When I first saw the fish displayed in the attached photo- I literally jumped away from it because I thought it was a snake. I was video taping in the shallows of a fast flowing creek, when I noticed on the camera screen the broad head and copper color of this fish laying on the river bottom. I thought for sure it was a snake like a Copperhead. So, I jumped back and looked at it without my camera. It was too short to be a snake, so I looked at it through the camera again, and excitedly began to snap photos. (The video below captures the incident.)
This odd looking fish is a Banded Sculpin. Scientists refer to it as Cottus carolinae. This small fish grows to be 2.8" to 5.8" in length and typically inhabits streams.
According to my valued Fishes of Alabama book, Sculpins are related to the scorpion fishes and the sea robins that live in the ocean. I can see the resemblance. I think that is neat- a freshwater fish found locally to me in Alabama that is related to the scorpion fishes of the ocean! However, the scorpion fish of the oceans are venomous, while the freshwater Sculpins are not.
It is a good that Sculpins aren't poisonous. The Sculpin in the photograph was found about 12" from shore and in water about 6" deep. I could have easily stepped on it by accident. To say that they are camoflagued would be an understatement. The author of the Fishes of Alabama book had the following opinion regarding finding these fish: "Sculpins are well adapted to their environment. Most have light to dark brown mottling resembling the rubble and gravel substrates on which they live, making them difficult for even the trained observer to see."
I still think it looks like a snake.