Additional Mini Species

This page features some of the unusual and rare mini species which are found around the coastline of Britain and Ireland. While these species are not particularly common they are present around the UK and occasionally caught by anglers, and the growing popularity of LRF (Light Rock Fishing) means that the species featured below may be caught more often by anglers.

Scroll down to read through the species individually, or click on the links below to jump to an individual species.

Two Spotted ClingfishConnemara SuckerSolenetteCommon SnailfishMontague’s SnailfishSand SmeltBig-scale Sand SmeltSnake Blenny

Two Spotted Clingfish

Two Spotted Clingfish

  • Scientific name: Diplecogaster bimaculata
  • Size: Up to 10cm
  • UK shore caught record: No record listed
  • IUCN Status
    • Global: Least Concern
    • Europe: Least Concern
  • Distribution: Found throughout UK and Europe in shallow, inshore waters.
  • Feeds on: Thought to feed on tiny marine crustaceans.
  • Description: Very small fish species. Head is flattened and triangular shaped, with body tapering away. Two distinct spots are located on either side of the body near the tail. Single dorsal fin is present. Colour varies greatly with specimens being red, brown, beige, purplish, orange or even white. Sometimes darker bars and spots are present and at other times body may be speckled.

Clingfish are an order of fish in the family Gobiesocidae which has over one hundred different species throughout the world. They are all small fish (few exceed 6-7cm in length when fully grown) which are called clingfish due to the fact that their pelvic fins have adapted to form a suction disc on the underside of the fish which allows it to attach itself to rocks, even in strong tides (a smilar feature is seen in the lumpsucker species of fish). Like all other clingfish species the two spotted clingfish is small, seldom growing to longer than 6cm, and a 10cm specimen would be considered large. Their life cycle and behaviour appears to be fairly poorly understood, but what is clear is that they are a shallow water fish which rarely ventures into waters deeper than 40 to 50 metres. They live over rocky or sandy seabeds, and are sometimes found trapped in rockpools by the retreating tide. Their diet is thought to consist of very small marine crustaceans such as very small prawns, sea slaters and copepods. Clingfish make up prey for other fish and are sometimes found in the stomachs of all manner of larger fish such as cod, whiting, bass and pollock. Due to its small size the clingfish has no commercial value and is not consumed by humans.

Other Species Known as Clingfish

There are other species which are known as clingfish in UK waters. The small-headed clingfish (Apletodon dentatus) is a species which has a fairly widespread but sparse distribution along the west coast of the British Isles. This species is smaller than the two spotted clingfish, only growing to around 4cm in length. Its life cycle and feeding habits are similar to its larger relative.

The three species in the Lepadogaster genus are also known as clingfish. These are the Cornish sucker (Lepadogaster purpurea), the Connemara sucker (Lepadogaster candollei) and the shore clingfish (Lepadogaster lepadogaster). Read more about these species below. Several species known as seasnails are also referred to as clingfish as they also have the sucker like modification to their fins which allows them to attach themselves to rocks.

Connemara Sucker

Connemara Sucker

  • Scientific name: Lepadogaster candolli
  • Also know as: Connemara Clingfish
  • Size: Up to 8cm in length
  • UK shore caught record: 10.9 grams
  • IUCN Status
    • Global: NE (Not Evaluated)
    • Europe: NE (Not Evaluated)
  • Distribution: Found predominantly around the western coasts of Britain and Ireland.
  • Description: Small fish with snake like body, broad head, pointed snout and widely spaced eyes. Single dorsal fin is set far back on the body and a suction disc is present on the underside of this fish. Eyes are bulbous and ringed with unusual stripes. Colour is variable with mottled brown, red and orange all possible colours for this species.

The Connemara sucker is a species of clingfish which is predominantly found around the southern and western coasts of the British Isles and along the west coast of Ireland. It is also present throughout European waters such as the Mediterranean and along the north coast of Africa. Its name comes from the fact that its pelvic fins are formed into a suction disc found on the underside of the fish (a feature shared with other clingfish species and the lumpsucker). This is used to allow the Connemara sucker to attach itself to rocks and remain in place during strong tides and bad weather. This species is thought to be present across a wide range of rocky and mixed seabeds.

The size of the Connemara sucker rarely exceeds 8cm, meaning that it is very much in the mini species category. Due to their small size they live in relatively shallow water and are a constant source of prey for all species of larger predatory fish. Relatively little is known about the life cycle, breeding and feeding patterns of the Connemara sucker. The small size and inshore habitat this species has no commercial value.

British Shore Caught Record

Despite the very small size of this fish there is a British record for this species. In 2009 Jonathan Trevett caught a Connemara sucker weighing 10 grams from in Weymouth, Dorset. However, this was beaten by less than a gram when Charlie Tudball caught a Connemara sucker weighing 10.9 grams in Ilfracombe Harbour in March 2016.

