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Rockling Identification

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  • Rockling Identification

    Rockling identification has always been a tricky one and has caused some confusion, for me just as much as anybody. It's easy enough to spot a Five Bearded Rockling as it is the only one with five beards but the difficult one is the difference between the Three Bearded Rockling and the Shore Rockling both of which have three beards (three barbels). Generally the Three Bearded Rockling is described as having dark spots on a lighter coloured body whereas the Shore Rockling is plain looking or sometimes has a mottled pattern (light patches on a dark background). The Lyme Regis SAC website describes this with photos shown below LRSAC Official Website.

    Three Bearded Rockling

    Shore Rocklings

    Based on this I have previously assumed that the plain looking rocklings we have been catching in the north east were Shore Rocklings but it appears that this is not the case. Lambtonworm has pointed out to me that there are no records of Shore Rocklings ever being caught in the north east (thanks for the heads up mate). I have had a look around on the internet and found this distribution map for the Shore Rockling on the Marlin website MarLIN - The Marine Life Information Network

    Shore rockling - Gaidropsarus mediterraneus

    The blue dots show where Shore Rocklings have been recorded and as you can see there are none in our area. The Lyme Regis SAC website says they mainly catch Shore Rocklings where they are on the south coast and that the Three Bearded Rockling is extremely rare there. This website Shore rockling says that "Shore Rocklings live in and around rocky areas throughout the English Channel".

    According to wikepedia the "Three-bearded rockling (Gaidropsarus vulgaris) is found in European waters from the central Norwegian coast and the Faroe Islands, through the North Sea and around the British Isles to the region around the Western Mediterranean." Three-bearded rockling - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    So it looks like in our region any rockling we catch with three barbels must be a Three Bearded Rockling as the Shore Rockling does not venture this far north.

    So, if you catch a rockling and want to identify it bear in mind the part of the UK it was caught in and count the barbels. They are easy enough to count - they are often stuck to the head when you pull them out of the sea but if you run your finger gently across the top of its head from front to back you can flick them up. If it has five barbels (four on top of the head and one under the chin) then you have caught a Five Bearded Rockling, if it has three (two on top of the head and one under the chin) and if you are in the north east you have caught a Three Bearded Rockling and if in you are in the South Coast / English Channel area then you have probably caught a Shore Rockling.

    Five Bearded Rockling

    One last point though just to make it worse The lower two barbels on a 5B Rockling can sometimes be very small, maybe just stumps or small bumps. You could miss these making you think you have a 3B. Unless you are entering the fish in a competition I personally wouldn't worry about that - five barbels 5B and three barbels 3B for me
    Last edited by Thunderpants; 07-03-2013, 01:04 PM.