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Arctic eelpout Lycodes reticulatus Reinhardt 1838

[Jordan and Evermann, 1896-1900, p. 2465.]

Arctic eelpout (Lycodes reticulatus)

Figure 272.—Arctic eelpout (Lycodes reticulatus). Drawing by Louella E. Cable.


This fish resembles the ocean pout in its general appearance and in the arrangement of its fins. The readiest field marks for it are that the dorsal fin is not interrupted, but is continuous with the caudal fin, and that the dorsal originates behind the bases of the pectorals instead [page 517] of in front of them, while the fanlike pectoral fins are even larger, relatively, than those of the ocean pout. Furthermore, its upper jaw projects far beyond the lower, giving it a distinctive cast of countenance (compare fig. 272 with fig. 269). The most obvious difference between this Lycodes and the wolf eel (p. 515) is that the former is much the stouter bodied of the two, being only about 8 times as long as it is deep (the wolf eel is 14-16 times as long as deep), and that the dorsal fin of Lycodes reticulatus originates farther forward, i. e., close behind the bases of the pectorals instead of over the tips of the latter.


Described as brownish, with a network of black lines on the head and with several groups of such lines or with solid dark bands on the body. The dorsal fin is dark edged. The young fry are marked with a series of large dark spots on the back and extending out on the dorsal fin.[71]


Specimens of which the measurements have been definitely recorded have ranged up to 15 inches (380 mm.) in length.


This lycodid tends to separate into local races; one such from northeast Greenland and Jan Mayen has, in fact, been dignified with a separate varietal name; var. macrocephalus by Jensen,[72] because seemingly separable from the West Greenland form. One subspecies, hacheyi, too, has been described subsequently from Hudson Bay by Vladykov;[73] also a second (lavalei) from the Gulf of St. Lawrence by Vladykov and Tremblay[74] but none of those call for consideration here.


Little is known of its habits except that it is a ground fish, usually living in moderately deep water, and that worms, crustaceans, and small fish have been found in the stomachs of European specimens. In its turn it falls a prey to larger fishes, and frequently to Greenland sharks.[75]

General range—

Both sides of the Arctic Atlantic; reported as far south as Vineyard Sound, southern Massachusetts.

Occurrence along the Atlantic coast of North America—

This particular Lycodes has been reported definitely off southeastern Labrador in the offing of Sandwich Bay; in the Strait of Belle Isle; in Conception Bay, Newfoundland; on the Grand Banks; off Placentia Bay, south coast of Newfoundland; also on the Newfoundland side of Cabot Strait;[76] and on the southwest slope of Banquereau Bank at 300 fathoms;[77] while Vladykov and McKenzie report it from Nova Scotian waters in general.[78]

It has not yet been recorded from the Gulf of Maine. But it is to be expected there sooner or later, for it has not only been taken to the east and north of our limits, as just stated, but also in Vineyard Sound to the westward,[79] if the specimen in question was identified correctly.

[71] See Smitt (Scandinavian Fishes, vol. 1, 1892, p. 605) for the coloration of the genus Lycodes in general; Jensen (Danish Ingolf Exped., vol. 2, pt. 4, pl. 2, figs. 2, 3, and pl. 8) for beautiful illustrations of this species.

[72] Danish Ingolf Exped., vol. 2, pt. 4, 1904, p. 66, pl. 8.

[73] Contr. Canad. Biol., N. Ser., vol. 8, No. 2, 1933, p. 25.

[74] Fauna et Flora St. Laurent., Sta. Biol. St. Laurent., No. 1, 1936, p. 34.

[75] Smitt, Scandinavian Fishes, vol. 1, 1892, p. 613.

[76] For records of it in Labrador and Newfoundland waters, see Goode and Bean (Smithsonian Contrib. Knowl., vol. 30, 1895, p. 305); also the Annual Reports of the Newfoundland Fisheries Research Commission, vol. 1, No. 4; vol. 2, Nos. 1-3, 1932-35.

[77] See Goode and Bean, Smithsonian Contrib. Knowl., vol. 31, 1895, List of plates and figures, p. 17, figs. 273, 281.

[78] They do not mention any definite locality records but write of it (Proc. Nova Scotian Inst. Sci., vol. 19, 1935, p. 109) as usually believed to be the most common Lycodes there.

[79] Goode and Bean (Smithsonian Contrib. Knowl., vol. 30, 1895, p. 305), Fish-Hawk Station 681; Sumner, Osburn, and Cole (Bull. U. S. Bur. Fish., vol. 31, Pt. 2, 1913, p. 768). Goode and Bean also report it from east of the Bahamas (Albatross Sta. 2652, lat. 24° 13' N., long. 77° 13' W., 140 fathoms). But this is so very far to the south of the normal range of this species that we suspect the record is an error.