What is a Sea Robin?

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  • Written By: Sara Schmidt
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 23 September 2019
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Bottom-feeding scorpaeniform fishes, sea robins are characterized by large pectoral fins and a taste similar to goosefish or monkfish. Members of the Triglidae family, the fish are also known as searobins. Firm yet tender, the sea robin can be used in a variety of seafood recipes.

Sea robins are named for their birdlike movement. While swimming, the fish's fins simulate a bird in flight as they open and close, like wings. A sea robin can be several different shades of color, from red-brown to gray, with several spots or blotches of black. These fish, which can grow up to 16 inches (41 centimeters) in length, may also feature pale yellow, white, or orange coloration in areas of their bodies.

Most sea robins can be found along the coasts of North America, particularly in the South Carolina area. Known as rough fish, or junk fish, sea robins are usually discarded, or used as bycatch when caught with other fish. A plentiful fish, the sea robin has been regarded as a pest, as it often eats the bait intended for other commercial fish. To purposefully catch sea robins, chunks of fish meat, such as bunker or Mackerel, can be used. Fishing lures typically do not work as well in catching this fish.


As many fish populations dwindle, fisherman have turned to the sea robin as an alternative catch. They can be used as a substitute for other fish, such as rascasse, or scorpionfish, in traditional recipes. Though a bony fillet, the sea robin can be tasty when cooked with enough spices, such as garlic and salt, or with breadcrumbs. They can be baked, grilled, smoked, pan-fried, or prepared in most other typical fish cooking styles.

When preparing a sea robin, it is necessary to remove the bones to create the best dish possible. After cutting behind the head, the knife should slice the fish from backbone to tail. Skin the entire fish, then trim the visible bones, such as the fish's ribs. Down the fish's center are another row of bones that should be cut, leaving two four-inch (10 centimeter) triangular cuts of flesh to use in cooking. Prior to cooking, the fillets should be rinsed and dried.

If not properly prepared, sea robins can be dry and hard. They can be used in Bouillabaisse stew recipes, alongside various vegetables, such as potatoes, tomatoes, and onions. Garlic, fennel, saffron, and cayenne pepper are often used to flavor the stew.

Another tasty recipe featuring the fish is known as sea robin cakes. A pound of sea robin meat can be microwaved with milk to create a tender texture. It is then covered with a mixture of crackers, red and green pepper, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, an egg, mayonnaise, mustard, and any other seasonings desired, and then fried on both sides.


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