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Diving today at Ships Cove in Cape Elizabeth Maine I came across something had never seen before. We were diving at 30 feet in the ledges. I'll do my best to describe this critter. I could not find it in the books I have.
The fish was 10-12 inches in length
The profile reminded me of a small mouth bass. It was a fairly narrow fish. Height was perhaps 25% - 33% of the length. Quite flat sided.
Color was dark, maybe slightly reddish. At first glance I said skulpin. But it was a smooth fish.
Tail, pectoral and I think the dorsal fins were a deep bright cardinal red! This was the real surprise to me.
On the side of the fish, mid length near the bottom was a light gray patch with small black or dark gray spots or speckles.
The fish was hanging near the bottom and when we came upon it it cowered in a nook against a rock. it was very docile. Sweeping the water to get it back out in the open for a better look had no effect. I stopped short of contact.
This site is near a shipping channel so may it have been a cold fish from away that got pumped out?
I am not sure if I am understanding the description correctly but I'll take a shot in the dark.
You may be looking at either a redfish aka rosefish aka ocean perch (Sebastes marinus) or a black bellied rosefish (Helicolenus dactylopterus). The color on the redfish can vary somewhat so it could have grey patches even though most pictures you see are red or pinkish. They are native to the Gulf of Maine and usually live too deep to be encountered by divers but they can come shallow on occasion so that might explain why you'd never seen one before.
Take a look below and see if one of them resembles what what you saw.
I went through my Atlantic Coast Fishes and attempted to key it out in Fishes of the Gulf of Maine too.
Were there two dorsal fins? or one long dorsal fin? any idea what shape the caudal fin was? Was the head shape also like a bass?
The only fish that I came up with vaguely matched your description was a red drum which has a range from MA to FL, so Maine would be pushing the northern limit a bit. Anyway, thought I'd throw in a picture for you to check. How does what you remember seeing compare with the images we've posted?