A gurnard is a strange fish that walks on the bottom of the sea! Is it surprisingly delicious when you eat it?


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What kind of fish is gurnard?

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classification perciformes gurnard family gurnard genus
Japanese name Gurnard
scientific name Chelidonichthys spinosus 
distribution Coasts around Japan
feature The pectoral fins are large, and the dark green base is dotted with blue spots. There are three pairs of free fin rays below the pectoral fins.

Characteristics and ecology of gurnard

The gurnard has a unique feature of walking on the seabed, but what kind of fish is it? First, I will introduce the morphological characteristics and ecology of gurnards.


Unique shape of gurnard

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It has a large head compared to the body of the fish, and has a trapezoidal shape when viewed from the front. The mouth is also large, the proboscis protrudes forward, and the body tapers towards the caudal fin. The maximum body length is about 50 to 60 cm. The body color is white on the ventral side, and the dorsal side is gray or grey-brown with red mottled patterns.


However, there are large individual differences, and some individuals have almost no red color, and conversely, most of the dorsal side is dyed reddish brown. Each fin is large, but the pectoral fins are particularly distinctive in both size and shape.


The margins of the pectoral fins are bright blue and the interior is dark green with blue spots. In addition, the three soft rays of these pectoral fins are loose, and it is possible to move freely by moving them as if walking on the seabed.


Gurnard walks like crawling on the ocean floor!

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The gurnard is a saltwater fish that can be found all over Japan from southern Hokkaido, and its distribution has also been confirmed from the Yellow Sea to the East China Sea and the South China Sea. They often inhabit sandy mud bottoms at depths of 100 to 200m, but are sometimes seen at depths of around 600m.


They eat annelids such as lugworms, crustaceans such as shrimps and crabs, and even small fish as they grow. The spawning season is from December to June of the following year. Juvenile fish are black to dark brown in color, but as they grow, red mottled patterns appear.

Origin of the name gurnard

Origin of the name gurnard

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There are various theories about the origin of the name gurnard, and the main ones are as follows.

(1) To use the swim bladder to call “Bo, Bo!”

(2) "Crawling, crawling" changed from crawling on the seabed.

③ From walking around the seabed

And so on. By the way, in kanji, it is written as "魴鮄" or "歴飄".

Fish that look like gurnard

A gurnard with a unique ecology. There are fish species that look similar to gurnard. Here, we will list fish similar to gurnard and briefly introduce their differences.


How to distinguish gurnard and kanagashira

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It is a saltwater fish classified in the gurnard family like the gurnard, and looks very similar. However, there are several points to distinguish, so it can be said that it is not difficult to distinguish. Kanagashira is smaller than gurnard, with a maximum length of 30 cm.


Also, the pectoral fins are small and uniformly red without the bright contrast of the gurnard, with no blue spots. Individual differences in body color are also small, and the ventral side is white, but the dorsal side is reddish brown and does not have the mottled pattern of the gurnard.


This species is a saltwater fish classified as perciformes in the family Perciformes, and belongs to a different family than gurnards. The body length is about 20 cm, which is smaller than that of the gurnard, and they share a large head and a spindle-shaped body, but the yellow gurnard has a slimmer body.

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In addition, this species is characterized by a total of two plate-like projections extending forward from both sides of the snout. Like the gurnard, this species also has loose pectoral fins that can be used like legs to crawl on the seabed, but there are only two fins, which is fewer than that of the gurnard.


In addition, this species prefers deeper places than the gurnard, and is often seen at a depth of around 200 to 300m.


What is the difference between gurnard and semi-gurnard?

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This species is a saltwater fish belonging to the family Perciformes, Semigurnard, and is classified in a different family than the gurnard. The body length reaches around 35 cm, and the body shape is slightly flattened up and down. Unlike the gurnard, the first and second spines of the dorsal fin are separated, and the first spine is elongated.


The shape of the pectoral fins is also very different. Although they have free pectoral fins, they are not used for locomotion like gurnards.

What are gurnard legs and pectoral fins for?

What are gurnard legs used for?

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One of the most distinctive features of gurnards is the three pairs of legs below the pectoral fins, which are modified pectoral fins.


However, this leg is not meant for mobility. The legs of gurnards act as sensors, allowing them to find food hidden in the sand. In addition to the leg of the gurnard "Taste buds"There is an organ that senses the taste, and it is also possible to judge whether the touched object is food or not.