Related Species

The two other species in the Lepadogaste genus which are occasionally found in UK and Irish waters are the shore clingfish (Lepadogaster lepadogaster) and the Cornish sucker (Lepadogaster purpurea).

Solenette

Solenette
  • Scientific name: Buglossidium luteum
  • Also known as: Yellow Sole
  • Size: Up to 15cm and 4oz
  • UK shore caught record: N/a
  • IUCN Status
    • Gobal: LC (Least Concern)
    • Europe: LC (Least Concern)
  • Distribution: Common around the UK on muddy and sandy seabeds.
  • Feeds on: Small crustaceans, shellfish and marine worms.
  • Description: Very small right-eyed flatfish with elongated oval body. Anal and dorsal fin continue around body and connect to caudal peduncle with every fourth or fifth ray being black/dark. Pectoral fin is very small. Colour is anywhere between light brown/orange to dark brown but this changed because the solenette has the ability to change its colour to match its surroundings.

The solenette is one of the smallest members of flatfish that is found in UK waters. It is widespread on sandy, muddy and light shingle seabeds across the UK, and has extended its range along the British Isles in the last few decades. It is also found throughout Scandinavian waters and throughout the Mediterranean. Although solenette avoid very shallow water they are common in depths ranging from five to several hundred metres.

Solenette are not commonly caught by shore anglers, possibly because they cannot fit standard sized fishing hooks into their small mouths. It may also be the case that anglers who do catch solenette (such as those taking part in LRF) mistake the solenette for an immature Dover or lemon sole. Due to their small size solenette have no commercial value and any which do end up caught in trawl nets are almost always thrown back into the sea dead as bycatch.

Common Snailfish

Common Snailfish

  • Scientific name: Liparis liparis
  • Also know as: Seasnail, Common Seasnail, Striped seasnail
  • Size: Grows to 15-18cm
  • UK shore caught record: No record listed
  • IUCN Status: LC (Least Concern)
  • Distribution: Found throughout the North East Atlantic and surrounding waters.
  • Feeds on: Marine worms, amphipods and small crustaceans.
  • Description: Small fish with a large head, small eyes and tapering body, which is slimy to the touch. A small suction disc is present between the pelvic fins. Colour is variable and can be anything from brown, red, orange or greenish with darker blotches or stripes running along the length of the body.

The common Snailfish is a small species of fish which is a member of the Liparis genus in the Liparidae family. They are small species which live mostly in sheltered, inshore waters. Despite their common name (and the fact that they are sometimes referred to as seasnails) these species are not related to any form of marine gastropods. This species is common around the inshore waters of the British Isles and other European countries. Despite its abundance it is a relatively obscure species which is generally ignored by anglers (due to its small size) and the public as it is not edible and has no commercial value.

Distribution

This species is common throughout colder northern European waters with populations being found in shallow, inshore areas of the North Sea, Norwegian Sea, English Channel and North East Atlantic and the waters of the Faroe Island and Iceland also hold this species. There is a separate sub-population in the Baltic Sea which does not appear to intermix with other populations of this species, and is classed as a sub-species in some scientific literature. Its range only extends as far as the Atlantic coast of France and it is absent from Spanish and Portuguese waters and is not found in the warmer waters of the Mediterranean Sea or in the Black Sea.

Diet and Lifecycle

Common Snailfish are mostly found in shallow inshore waters, although they have on occasion been observed at depths of several hundred metres. They are usually found in fairly rocky areas, or those where shellfish beds are present as this provides a solid surface for the fish to attach itself to with the suction disc which is located on the underside of the body. They feed on a diet of small crustaceans, marine worms and immature fish and fish fry. They are thought to spawn in shallow water in the winter. The common Snailfish is a short-lived species, with a lifespan of between eighteen months and two years.

Angling and Commercial Value

The common Snailfish is rarely caught by anglers due to its small size, and many UK anglers may struggle to identify this species if they did happen to catch one. There is currently no UK shore caught record listed. However, the rising popularity of Light Rock Fishing in which anglers actively target very small species of fish may mean that this species will become more recognisable in the coming years.

This species is of no commercial value and is not targeted by commercial fisheries anywhere within its range. For this reason it is classed as a species of Least Concern by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Montague’s Snailfish

Montague's Snailfish

  • Scientific name: Liparis montagui
  • Also know as: Montague’s Seasnail, Montague’s Sucker
  • Size: Up to 12cm
  • UK shore caught record: No record listed
  • IUCN Status: LC (Least Concern)

Montague’s Snailfish is another species of snailfish which is also found in British waters. It grows to a slightly smaller maximum size than the common snailfish, only reaching around 12cm in length, and is found across mostly the same distribution. This species lives in shallow waters and can often be found in the intertidal zone where it will seek shelter in cracks and crevices in between rocks and beneath seaweed. It also feeds on sources of food such as marine worms, tiny crustaceans, amphipods and sea slaters. Like the common seasnail there is no shore caught record listed.

