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Montana Animal Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

Spoonhead Sculpin - Cottus ricei

Species of Concern

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S3

Agency Status


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General Description
The Spoonhead Sculpin is another native Montana Fish of Special Concern due to its limited Montana distribution (Montana AFS Species Status Account). Spoonhead Sculpin are found only in the St. Mary and Waterton river drainages of Glacier National Park, which ultimately drain into Hudson Bay. They inhabit deep lakes, as well as streams, and provide forage for Lake Trout, Burbot, and other species.

Diagnostic Characteristics
Spoonhead Sculpin are light brown with two to four saddles under the second dorsal fin. The underside is whitish. No palatine teeth are present. The body is slender. One pore is located on the midline under the tip of the chin. Prickles, often dense, may cover the entire body, but sometimes are sparse or absent. No other Montana sculpin has the "bison horn" spine on the gill cover.

Species Range
Montana Range

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Western Hemisphere Range


Summary of Observations Submitted for Montana
Number of Observations: 6

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Relative Density



(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)

Habitat includes small, swift streams to larger rivers, and the shallows and deep water of lakes. They have been taken at depths of over 100 feet.

Food Habits
Most likely, planktonic crustaceans in deep lakes and aquatic insect larvae in inshore regions figure prominently in the diet.

They are probably important forage for deep-dwelling fishes.

Reproductive Characteristics
Recent evidence suggests that spawning occurs in late summer or early fall.

  • Literature Cited AboveLegend:   View Online Publication
    • Montana Chapter of the American Fisheries Society species status accounts.
  • Additional ReferencesLegend:   View Online Publication
    Do you know of a citation we're missing?
    • Houston, J. 1990. Status of the spoonhead sculpin, Cottus ricei, in Canada. Canadian Field-Naturalist. 104:14-19.
    • Potter, R. L., and G. W. Fleischer. 1992. Reappearance of spoonhead sculpins (Cottus ricei) in Lake Michigan. J. Great Lakes Res. 18:755-758.
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Citation for data on this website:
Spoonhead Sculpin — Cottus ricei.  Montana Field Guide.  Montana Natural Heritage Program and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.  Retrieved on September 28, 2016, from