by Ben McCarty
THE WOLF FISH
Wolf fish are in the Anarhichadidae family. There are nine species of wolf fish found in this family. They are the largest fish in the suborder of blennies. Blennies are long fish that are similar to eels in appearance. They date as far back as 50 million years according to fossil discoveries. These are not bony fish; they have a cartilaginous skeleton. The wolf fish lives in cold Arctic waters. They have fat heads with a large mouth filled with sharp teeth. Their skin has no scales and the dorsal fin on this fish runs the length of its body and has flexible spines hut no soft rays. Some species, such as the Atlantic wolf fish, have commercial value as a food fish. The Atlantic wolf fish is grayish brown in color with dark bands and has a diet that includes starfish, mussels and sea urchins. When eating its prey, this fish swallows the entire body, shells and all. The prey is then thoroughly chewed with its strong teeth to break it into digestible bits. Munching on armored prey is tough work for wolf fish. However, a new set of teeth grows up from behind each year to replace the worn ones. Powerful grinding teeth at the side of the jaws are supplemented by fangs at the front, and strong cheek muscles are essential when it comes to the crunch. Cod fishermen often find the Atlantic wolf fish in their nets in large quantities When this occurs they use extreme caution when handling, as it is known to suddenly attack anything even biting through wood with its teeth. The fishermen usually remove the head before it goes to market for fear that its ugliness will scare buyers away.
The wolf fish can reach lengths of seven feet or longer but often averages around three feet in length. In European countries this fish is often commonly called the catfish and is very popular as a food fish. The wolf fish spends its time feeding along the bottoms in deep waters. But when spring arrives, it will make small migrations inland in preparation for the spawning season. Once they have reached the spawning sight they hide under large rocks, or in deeper holes. They build their nest in deeply depressed teas among the rocks near the bottom. Once the eggs have been internally fertilized, the female wolf fish will deposit her large yellow eggs on the rocky floor of the nesting site. The male guards the eggs until they have hatched, while the female takes very little interest after she has laid the eggs. The young larvae stay close to the egg sac and remain near the nesting site feeding on plankton for the remainder of the larval stage. The entire period from hatching to the end of the larval stage will usually last around fourteen months or longer They will then leave the nesting site swimming out to the deeper waters to begin their adult lives.
Like most blennies, the wolf fish depends more on sight than vibration or smell to locate its prey. With their fang-like canine teeth, this is a scary fish to face in the water or on the surface. Although it looks extremely fierce, it is not aggressive unless provoked. Most wolf fish are found in the northern waters of both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans with species including Anarhichas lupus, which is the North Atlantic wolf fish, Anarhichas minor, which is the spotted wolf fish, and Anarrhichthys ocellatus, which is often called the wolf eel.