DPG is a comprehensive underwater photography website and community for underwater photographers. Learn underwater photography techniques for popular digital cameras and specialized professional underwater equipment (wide angle, macro, super macro, lighting and work flow). Read latest news, explore travel destinations for underwater photography. Galleries of professional and amateur underwater photography including wrecks, coral reefs, undersea creatures, fashion and surfing photography.
Dive Photo Guide


Blue Heron Bridge: A Paradise for Frogfish
By Matthew Sullivan, June 17, 2024 @ 09:00 AM (EST)

A striated frogfish, actively on the hunt in the shallows, waving its worm-like lure around

You’re swimming along a barren, muddy bottom when a clump of oddly symmetrical algae catches your eye—it’s a frogfish! Most often, when somebody wants to see or photograph a frogfish, off they go to far-flung locations in the tropical Pacific such as the Lembeh Strait or Bali in Indonesia, or Dumaguete in the Philippines. However, one small but well-known dive site in South Florida can rival any spot on Earth when it comes to hosting these sought-after anglers. Blue Heron Bridge is home to five frogfish species, several of which occur in quite amazing numbers.

Frogfish are among the most—if not the most—desirable photo subjects in the area, and I, for one, will never get tired of seeing them. Frogfish are a type of bottom-dwelling (in most cases) anglerfish that prefer to walk, rather than swim. Blue Heron Bridge features lots of different micro-habitats and sheltered waters, a perfect setup for frogfish abundance and diversity.

Ocellated Frogfish (Fowlerichthys ocellatus)

This large frogfish is the largest species in the Atlantic and is by far the rarest species found at Blue Heron Bridge. Records are few and far between and it is likely that individuals that show up at the Bridge are lost and got caught on the wrong ocean currents. While some of the habitat in the inlet is conducive to these fish being present, it isn’t perfect and they very rarely show up.

The ocellated prefers ledge systems and ledge systems are a micro-habitat that do not exist at Blue Heron Bridge. Truly muddy habitats are also a preferred haunt for this species and while the Bridge is known as a “muck dive,” very little of the site is legitimate muck or mud.

PHOTO TIP: Ocellated frogfish love unappealing settings. Using snoots or light modifiers to separate them from their surroundings can be crucial to capturing a pleasing image of this species—if you’re not lucky enough to encounter one in a pretty spot.

The only member of its genus in the Western Atlantic, the ocellated is a fantastic frogfish. It is large and variable and as it is so uncommon, a real treat to find. This individual was actually photographed on the west coast of Florida, where they are more common, as we didn’t have any local images available at the time of this article


Sargassumfish (Histrio histrio)

Divers and photographers around the world may be familiar with sargassumfish. A truly pelagic frogfish, sargassumfish exist at the mercy of open ocean currents. During the warmer months in Florida, huge mats of sargassum arrive in coastal waters, bringing with them a massive diversity of life, sargassumfish included. While the majority of sargassum stays offshore, quite a bit does get washed into the area around Blue Heron Bridge on incoming tides. Careful examination of the clumps can often yield sargassumfish anywhere from the size of a pea, up to around four inches long.

PHOTO TIP: Sargassumfish can get quite big and since they spend the majority of their time floating/bobbing close to the surface, a wider macro lens or even a fisheye will make your job of keeping them in the frame and in focus much easier.

While it is largely a pelagic species, the sargassumfish is a visitor to the waters around Blue Heron Bridge during summer months when the sargassum plant gets washed into the inlet in big mats. Careful examination of these mats can often yield this extremely well camouflaged angler


Dwarf Frogfish (Antennarius pauciradiatus)

Not only the smallest of all the tropical Western Atlantic frogfish species, but among the smallest species in the world, the dwarf frogfish is the second most frequently seen frogfish at the Bridge. Dwarf frogfish are most often only around in the first half of the year, from roughly January through June. If you’re wondering why, it is because they only live about six months! Females max out around 1.5 inches while males are lucky to reach half an inch long. Female dwarf frogfish often have a harem of smaller males that follow her around for days or even weeks, waiting for her to be ready to mate.

