California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Marine Region's Fish Identification Quiz

fish identification quiz

The Marine Management News blog and newsletter have attempted to stump saltwater fishermen with our fish identification quizzes since 2005. The quizzes not only aim to help fishermen identify marine fish, they summarize the following information to provide hints on each species' identity:

  • life history
  • species range
  • size
  • preferred habitat
  • regulations
  • commercial fishery information
  • recreational fishery information

To enter the quiz drawing, participants must provide a correct common name, the correct scientific name, and the correct California bag limit. Entrants who win the drawing will receive a nominal prize in recognition of their fish identification skills and regulation knowledge. Select any of the quizzes below, and see how well you know your California marine fishes and fishing regulations!

July 2014 Fish ID Quiz

Marine Management News Fish Identification Quiz
July 2014

July 2014 MMN Fish Quiz Photo; Photo by E. Roberts

These "lowly" fish enter the world during the spawning season between July and September each year. When they first emerge from the egg, the tiny larvae have an eye on each side of the body just like many other fish species. Initially the larvae inhabit surface waters, sometimes many miles from shore. As they grow to between ½ in. and 1½ in. long, the right eye begins to migrate to the left side of the body. With both eyes on the same side of the body, the young fish leave the surface waters to settle on the sea floor as juveniles.

This species hunts its prey, including shrimp, crab, marine worms, squid, octopus, eggs, and small fish, on or near the bottom. Young fish eat small shrimp and worms, while adults prefer squid and krill. In turn, this species is preyed upon by larger fishes, diving birds, and marine mammals.

Prime habitat for this fish includes muddy or sandy sea floor at depths ranging from 30 to 1,800 ft. (they are most often caught at depths shallower than 600 ft.). Their range extends from the Bering Sea southwards to Cape San Lucas, Baja California Sur, Mexico.

This bottom dweller has a lifespan of around 10 years, and can reach a weight of two pounds. It reaches sexual maturity at around three years of age; females may spawn twice during a single season. The largest specimen on record was 16 in. long, but most measure under 10 in. and weigh no more than half a pound.

The largest recorded commercial landings in California for this type of fish occurred during 1917 when a total of 2.6 million pounds hit the docks. Since then landings have fluctuated, dipping especially low during strong El NiƱo events, which affect both larvae and adult fish. Most commercial landings are made in northern and central California, with the largest landings coming ashore at Eureka and in the San Francisco Bay Area. Most commercially-landed fish are taken by otter trawls, though some are taken by hook-and-line.

Recreational anglers target this fish with rod and reel, mostly from small vessels. Recreational landings are similarly reduced during El Niño years, but this may be due in part to a shift in fishing effort to more desirable species that accompany warmer El Niño waters.

Marine biologists believe populations of this fish are in good condition, and are reasonably utilized under current management regimes.

This fish is a Pacific sanddab, Citharichthys sordidus. In 2014, there was no bag or possession limit for Pacific sanddab, per California Code of Regulations Title 14, Section 27.60(b).

October 2012 Fish ID Quiz

Marine Management News Fish Identification Quiz
October 2012

October 2012 MMN Fish Quiz Photo; Photo by E. Roberts

Biologists do not know a great deal about this species, but it is believed that their young enter the world in the late fall and winter. Females lay egg "nests" (sticky egg masses secured to suitable rocky habitat) and males are thought to guard the eggs while they develop. Juvenile fish settle into rocky habitat near shore.

This fish feeds on various sea worms, crustaceans, mollusks, fish eggs and small fishes. It ranges from the Bering Sea to Point Conception in Southern California, although it is rarely seen south of San Francisco. This species also occurs in the western Pacific Ocean south to Japan.

Rocky reef areas and kelp forests, especially those located on exposed coastlines, are the preferred habitat for this fish. It is believed that this species lives in relatively shallow waters off California, probably no deeper than 150 ft., guarding territories that are staked out when the fish reaches maturity at around 3 to 4 years of age. Divers have noted this fish may aggressively defend its territory by nipping at an offending diver's fingers.

This species has been aged to a maximum of 8 years (~12 in.) for males and 11 years (~22½ in.) for females. It has been known to reach two feet in length and around 2½ lb. This colorful fish has large skin flaps, known as cirri, over each eye.

Though it is often caught by recreational shore fishermen, sport and commercial landings are comparatively low. Little is known about the status of this species off of California.

