Tadpole Fish

Tadpole Fish
  • Scientific name: Raniceps raninus
  • Also known as: Lesser Forkbeard, Jellynose Fish
  • Size: Up to 35cm in length and up to 2lbs
  • UK minimum size: N/a
  • UK shore caught record: 1lb 12oz
  • IUCN Status
    • Global: LC (Least Concern)
    • Europe: LC (Least Concern)
  • Distribution: Found throughout the North Sea and parts of the North East Atlantic Ocean.
  • Feeds on: Starfish, crabs, marine worms and shellfish. May also take small fish.
  • Description: Unsurprisingly looks like a giant tadpole. Dark brown to bluish-black in colour. The first dorsal fin is tiny, consisting of just a few rays, while second dorsal fin and anal fin make up around half the length of the body. Pelvic fins consist of small rays protruding from the body, while pectoral fins are well developed. The mouth is relatively large and the lips and inside of gills are white.

The tadpole fish is a strange and unusual creature, with the general public and anglers alike knowing little about this species. They are distributed throughout colder European waters, being found from the coast of Norway, throughout the North Sea and Baltic Sea and all around the British Isles. They are also found along the Atlantic coast of France, but are absent from the warmer waters around the coasts of Spain and Portugal and are not found in the Mediterranean Sea.

A tadpole fish removed from the water.

Tadpole fish are solitary creatures which live in rocky and broken ground, especially if there is heavy weed cover present. They hide away in cracks and crevices in rocks, rarely emerging other than to feed. Tadpole fish will scavenge for dead marine life, prawns, marine worms and crustaceans, and may also eat smaller fish. Catches of tadpole fish on rod and line are rare, but there is a shore caught record of a tadpole fish of 1lb 12oz caught in Bangor Harbour, Northern Ireland in 2005, and a boat caught record of 1lb 6oz, caught by Albert Grey in the River Tyne estuary in 2003.

Tadpole fish are not consumed by humans and are of no commercial importance. They do not eventually turn into frogs.