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This species has many aliases: idiot fish, channel rockfish, fagiano ("pheasant" in Italian), bonehead, channel cod, gurnard, gurnet, hardhead, hooligan, lobe-finned rockfish, roundfin rockfish, scorpion, slim thornhead, and spinycheeked rockfish. Thornyhead are particularly interesting because they have adapted to the deep “oxygen minimum” layer of the ocean where most fish cannot thrive. They have huge heads, both long and wide, housing very large gills.
Thornyheads do not have swim bladders and are fairly hardy, which means unlike many other species that are brought up from the depths, they can be kept alive for live fish markets or released after capture with a much higher survival rate.
Culinary Tips: Thornyheads are closely related to rockfish, so they are just as versatile and can be substituted for any rockfish recipes. Due to their small size and big heads, they are best prepared whole, roasted, steamed or fried, and eaten off the bone to maximize yield and flavor.
Catch Method: Bottom Trawl, Hook and Line
Sustainability: NOAA fisheries did an assessment in 2013 that found thornyhead stocks to be healthy. All thornyheads are well managed under the West Coast Groundfish Fishery.
- MBA Seafood Watch Rating: Best Choice
- NOAA Fish Stock Sustainability Index: 4 out of 4