Black Prickleback Fish

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The Black Prickleback fish of the Pacific Northwest

The black prickleback is a small fish with a small head and pointed oblique mouth. It has a long dorsal fin that runs into its tail fin giving the illusion of having a full body fin. The tail fin is rounded and joins with the anal fin. It has no ventral fins and pectoral fins are very small. It is a favorite meal for the Great Blue Heron.

It has 4 lateral lines with many branches running down its body along with a black face mask. Its color is reddish brown to black with 3 very black lines running back from its eyes, each outlined with a light margin. Its tail has a conspicuous white bar. The black Prickleback adult can get up to 40 cm in length.

The black prickleback is a small fish with a small head and pointed oblique mouth. It has a long dorsal fin that runs into its tail fin giving the illusion of having a full body fin
Black Prickleback Fish, Photo By Bud Logan

They can be found from Alaska to Southern California including all of the BC Coast. The black prickleback is one of several kinds of fish commonly found beneath rocks in the inter tidal zone. These fish seem to be able to remain out of water in cool and moist spots for a considerable period of time between tides. The black prickleback is often mistaken for an eel.

Black Prickleback feed on a variety of small animals and some even eat algae. They are in turn consumed by predatory fishes and birds, in particularly the great blue heron.

Sometimes a great blue heron will bite into one that is almost to big, they can have quite a struggle getting it down. The video on the page shows a heron struggling to consume one. It was quite fascinating to watch, you can see the fish trying to swim back up its throat. Eventually the fish was eaten, the bird went back to fishing and life went on. Just goes to show what can be seen on the beach if you keep your eyes open and look around.

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