The Lumpsucker or Lumpfish – Cyclopterus lumpus - is very distinctive and is unlikely to be confused with any other fish. They move inshore to breed in February to May and the male establishes a territory and nest site (usually a depression in a rock surface) whilst adopting his breeding colours as shown in the photograph. The females come a week or two later. Once paired up, the female lays her eggs in the nest site and they form a solid, quite heavy, yellow to pink mass which sticks to the rock and the male then fertilises them. The female then returns to deeper water and the male then stands guard by clamping itself to the rock by means of a big sucker formed by its pelvic fins. He will stay in place for up to eight weeks, keeping the eggs clear of crabs, starfish and small fish, which find them highly attractive. Once the eggs hatch, the male Lumpsucker also moves back to deeper water and resumes its more normal drab colours of grey-brown The male will grow to 40cms while the female may be considerably bigger. More common in colder water, they are caught commercially off Norway for their roe which is ripped from them, preserved and then sold in European supermarkets as lumpfish roe or mock caviar. They used to be common in the North Sea but the population has plummeted in the last few years. The full reasons for this are not fully understood but it seems hardly surprising with fisheries targetting mature females just before they spawn!
North Sea. St. Abbs Marine Reserve