BY BEN HERVEY-MURRAY
Monkeyface prickleback (Cebidichthys violaceus)
A target of traditional poke hole anglers for millennia, the other members of the prickleback family boasts some interesting branding including the wonderfully-named decorated warbonnet (Chirolophis decoratus) and nutcracker prickleback (Bryozoichthys lysimus) but the monkeyface variety is the most common and can be found at low tide in rocky areas from Baja to Oregon.
Popeye catalufa (Pristigenys serrula)
A bug-eyed vermillion rockfish lookalike, the popeye catalufa is a diminutive member of the bigeye family and is occasionally caught on rod and line off the SoCal coast. It’s usually really small – no bigger than hand-size – and is more commonly found in aquariums, but divers also find a few in certain areas. Not to be confused with a garibaldi, baby red snapper or similar.
Sarcastic fringehead (Neoclinus blanchardi)
This critter looks pretty easy-going most of the time, but when threatened the sarcastic fringehead flares its mouth open and looks anything but sweet. It’s been suggested that this aggressive reaction is the fish equivalent to a spikey reply conversationally, hence the sarcastic moniker. However, at less than 12 inches long, it’s unlikely to get very far with that kind of attitude.
Threadfin goosefish (Lophiodes spilurus)
With a face that only its mamma could love (and even then…) the threadfin goosefish is found in deep water in California and Meixco, hanging around on the ocean floor in search of any easy meal to fill its gut, which, unusually, is colored black. At a maximum size of 35 cm it’s unlikely to be grabbing that deep-set Yo-Yo jig anytime soon, however, making it rare catch on rod and line.
Roughjaw / roughbar frogfish (Fowlerichthys avalonis)
Truly one of the ugliest fish around, the roughjaw frogfish (also sometimes called a roughbar) is also amongst the greediest and can consume prey of the same size, thanks to a giant mouth and stomach. But when you’re shaped like a football with swimming abilities also akin to an inert pigskin, you’ve got to take what you can get. Occasionally caught by rod and line anglers but more commonly trawled up by commercial fisherman due to its sedentary (i.e. lazy) nature, it’s rumored to have a pretty nasty sting from its array of spines.