Paiute sculpin at Sagehen Creek Field Station. June 2014. Photo by Kaitlin Backlund.

Paitue sculpin (Cottus beldingi) at Sagehen Creek Field Station. Photo by Kaitlin Backlund.

Paiute sculpin
Cottus beldingi
  • Mottled brownish-black color on back and upper sides, pale below.
  • Large head and mouth.
  • Smooth skin.
  • Spiny fins, fan-like pectoral (“arm”) fins.
  • Less than 5 inches in length.

Record Observations
Species Description:

“‘Weird’ is the word that best describes their appearance to most people.” -Ira La Rivers, in Fish and Fisheries of Nevada (1962)

Paiute sculpin are abundant in Lake Tahoe and its tributaries, in densities as high as six per square meter in Sagehen Creek, CA (Sigler & Sigler 1987).  They are small (less than five inches) and slow-growing (Sigler & Sigler 1987).   They feed on aquatic invertebrates on the stream bottom, such as stoneflies, mayflies and caddisflies, and are in turn fed on by Rainbow trout, and in Lake Tahoe, Lake trout (Moyle 2002).  Paiute sculpin are well-camouflaged, with mottled brownish-black bodies and fan-like pectoral (“arm”) fins (Sigler & Sigler 1987).  Look for Paiute sculpin in rocky riffle areas, but they may be hard to find;  during the day, sculpin hide under rocks and in aquatic plants, coming out at night to feed (Sigler & Sigler 1987).

Photos & Information needed!

Do you have an original photograph of a Paiute sculpin from the Truckee River, Lake Tahoe, or nearby tributary streams?  If so, please contribute photos and observations here!



Moyle, P. B. (2002). Inland Fishes of California. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Rivers, I. L. (1994). Fishes and Fisheries of Nevada. Reno: University of Nevada Press.

Sigler, W. F., & Sigler, J. W. (1987). Fishes of the Great Basin: A natural history. Reno: University of Nevada Press.

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