Small to moderate fishes, largest species attaining to over 50 cm; most species less than 20 cm. Body short, deep, globose, slightly compressed. Mouth large, strongly oblique to vertical; villiform teeth on jaws and palatines. Gill opening, below or behind pectoral-fin base, with a small pore. Dorsal fin with III spines and 10-16 soft rays; spinous portion of fin widely separated from soft-rayed portion; first spine free from rest of fin, nearly always with a well-developed terminal bait (esca); second and third spines covered by thick skin. Anal fin with 6-10 soft rays. Caudal fin rounded. Pectoral fin with 6-14 rays, elongate, leg-like. Pelvic fin with I spine and 5 soft rays. Body covered with loose skin, naked or with denticles. Color: extremely variable, often closely matching that of surroundings; changing color within a few weeks in some species.|
Similar families occurring in the area. Families with an esca not occur in shore waters in the area.
Remarks. Most species inhabiting on bottom in shallow waters; one species pelagic, clinging in floating algae. Feeds on fishes, sometimes large fishes longer than themselves; also cannibalistic. Released eggs embedded in a single, large, buoyant gelatinous mass; floating on water surface.