Dwarf froggies are most often found in rubble beds, blending in brilliantly with shells and rocks. However, they are a frogfish of many habitats, and seagrass and algae beds as well as mucky areas with debris to hide beneath will also host dwarfs.

PHOTO TIP: As you’d expect, this diminutive frogfish is absolutely best photographed with a strong macro lens and ideally a diopter as well. Even large individuals often need to be photographed close to or beyond 1:1 in order to fill the frame.

The most common color variation of dwarf frogfish around Blue Heron Bridge. You can see its tiny lure balled up on its forehead. Dwarfs are generally patternless and while they are variable, they usually have dull or muted coloration

A large (relatively speaking) female dwarf frogfish. She measured a whopping 1.5 inches, a true monster for the species! Dwarf frogfish have a short and stubby lure, which is very rarely seen


Longlure Frogfish (Antennarius multiocellatus)

In the rest of the Caribbean, the longlure frogfish is by far the most frequently encountered of all frogfish. Coming in an astounding array of colors, they are a favorite amongst macro lovers. The species reaches the very northern extent of their range in South Florida, and while they are sometimes seen on offshore reefs, they are extremely uncommon at Blue Heron Bridge. Similarly to the ocellated frogfish, it is likely that longlures that appear around the Bridge probably got caught on the incoming tide.

The habitat around Blue Heron Bridge that is conducive to this species, which generally prefers spongy reefs, is very sparse. The longlure is well-named. It has a long, very thin lure with a tip that vaguely resembles a small shrimp.

PHOTO TIP: Longlures are quite active fishers. With a bit of patience, a photographer may be rewarded with witnessing the frogfish go hunting—it will cast out its lure and bounce it around in a herky-jerky manner, creating opportunities for behavior images. The luring image is far more rewarding than the “yawn,” in my view. Unfortunately, patience is not always rewarded and the frogfish below never hunted while I watched.

A beautifully colored and patterned juvenile longlure frogfish. Before I found the individual above in 2023, the last record from Blue Heron Bridge was in 2016! This one was perched on a small sponge in a not often dived area of the site


Striated/Scaber’s Frogfish (Antennarius striatus/scaber)

Arguably the most popular critter for divers and photographers at Blue Heron Bridge is the striated (or Scaber’s) frogfish. Closely related to the well-known hairy frogfish in the Indo-Pacific, the striated is a large, variable and charismatic angler. Ironically, elsewhere in the tropical Western Atlantic, the striated frogfish is exceedingly rare. At the Bridge, they are far and away the most common anglerfish species, and I have had dives on which I've found 20-plus individuals ranging in color from the classic tan stripes, to red, to orange, to black, to yellow.

While striated frogfish are often hairy and patterned, not all individuals are. For those unfamiliar, the easiest way to differentiate them from other species, like ocellated, is the lure. Striated have a two-pronged or split lure (a colloquial name for the species is the splitlure frogfish) that looks like a worm.

It is possible to find striated frogfish year-round, but the peak of the season is generally April through June. During these months, it isn’t uncommon to see double digit frogfish on one dive, and in four or five different colors. The striateds use every single habitat type found at Blue Heron Bridge, from rubble patches, to seagrass beds, to muck, to bridge and dock structures. Their ability to adapt to any environment likely contributes to their abundance.

PHOTO TIP: Striated frogfish have lots of good textures and can often be hairy. Cross-lighting—aiming the strobes across at each other with the frogfish in between the flash heads—can bring out lots of contrast and detail that otherwise wouldn’t show up with standard flat light.

A “classic” looking striated frogfish. The short hairys and contrasty stripes are typical of the species. This large female had a meal in her belly that was likely the smaller male she had been hanging around with and who was never seen again after this!

While the majority of the striated frogfish seen locally are various shades of brown, the species can be incredibly variable, as evidenced by the red individual above. Red is a rare color morph and of the hundreds of striated frogfish I’ve seen—only two have been red


Be the first to add a comment to this article.
You must be logged in to comment.
* indicates required
Travel with us

Featured Photographer