Angler, Lophius piscatorius

The Angler, (Lophius piscatorius), also known as the Fishing-frog, Frog-fish, or Sea-devil, is a species of monkfish in the family Lophiidae. It is found in coastal waters of the northeast Atlantic, from the Barents Sea to the Strait of Gibraltar, the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. This species comprises a significant commercial fishery in parts of its range.

The Angler has a very large, broad head that is flat and depressed. The rest of the body appears to be a mere appendage. The wide mouth extends all the way around the anterior circumference of the head, and both jaws are armed with bands of long sharp teeth. The teeth are inclined inwards. The pectoral and pelvic fins are so articulated as to perform the functions of feet, so that the fish is able to “walk” on the seafloor, where it usually hides itself in the sand or amongst seaweed.

All around the head and along the body the skin bears fringed appendages that resemble short fronds of seaweed. The fronds, combined with the fish’s ability to camouflage itself with its surroundings, assists this fish greatly in hiding itself from its potential prey. The body has no scales, thereby it is not kosher. The female of the species grows to a length of more than 6.5 feet.

The Angler also has eighty long filaments along the middle of its head, which are the detached and modified three first spines of the anterior dorsal fin. The most important to the fish is the first of these three filaments, which is the longest, and is movable in every direction. The Angler is believed to attract other fishes by means of its lure, and then seizes them with its enormous jaws. Experiments have shown that the action of the jaws is automatic and depends on contact of the prey with the tentacle. The stomach is expandable and the fish can swallow other fish equal to its own size.

The spawn of the Angler consists of a thin sheet of transparent gelatinous material 2 or 3 feet broad and 25 to 30 feet long drifting freely through the water. The eggs within the sheet are in a single layer, each in its own cavity. The larvae are free-swimming and have the pelvic fins elongated into filaments.

Greenpeace International added the Angler to its seafood red list in 2010, due to high risk of the species being sourced from unsustainable fisheries.

Image Caption: Complete Skeleton of Angler (Lophius piscatorius). Credit: Museum of Toulouse/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)