Mottled Sculpin
• Ohio Status: No special status
• Adult Size: Typically 2-4 inches, can reach 5 inches.
• Typical Foods: Crustaceans, small fish such as darters, and various aquatic invertebrates.
The mottled sculpin and other sculpin species have no scales. Their eyes are positioned on top of a rather large head. Mottled sculpins also have a relatively large mouth. The second dorsal fin and anal fin are rather long and they have large fan like pectoral fins. Mottled sculpins have 3-4 dark saddles going over their back and down their sides. They have a single straight spine just in front of the gill opening on either side of the head and an incomplete lateral line. As their name suggests they have a mottled color pattern of various shades of brown, gray, and black with a lighter cream colored belly. They also have a dark vertical bar at the base of their tail. Breeding males usually have a bright orange band on the outer edge of their small rounded first dorsal fin. There are two subspecies of mottled sculpin in Ohio; the northern (Cottus b. bairdii), and great lakes (C. b. kumlieni). The great lakes has less distinct markings and an even shorter lateral line. The great lakes is also only found in the deeper and more eastern waters of Lake Erie and not anywhere in inland Ohio. Mottled sculpins differ from the closely related spoonhead sculpin by having an incomplete lateral line and straight spines on the sides of their head.
Habitat and Habits
Mottled sculpins are found in small cool streams and also have a preference for relatively clear waters. They do not require as cold of water as trout but do not tolerate the warmer temperatures found in most larger streams in Ohio. They are fairly well distributed throughout the state with the exception of being rather rare in the Northwest part of the state.
Reproduction and Care of the Young
Mottled sculpins spawn in early spring. Females deposit a mass of approximately 200 eggs on the underside of a flat rock. Males guard the spawning site for the 3-4 weeks it takes for the eggs to hatch. Soon after hatching the young disperse and no further parental care is given.