British Marine Life Study Society

 Tadpole Fish
 Common Name(s):
  Tadpole Fish
   Little Torsk
  Lesser Forkbeard
 Scientific Name:
 Raniceps raninus

 Family: Gadidae


Max length: 30 cm, usually around 15 cm. 

Photograph by Terry Griffiths

Looks like a giant tadpole and other very dark, almost black. 



Google Images


Lives in coastal waters at shallow depths, generally from 10-20 metres, more seldom from 75-100 metres, on rocky bottom with seaweeds.



All British and North Sea coasts, Norwegian coast. In the south of its range it will only be found inshore during the winter as this fish is intolerant of temperatures over 17°C (perhaps up to 22°C). 

Additional Notes:

Solitary and secretive fish so it is rarely seen by divers and only occasionally caught by anglers. Rarely recorded rather than rare. 

Norwegian Information page

Record Angling Catch:
Tadpole Fish               (Raniceps raninus)
      B   1-04-04  off Christchurch, Dorset   S Bishop       1991
      S   1-05-12  Seaham Beach, Co Durham    N Conn         1990
Paddetorsk Raniceps raninus  0.68 kg (1 lb 8 oz)  Korshamn, 20.05.93 

30 March 2010
A Tadpole Fish, Raniceps raninus, was caught on rod and line at Almwych on Angelsey at night at about 9:30 pm. The state of the tide was half down. My bait was rag worm.

Capture, Report and Photographs by Steve Pettit

3 October 2010
A Tadpole Fish, Raniceps raninus, was discovered washed up at Freshwater West Beach, Pembrokeshire. 

June 2009

A Tadpole Fish, Raniceps raninus, was spotted on a dive on the front side of Dawas Rock at Porthkerris, Cornwall, at about 5 meters depth.

9  November 2006
A Tadpole Fish, Raniceps raninus, was caught from Bangor Pier, Co. Down, Northern Ireland.
Image (link)

Report and Image on the flickr British Marine Life Gallery

7 August 2006
New Swedish sportfishing-record by Mr. Andreas Widegren. Tadpole Fish, Raniceps raninus, 33 cms TL, brutto 542 grammes, in Gullmarsfjorden, West Sweden. One of the biggest Tadpole Fish in the world?

Report and Photograph by Kent Andersson

  • 23 April 1997
  • Martyn McDonald landed a Tadpole Fish, Raniceps raninus, on rod and line using a lugworm bait from the harbour arm at Newhaven, east of Brighton, East Sussex. The fish was a fully grown adult fish about 28 cm long and weighed 0.7 kg (1 lb 8 oz). There are no BMLSS records of this fish being caught from the shore off Sussex. The fish was dark brown with a white band half-way down its back.

  • The fish is recorded as widespread and found all around the British coast, but is a solitary and uncommon fish. The fish may be put on display at the Booth Museum of Natural History, Brighton. It may also be verified as the largest shore caught specimen on rod and line. Andy Horton has seen a live specimen at the Cullercoats Marine Laboratory Aquarium, near Newcastle-on-Tyne. 

    October 1988


    John Hopkins with the Tadpole Fish, Raniceps raninus, (Hull Daily Mail)
    It was about ten years back that I caught the fish, if I recall, it was 3 ounces short of the British shore caught record, caught from Bempton cliffs, from a height of aprox 400 feet. 


    Regarding the sightings of Raniceps raninus, they were all solitary and sighted between 5 to 15 meters depth. All where hiding, but not squeezing in a crevice, they where rather keeping themselves away from direct light.

    Pål Enger (Norway)

     Brighton Sea Life Centre  Feb/March 1999
    However, the surprise was the interesting Tadpole Fish, Raniceps raninus, swimming around in subdued light of the cooled tank. 

    This fish is hardly ever seen in Public Aquaria, and rarely encountered by divers.

    August 1999
    My husband Kenny and I were boat fishing in Furnace, Loch Fyne in Argyll, Scotland two weeks ago and he caught a Tadpole Fish, Raniceps raninus on a ragworm. Although we have a wide knowledge of fish species we have never heard of this fish before. 

