Friday, 15 July 2011

Fish Identification, Blennies.

The Tompot Blenny

Tompot Blenny

This fish is easily identified by the fleshy 'antlers' (tentacles/lappets ) above the eyes, when the fish is in water they are most obvious but tend to stick down to the fish when it is out of the water to give the appearance of an orange blob over each eye. No other blenny has this feature. The blennies have a continuous dorsal fin, ( the fin along its back ). They have a fine set of teeth and are not afraid to use them, many a man has yelled like a big girl when a blenny has decided to bite. The blennies can clamp their jaws with surprising strength, you may have to wait for it to open its mouth for you to extract the hook (or remove it from your flesh ). They will eat most things, worms or little pieces of fish strip, squid, sandeel or even bacon rind. Tiny hooks are not required, even the smallest will have a go at a size 4 hook and bait and this size is easier to grip to extract from the fish. The tompot is one of the bigger blennies and grows up to 20cm or more, normally you will catch them half this size.
Swanage Pier is a good place to catch one.

Tompot Blenny ( Parablennius gattorugine )

The Common Blenny or Shanny

Not as flashy as the Tompot, it has no fancy headgear, and is usually a more muted colour. They do not seem to grow quite so big but otherwise inhabit the same sort of ground and have the same habits and tastes as the Tompot.
They tend to have a greenish hue rather than the red-brown of the Tompot
In breeding condition, in early spring, the male Shanny turns almost black and has distinctive white lips.

The Common Blenny or Shanny ( Lipophrys pholis )

Like most fish that live in places where they can be left stranded by the tide, the blennies can clamp down their gills and survive out of water for a time.... however do please put them back as soon as you can...or equip yourself with a bucket of fresh seawater to keep them in while you look at them; they will be quite happy as long as you keep them out of the sunshine and refresh the water at intervals. It can be useful to see species side by side to spot the differences and learn to identify the fish correctly.

I have seen these fish stamped on by ignorant people who swear that they are poisonous....they are not...... and even if they were it is no excuse for such barbaric behaviour.

There is another blenny that I have caught.... the Viviparous Blenny or Eelpout , however that was many years ago when fishing the Humber estuary, I have yet to catch one anywhere in the south or west.

for further reading, The Aquarium Project is a good reference site

to be continued

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