Sand Smelt

Sand Smelt (Atherina presbyter)

  • Scientific name: Atherina presbyter
  • Also known as: Old World Silverside
  • Size: Up to 20cm
  • UK shore caught record: 2.5 oz (72 grams)
  • IUCN Status
  • Gobal: NE (Not Evaluated)
  • Europe: NE (Not Evaluated)
  • Distribution: Scandinavian waters to the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Feeds on: Mid-water crustaceans and other small creatures.
  • Description: Slim silvery fish which can be dark grey or green on the upper flanks. Eyes are large and the mouth is upturned. Two dorsal fins are present on the back and the tail is deeply forked.

The sand smelt can be found around most of the British Isles with its range extending into the north east Atlantic coastline and the Mediterranean Sea. They live in the upper levels of relatively shallow waters, although they may move into deeper water in search of food and when waters begin to cool in the winter. Sand smelts often form into large shoals and feed on larval fish, prawns, shrimps and mid-water crustaceans. They are often mistaken for their larger relative, the European smelt.

Big-scale Sand Smelt

Big-scale Sand Smelt

    • Scientific name: Atherina boyeri
    • Also known as: Boyer’s Sand Smelt, Black Sea Smelt
    • Size: Up to 20cm
    • UK shore caught record: 5 drams (8 grams)
    • IUCN Status
      • Global: NE (Not Evaluated)
      • Europe: NE (Not Evaluated)
    • Distribution: Found mostly in the Mediterranean and Black Sea but can also be found around the UK.
    • Feeds on: Plankton, tiny mid-water crustaceans and small marine creatures.
    • Description: Small silvery fish which is similar to the sand smelt in having two dorsal fins, large eyes and an upturned mouth. Black/dark line may run along body which can be a differentiating factor with the sand smelt.

The big scale sand smelt is found mainly in the warmer waters of the Mediterranean, but can be found around the British Isles, especially around the south. This species shoals in very large numbers and can be found in estuaries and rivers as it can withstand waters with a very low salinity level. They feed on amphipods and fish larvae, and will also scour in the sediment for small molluscs and worms. A sub-species of big-scale sand smelt (Atherina boyeri caspia) lives in the land-locked Caspian Sea.

This species has some commercial value, with small artisan fishermen in southern European countries catching this species to sell on a limited scale at fish markets. Due to their small size they are usually deep fried and eaten whole. The big-scale sand smelt has a very small UK shore caught record, with a 5 dram (8 gram) specimen caught by H.L.G. Dorling at The Leys, Aberthaw, South Wales, caught back in 1980.

Snake Blenny

    • Scientific name: Lumpenus lampretaeformis
    • Also known as: Serpent Blenny
    • Size: Up to 40cm
    • UK shore caught record: No record listed
    • IUCN Status
      • Global: NE (Not Evaluated)
      • Europe: LC (Least Concern)
    • Distribution: Found in colder northern European waters off the coasts of Russia and Nordic countries and in the northern North Sea. A separate population is present off the coast of North America.
    • Feeds on: Small shrimps, crustaceans and marine worms.
    • Description: Long eel-like body with prominent pectoral fins and small rounded tail. Dorsal fin runs almost whole length of back and anal fin runs two thirds of bodylength. Colour is yellow to dark brown with darker patches or bars running along the flanks.

The snake blenny is a species of fish which is found in the North Atlantic. It is generally a colder water species with its range stretching from the Kara Sea off the coast of Russia to the North Sea. It is also present in the Baltic Sea, and off the coasts of Iceland, Greenland and North America. It is not generally found any further south than the English Channel. There is evidence that the distribution of this species may be moving northwards as a result of warming sea temperatures. In British waters they are relatively rare, although they are present, especially along the coastline of Scotland. There is no UK boat caught or shore caught record for this species and it appears to be a species which is seldom caught on rod and line. However, the growing popularity of Light Rock Fishing may mean that a UK shore caught record will soon be set for this species.

This species tends to prefer slightly deeper offshore waters and avoids the inter-tidal zone. It also avoids rocky ground, preferring to live and feed over a seabed of sand or mud as this species may burrow into the seabed to either hide from predators or lay eggs. Snake blennies feed on a range of creatures from small shrimps and prawns to other crustaceans and marine worms. They may become prey themselves for larger species such as cod, bass and pollock.

The snake blenny is not considered to be edible and are not targeted by commercial fisheries, although larger snake blennies may be inadvertently caught as bycatch and discarded at sea. Globally this species has not been evaluated by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, but in European waters numbers are thought to be stable and it is listed as a species of Least Concern.

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