    Photograph by  Nikki Thompson (Scotland)

    Photograph by  Nikki Thompson (Scotland)

    We estimate its weight to be 540 grams (1 lb 3 oz) and it was approx 36 cm (14 in) in length. We knew it was unusual but we put it back as this is our policy. We took photographs of it and we sent them to the marine laboratory in Oban where it was identified. As far as we are aware the British boat record stands at 496 grams (1 lb 01.5 oz) (F Cappleman) and the Scottish boat record 14.14 oz. so it is unfortunate we did not keep it and record it. However, it lives to fight another day.

    Nikki Thompson  EMail:

    Caught one back in October last year from Bempton Cliffs, North Yorks.Weighed about 12 oz I would think.Also caught one over 20 years ago, similar time of year from Knipe Point, south of Scarborough. If I remember rightly there were several caught around
    the same time, including one caught by Dave Higgins from the Marine Drive at Scarborough that was the British Record at the time. Might still be for all I know.

    There are quite a few Tadpole Fish, Raniceps raninus,  caught along north east coast each year, the British Record 1-5-12 in now held by Norman Conn of Seaham SAC quite a few have over 1 lb have ended up at the Sea Life Centre. I have caught a few small ones float fishing in the nooks and crannies at the Mull of Galloway.

    1 December 2001
    Today 1/12/01 I caught a Tadpole Fish, Raniceps raninus, from Tynemouth Pier on our club match it weighed in at 450 grams (1 lb 0 oz). Is it possible to eat these type of fish? 
    p.s. Not that I would but just curious

    22 February 2002
    A fisherman caught a Tadpole Fish in his nets off Guernsey.

    Report by Richard Lord (Guernsey)

    28 April 2002
    My name is Eric Russell and I'm the shore convener for Predators Beach Angling Club from Glasgow. I would like to inform you of the details of my shore caught tadpole fish. It was landed during an outing of Predators B.A.C. during a club match on Sat 27th/Sun 28th of April 2002. We fished at Loch Etive (green side), which is off the A85 to Connel, a few miles from Oban. This is on the opposite side of the loch, from the more well known marks of the Bonawe Quarry and the ledges.

    The fish was witnessed by club members, weighed and photographed, before being returned. It was weighed on the clubs electronic scales, displaying 75% of what we thought was of a pound (= 12 oz). We were all surprised at the weight, as it was a large fish for the species, but we accepted it as we knew that the scales had been tested and were 100% accurate. As they fish was well hooked and it took some time to unhook it, it was quickly weighed, photographed and returned, knowing that I almost certainly had a specimen fish and that it could possibly be close to a record one. It was a few days later that we realised that the scales were set at a percentage of a kilo and not of a pound. This makes the actual weight of the fish to be in the region of 1lb 10.5ozs (738 grams). This easily beats the Scottish and indeed, the British record for the species.

    I've contacted the President/Fish Recorder of the Scottish Federation of Sea Anglers and was told that I could claim a specimen badge and certificate, but not the record, as the fish was returned. I knew that in order to claim a record you must submit the fish with your claim, but I was pleased to return the fish, as is the norm for the club, happy in the fact that I had caught my first (and almost certainly last) tadpole fish and that it was an absolute cracker. The fish was caught during the night at approx 1 a.m. and it took a size 3/0 Kamasan B940 hook, baited with mackerel, on a running ledger. 

    It's a truly strange fish and I was amazed at the shape of it and of the size of it's mouth. I've been angling for over thirty years and it's the first one I've ever physically seen, as is the case for the rest of the club members. We recognised the fish for what it was, but I wonder how many anglers and I mean experienced anglers, would have done so. I'm delighted to add it to my species list and hope that it not my last. As I said, it is a weird looking fish, with the body proportions different, compared to a 'normal' shaped fish. Eric Russell, great white hunter, signing off. Tight lines!

    July 2002
    Tadpole Fish, Raniceps raninus, are being caught by anglers off Mevagissey Quay, Cornwall. Some of them are on display at Mevagissey Harbour Marine Aquarium where they tend to hide away rather a lot and it is only the expert visitor that can see them. 

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