Information from FAO Species Identification Guide Western Central Atlantic

Northern searobin - Prionotus carolinus


northern searobin


Diagnostic characters: Body moderately elongate. Head large,bony, with many ridges and spines, but without barbels or large forward-pointing projections on snout; mouth terminal to slightly inferior; villiform teeth present in both jaws and on roof of mouth.Two separate dorsal fins, the first with 9 to 11 spines, the second with 11 to 14 segmented soft rays; anal fin with 10 to 13 soft rays; pectoral fins short to long, with 3 lowermost rays free (detached from the remaining fin rays which are joined by a membrane). Body with ctenoid scales, but lacking bony scutes. Swimbladder bilobed. Colour: variable, silver or red to black or dusky, belly always pale; juveniles usually with dark saddles on body; first dorsal fin often with a black spot or blotch; pectoral fins usually with some bands, spots, or blotches; however, a black fin variation may be found in some species that are usually coloured.

Habitat, biology, and fisheries: Searobins are medium-sized benthic fishes inhabiting the continental and insular shelves of tropical and warm-temperate seas usually in depths of 18 to 55 m, range from 9 to 170 m.. They occur on sandy or muddy substrates, rubble, or reef-typebottoms, using the free pectoral-fin rays for support and for search of food. Although most species are not the object of a special fishery, they often enter bottom-trawl catches, sometimes in moderately large quantities. The majority are considered as trashfish, but some of the larger species are used as food. Their flesh is tasty and firm.  Taken in commercial catches as bycatch.

Size: Small, maximum size to 38 cm.

Distribution: Nova Scotia to eastern Florida.