Rockling are the species that get people in a muddle. The fish are actually very easy to tell apart and with one simple check can be identified 100%.
Five Bearded Rockling
We start with the 5-Bearded Rockling, as the name suggests, it has five beards so a simple count of the barbles to 5 will mean you know it is this fish as the Shore Rockling and 3-Bearded Rockling have only 3 barbles on them. They are usually paler than the other rockling and are commonly caught over clean ground unlike the others.
Three Bearded Rockling
Now this is where the fun starts. This species is a lot rarer than the other two Rockling, in Dorset and Devon anyway. A relatively safe identification is its colouration when compared with the shore rockling as both these fish have three ‘beards’ (barbles). Once seen its hard to forget its leopard like patterns. Just think a three beard is a light coloured skin with dark spots where as a shore Rockling is dark coloured skin with light spots.
Now the Shore Rockling also has three ‘beards’ but are normally plainer in colour than the 3-Bearded Rockling and when they are mottled it is usually light patches on a dark background rather than the other way round on the 3-Bearded Rockling. A couple pictures below shows the variations in colour.
- Five-Bearded Rockling is the only Rockling with 5 barbles.
- The Three-Bearded Rockling usually has a leopard like pattern, with dark spots on a light background.
- The Shore Rockling is usually dark all over or dark with light speckles.