Plants and Animals

Cottus ricei Spoonhead sculpin

Key Characteristics

This toad-like fish has a very wide, flat head that is spoon shaped from above. It has a mottled body, a complete later line, and a very narrow caudal peduncle. The preopercular spine is long and curved. It has a single median pore at the front of its lower jaw.

Status and Rank

US Status: No Status/Not Listed
State Status: SC - Special Concern (rare or uncertain; not legally protected)
Global Rank: G5 - Secure
State Rank: S1S2 - Rank is uncertain, ranging from critically imperiled to imperiled


CountyNumber of OccurrencesYear Last Observed
Alger 1 1998
Allegan 1 1990
Baraga 3 2001
Charlevoix 2 1994
Cheboygan 1 1944
Chippewa 5 2001
Delta 2 1952
Emmet 1 1995
Gogebic 1 1998
Houghton 3 2001
Iosco 1 1930
Keweenaw 3 2001
Luce 1 1925
Mackinac 1 1936
Marquette 2 2000
Menominee 1 1932
Ontonagon 1 2001
Presque Isle 1 1944
Schoolcraft 2 2000

Information is summarized from MNFI's database of rare species and community occurrences. Data may not reflect true distribution since much of the state has not been thoroughly surveyed.


Spoonhead sculpin are a deep water Great Lakes species. Little is know about this species, especially its spawning habitats.

Specific Habitat Needs

Crevices needed in: Great lake, pelagic, benthic; Headwater stream (1st-2nd order), riffle; Inland lake, littoral, benthic; Inland lake, pelagic, benthic; Mainstem stream (3rd-4th order), riffle.

Natural Community Types

  • Great lake, pelagic, benthic
  • Headwater stream (1st-2nd order), riffle
  • Inland lake, littoral, benthic
  • Inland lake, pelagic, benthic
  • Mainstem stream (3rd-4th order), riffle

For each species, lists of natural communities were derived from review of the nearly 6,500 element occurrences in the MNFI database, in addition to herbarium label data for some taxa. In most cases, at least one specimen record exists for each listed natural community. For certain taxa, especially poorly collected or extirpated species of prairie and savanna habitats, natural community lists were derived from inferences from collection sites and habitat preferences in immediately adjacent states (particularly Indiana and Illinois). Natural communities are not listed for those species documented only from altered or ruderal habitats in Michigan, especially for taxa that occur in a variety of habitats outside of the state.

Natural communities are not listed in order of frequency of occurrence, but are rather derived from the full set of natural communities, organized by Ecological Group. In many cases, the general habitat descriptions should provide greater clarity and direction to the surveyor. In future versions of the Rare Species Explorer, we hope to incorporate natural community fidelity ranks for each taxon.

Management Recommendations

Likely threats to this species include: pesticide and herbicide pollution, predation by or competition with alewife, habitat degradation due to siltation, chronic trace contaminant exposure, and shifts in species compositions in the deepwater community (Houston 1990).

Active Period

Spawning from first week of September to fourth week of November

Survey Methods

Deepwater trawls

Survey Period: From first week of November to fourth week of October


Survey References

  • Murphy, B.R. and D.W. Willis, eds. 1996. Fisheries Techniques, 2nd ed. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda. 732pp.

Technical References

  • Bailey, R.M., W.C. Latta, and G.R. Smith. 2004. An Atlas of Michigan Fishes. Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan, No. 192, Ann Arbor. 215p.
  • Becker, G.C. 1983. Fishes of Wisconsin. The University of Wisconsin Press, Madison. 1052 pp.
  • Houston, J. 1990. Status of the spoonhead sculpin, Cottus ricei, in Canada. Canadian Field-Naturalist 104(1):14-19.
  • Page, L. M. and B.M. Burr. 1991. A field guide to freshwater fishes: North America north of Mexico. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. 432pp.
  • Scott, W.B. and E.J. Crossman. 1973. Freshwater fishes of Canada. Bulletin 184, Fisheries Research Board of Canada, Ottawa. 966pp.