What are the gurnard's pectoral fins for?

Shooting: FISH PARADISE! Editorial department

The characteristic pectoral fins also play an important role. First, when attacked by a foreign enemy, to intimidate an opponentused for By suddenly spreading their brightly colored pectoral fins, they startle their opponents, and when they are frightened, they run away.


Second, To swim slowly when looking for foodhelp. When gurnards use their legs to search for food, they also spread their pectoral fins wide. By doing this, it becomes possible to swim slowly as if gliding over the seafloor, and carefully search for food hidden in the sand.


Conversely, they fold their pectoral fins when they want to swim faster.

Gurnards are a great foreign road for fishing!

Gurnard is a secret popular target

Shooting: FISH PARADISE! Editorial department

Gurnards can sometimes be caught while fishing. In particular, it is often caught when jigging for yellowtail or swim fishing for flounder on a boat.


In this case, it is not specifically aimed at fishing, so it is treated as a so-called foreign road, but because it looks beautiful and tastes good, it is familiar to anglers as a "happy foreign road".

How to catch a gurnard

Gurnards can be caught from the shore on rare occasions, but basically, if you want to catch them, go out to sea by boat. There are also places that specialize in gurnard, making it a secretly popular target.


Gurnards are generally targeted by bait fishing. The tackle used is a boat rod with a weight load of about 60, and the reel is a small double-axis reel with a counter so that it is easy to catch tuna. It is common to use two needles on a single ten bin with a weight of about 30 to 50, and use fish fillets for bait.


In addition, the gurnard responds well to lures and can be targeted even with light jigging. Attach a small double-axis reel to a light jigging rod that can handle jigs of about 100 to 150g. There is no tackle specifically for gurnard, so I will use the tackle for blue-runners.


Light jigging is detailed in the article below, so please refer to it.

How to choose a light jigging rod?

14 recommended light jigging rods [2023 latest version] 5 points on how to choose

January 28, 2023
How to choose a reel suitable for light jigging

Tips for choosing a light jigging reel! Which do you prefer, bait or spinning?

September 5, 2020

Can guinea fowl be bred?

A large tank for breeding gurnards

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It is also possible to raise gurnards if the facilities are in place. Gurnards grow to a length of about 40cm even in captivity, A tank size of 90 cm or more is required.is. From the point of view of eating habits, it is desirable to use a filter with a high capacity such as an upper type, and it is ideal if it can be used in an overflow tank.

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In addition, since this species is a bottom-dwelling fish, it is not suitable for bare tanks. Be sure to prepare the bottom sand.It is better to keep the water temperature around 20 to 25 degrees Celsius throughout the year, so a temperature control device is essential. Many gurnards do not feed on artificial feed, so it can be said that animal feed is essential.


It is a good idea to prepare multiple types of food such as shellfish, fish fillets, and frozen krill, and feed them in rotation. If you give the same thing all the time, there are many cases of anorexia, so be careful. And since gurnards are animal-eating, Not suitable for mixed swimming.We generally recommend keeping them alone.

Seasonal and delicious ways to eat gurnard

Gurnard is a delicious white fish

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Here, we will introduce you to the season of gurnard and the dishes that make it delicious.


The season for gurnard is winter. It is mainly caught by bottom trawling and is rarely sold in supermarkets. Since it is not a fish that is caught in large quantities, the price is a little high, and it seems that one fish can be traded for several thousand yen, especially in urban areas.

how to eat

The gurnard meat is a white meat with a strong umami flavor, and can be eaten deliciously by various cooking methods. If it is fresh, we recommend eating it raw. You can enjoy it not only as sashimi and sushi, but also as carpaccio and marinade.


Gurnards have a large head, so the yield is low. Good broth can be obtained from the head and araSo it's also suitable for soups and simmered dishes. However, it can be said that it is not very compatible with pottery because it tends to harden when baked and the yield is poor. It's a pity because the fish has good taste.

Try the gurnard once!

Sashimi and sushi are excellent for gurnard!

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Gurnards are often kept in aquariums, and many people may have seen them because they have beautiful fins. However, surprisingly, I think that their ecology and how to eat them are not well known.


Even if you don't fish, you can get gurnard at fresh fish stores or online, so please try it once. The sweet and elegant white meat is addictive!

What kind of fish is gurnard?