Angler fish (Lophius piscatorius)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biodiversity Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.Map Help



The angler fish grows up to 200 cm in length and is a very distinctive fish, recognizable by having its head and body depressed, a wide mouth, broad head and a fleshy 'lure' at the end of its first dorsal spine, which is used to attract prey. Its colour can be variable but is principally brown or greeny brown with reddish or dark brown mottlings. It always has a white underside. The skin is loose and scaleless and the midline of the body is fringed with leaf like flaps. Lophius piscatorius is a slow moving, bottom dwelling fish most comonly seen half buried and concealed in the sediment.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Lophius piscatorius occurs in coastal waters all around Britain and Ireland. It is predominantly recorded on the west coast of England, Wales and Scotland and the north, south and east coasts of Ireland.

Global distribution



Lophius piscatorius is present in waters from the low intertidal down to depths of 550 m. It is uncommon to see an angler fish in water shallower than 18 m though it may migrate down to as deep as 2000 m in offshore waters in order to spawn. It is found mostly on sandy or muddy bottoms but is also present on shell, gravel and occasionally rocky areas.

Depth range


Identifying features

  • Large, rounded pectoral fins and approximately equally sized dorsal and anal fins.
  • Broad head and wide mouth with large curved teeth in both jaws.
  • Body dorso-ventrally flattened.
  • Skin loose and scaleless with many fringed flaps mostly around the mid line of the fish.
  • Variable colour but basically brown or greeny brown with reddish or dark brown mottlings and white underside.
  • Fleshy 'lure' at the end of the first dorsal spine.
  • Grows up to 200 cm in length.

Additional information

The angler fish uses its lure to attract prey to within reach. Prey items are usually smaller fish (such as spurdogs, rays, sand eels, sculpins, sea snails, cod, whiting, pouting, haddock, flatfishes) but a range of items have been found in angler fish stomachs including; lobsters, crabs, squids and occasionally seabirds. Lophius piscatorius is otherwise known as monkfish and is an important commercial fish. It can be confused with the angelshark, Squatina squatina, a cartilaginous fish which, is also known as monkfish. Lophius piscatorius is included in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan for deep-water fish.


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  1. Centre for Environmental Data and Recording, 2018. Ulster Museum Marine Surveys of Northern Ireland Coastal Waters. Occurrence dataset accessed via on 2018-09-25.

  2. Environmental Records Information Centre North East, 2018. ERIC NE Combined dataset to 2017. Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-09-38

  3. Fenwick, 2018. Aphotomarine. Occurrence dataset Accessed via on 2018-10-01

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  6. NBN (National Biodiversity Network) Atlas. Available from:

  7. OBIS (Ocean Biodiversity Information System),  2024. Global map of species distribution using gridded data. Available from: Ocean Biogeographic Information System. Accessed: 2024-05-25

  8. South East Wales Biodiversity Records Centre, 2018. SEWBReC Fish (South East Wales). Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-10-02.


This review can be cited as:

Reeve, A. 2008. Lophius piscatorius Angler fish. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 25-05-2024]. Available from:

Last Updated: 17/04/2008