Eelpout are a family of ray-finned fish with the scientific name Zoarcidae. Eelpouts are found ins some of the coldest oceans in the world. Its elongated, compressed appearance makes it frequently confused for eels. Burbot fish, which are commonly found in the Great Lakes, is often mistaken for an eelpout due to its very similar appearance. However the burbot is a species of the Lota family.
There are many different species of eelpout and many are found in colder, even arctic waters. Approximately 40 species of eelpout live in the Arctic sea, with more than half thriving in the the arctic areas of the sea, while the rest are primarily found in the slightly warmer subarctic-temperate waters. Nearly all eelpout species share the same basic physical characteristics. All species of the the fish usually have one long dorsal fin that extends across almost the entirety of its body down to the end of its tail where it usually meets with the anal fin. The fish is usually brown/tan and have light bands extending vertically down through its dorsal fin and body. All are egg-laying species, and usually lay adhesive eggs at the sea floor.
There is great variation in size among the various species of eelpout. Smaller species such as the halfbarred pout are usually only 5.5 inches (14 cm) in length, but larger species such as the ocean pout can be as long as 38 inches (92 cm) in length and weigh more than 11 pounds (5 kg). The ocean pout is also of note because its body contains a special antri-freeze protein that prevents it from being frozen in the coldest of waters. Scientists have been studying the fish to see if this protein can be used to accelerate the growth rates in other fish or even be used to preserve human organs and tissue.
Most eelpout, regardless of size and habitat, tend to be mid-to-deep range fish, and are usually found lying in sediment, rocks or sand where they lie either on the ground or bury themselves in it tail first. The prey of the eelpout varies from species to species, but most feed on small amphipods. Larger species, such as the wattled eelpout, will also eat shrimp, crabs and even other eelpout. Across all species they are prey for larger fish, such as cod and halibut, as well as various seabirds native to the area. Some species, such as the oddly named fish doctor, is often prey for seals as well.