Spotted catfish

Spotted catfish


Spotted catfish

Illustration: Jón Baldur Hlíðberg


Spotted catfish catch (t) in Icelandic waters

Source: Statistics Iceland


Spotted catfish catch (t) by month

Source: Statistics Iceland, weigh reports


Spotted catfish catch (t) by fishing gear

Source: Statistics Iceland, weight reports


Spotted catfish catch (t) by type of processing

Source: Statistics Iceland, processing reports

Scientific: Anarhichas minor. English: Spotted catfish, spotted wolffish, leopardfish. Icelandic: Hlýri. For more languages see the Marine Animal Dictionary.

Biology and distribution

The spotted catfish is very similar to its more common cousin the Atlantic catfish, except it has a spotted coloration similar as leopards. It can get quite large or up to 144 cm long. Unconfirmed sources indicate a maximum size of 180 cm. It can be found all around Iceland, but is much more common in the colder waters in the north and east. It chooses deeper waters than the Atlantic catfish, or a depth of between 100 and 700 m, mostly on mud or sand bottom. It is found in European waters from Spitsbergen in the north to the northern North Sea in the south. It is also around the Faroe Islands, in southern Greenlandic waters and from Labrador to Cape Cod in North America.

It has strong jaws, but not as strong as the Atlantic catfish. It mainly feeds on echinoderms such as brittle stars. Curiously it is not a good friend of its close relative, the Atlantic catfish as the spotted catfish likes to eat the eggs of the Atlantic catfish. Very little is known about the spawning of the spotted catfish.

Catch and fishing methods

The spotted catfish is fished throughout the year, but a peak in catches in autumn might indicate migrations from the spawning grounds, similar as with the Atlantic catfish. Catches before 1975 are not known, as the spotted catfish was usually reported with the Atlantic catfish in catch reports. After reports on this species became more reliable, they were in the range of 1,000 tonnes annually until the late 1990´s when they increased considerably. The current catches are around 2,000 tonnes. The spotted catfish used to be almost exclusively a bycatch in shrimp and demersal fish trawls but a recent deep water longline fishery for the spotted catfish has evolved.


The spotted catfish has proved to be a good species for farming, as it thrives well in the cold waters available around Iceland; is easy to feed and does not seem to mind living in high densities. For more on that see the pages on aquaculture.

Stock status

See the Marine Research institute

Processing and markets

The catch is processed in a variety of ways. A relatively large part goes to domestic consumption. The largest part is iced at sea and then filleted and frozen on land. A large part is also frozen at sea or exported fresh by air.

References and further information

  • Gunnarsson, Á., E. Hjörleifsson, K. Thórarinsson and G. Marteinsdóttir. (2008). Growth, Maturity, and Fecundity of spotted wolffish Anarhichas minor in Icelandic Waters. J. Fish Biol. 68:1158-1176.
  • Jónsson, G., & Pálsson, J. (2006). Íslenskir fiskar (Icelandic fishes). Reykjavík, Iceland. 336 p (in Icelandic)

Hreiðar Þór Valtýsson, University of Akureyri