Wrasse are found around rocks, reefs, wrecks and other types of rough ground. They also like to inhabit weedy habitat, such as kelpy areas and seagrass beds. They can be recognised by their long dorsal fins along their backs, which have strong spines. They have distinctive thick lips, which most species use to eat hard-shelled animals, such as mollusc and crustaceans, and many wrasses also act as cleaner fish, picking parasites off other fish.
Wrasse are among the most colourful fish found in Irish waters, and anglers may catch several species off Ireland's coast:
Ballan wrasse (Labrus bergylta)
The ballan wrasse is probably the most common wrasse in Irish waters. They are very variable in colour but are usually well-camouflaged to their preferred rocky, weedy habitat with a mottled green-brown colour. It feeds on molluscs and crustaceans, especially small crabs.
Cuckoo wrasse (Labrus mixtus)
The cuckoo wrasse is very colourful when they become mature adults; the males often have bright blue heads and orange bodies, and the females are often reddish with three dark spots along their backs near their tails. They have elaborate courtship behaviour and are known to live for up to 17 years of age.
Rock cook (Centrolabrus exoletus)
The rock cook wrasse usually has a greenish-brown or reddish body with blueish or purplish stripes on its cheeks, and the males have blue spots on the dorsal fins on their backs. They inhabit rocky, weedy areas and seagrass beds, and they like to eat small crustaceans. The rock cook is also known to act as a cleaner fish.
Goldsinny (Ctenolabrus rupestris)
The goldsinny is usually a pale colour with a black spot on the top of the base of its tail, with another on the front end of its dorsal fin. It is a common wrasse that inhabits rocky, weedy ground and seagrass beds. The goldsinny is known to act as a cleaner fish.
Corkwing wrasse (Symphodus melops)
The corkwing wrasse is very variable in colour, but it usually has a dark patch its eyes and a dark spot just before its tail fin. It is a common wrasse that inhabits rocky ground, weedy areas and seagrass beds. It feeds on molluscs and small crustaceans. Young corkwing have been observed to act as a cleaner fish.