Lake Michigan mottled sculpin (Cottus bairdi) have a lateral–line–mediated prey–capture behaviour that consists of an initial orientation towards the prey, a sequence of approach movements, and a final strike at the prey. This unconditioned behaviour can be elicited from blinded sculpin in the laboratory by both real and artificial (vibrating sphere) prey. In order to visualize what Lake Michigan mottled sculpin might perceive through their lateral line when approaching prey, we have combined anatomical, neurophysiological, behavioural and computational modelling techniques to produce three–dimensional maps of how excitation patterns along the lateral line sensory surface change as sculpin approach a vibrating sphere. Changes in the excitation patterns and the information they contain about source location are consistent with behavioural performance, including the approach pathways taken by sculpin to the sphere, the maximum distances at which approaches can be elicited, distances from which strikes are launched, and strike success. Information content is generally higher for laterally located sources than for frontally located sources and this may explain exceptional performance (e.g. successful strikes from unusually long distances) in response to lateral sources and poor performance (e.g. unsuccessful strikes) to frontal sources.