This fish is a rock greenling, Hexagrammos lagocephalus. In 2014, the daily bag and possession limit for rock greenling is 10 fish within the RCG Complex bag limit of 10 rockfish, cabezon and greenlings in combination, per CCR Title 14, Section 28.55(b).

May 2012 Fish ID Quiz

Marine Management News Fish Identification Quiz
May 2012

May 2012 MMN Fish Quiz Photo; Photo by M. DuVernay

This flatfish moves from its shallow water feeding grounds to deeper waters along the continental shelf to spawn between November and March. This migration may happen only every other year in a behavior biologists call "skip spawning." Recently, electronic tags on this species recorded a previously unknown behavior, when fish swam towards the surface then drifted back down to the bottom. Biologists believe this may be similar to "spawning rises" seen in other flatfish, when female and male fish swim vertically in the water column to release and fertilize eggs closer to the currents that disperse them.

As they develop, the eggs slowly rise towards the surface, drifting with the currents for about two weeks before hatching. After hatching, the young fish swim upright with one eye located on each side of the body. The left eye begins to rotate over the snout to the right side of the body when the fish reaches about one inch in length. By the time both eyes have settled on the right side of the body and the left side pigmentation has faded to white, the young fish are about one and one-third inches long and looking for a home in shallow, nearshore waters, generally between May and September.

Very young fish feed on plankton. As they develop, they shift to feeding primarily on fishes, clam, crab, squid and other invertebrates. As adults, this fish is sometimes eaten by marine mammals, but is rarely preyed upon by other fish.

As they grow, young fish move offshore to deeper, sandy habitat. Females become mature at eight to 16 years of age (average 12), however males mature earlier. A large female of 140 pounds may produce over 2 1/2 million eggs.

This fish ranges from Santa Barbara, California to Nome, Alaska off North America, at depths from 20 to 3,600 feet. Off California, most are found in nearshore areas from Fort Bragg northward.

The fisheries for this species are strictly regulated with gear restrictions, open/closed seasons, area restrictions, and bag limits. The catch in California is dwarfed by much larger catches of this species in northern waters. Commercial landings in California are now negligable, with only a few hundred pounds brought ashore in 2010. Significantly more fish were landed prior to the 1950s, but after 1952 landings rapidly decreased and never recovered. In 2011, recreational fishermen in southern Oregon and northern California landed an estimated 9,648 lb. of this species.

This fish is a Pacific halibut, Hippoglossus stenolepis. The daily bag and possession limit for Pacific halibut is 1 fish, per CCR Title 14, Section 28.20(b).

January 2012 Fish ID Quiz

Marine Management News Fish Identification Quiz
January 2012

January 2012 MMN Fish Quiz Photo; CDFW photo by Ken Oda

While many fish lay eggs that develop over time and hatch into tiny, free-drifting larvae, this unique fish gives birth to highly developed young-in fact, they look like tiny replicas of their parents-that enter the world ready to swim. Females give birth to an average of 33 young, but this can vary from as few as four to as many as 113. Most enter the world during the spring and summer months. Newborn fish average 2 1/2 inches long at birth, and reach maturity at about 6 1/2 inches long, as 1 to 2 years olds.

This fish eats mostly sand crabs and other small crabs and crustaceans, as well as bean clams.

This species may be found from Bodega Bay (Sonoma County) to central Baja California, Mexico, from the surface to a depth of around 240 feet. They are usually found in the surf zone along sandy beaches where they seem to congregate in depressions on the bottom. Tagging studies indicate this species tends to stay put, usually traveling less than 2 miles, although movement of up to 31 miles has been recorded.

These fish are relatively short-lived. The oldest males reach about 6 years old and 12 inches long. Females can reach about 9 years old and up to 17 inches long. The state record for this species was a 4 lb., 2 oz. fish caught in 1996 off Southern California.

This species is very popular with sport anglers, who appreciate their readiness to take bait and plastic worms on hook and line. Currently, recreational anglers catch far more of this species than commercial fishermen. The estimated recreational catch during the latter half of the 20th century averaged 739,000 lb. per year, whereas the commercial catch averaged 127,000 lb. per year.

Various life-history traits of this species make it susceptible to overfishing and vulnerable to habitat loss and degradation in marine nearshore areas and estuaries, which it uses as nurseries. Because they produce comparatively few young and are relatively short-lived, impacts to the nearshore environment could make it difficult for this fish to rebound if population numbers fall to low levels.

This fish is a barred surfperch, Amphistichus argenteus. The daily bag and possession limit for barred surfperch outside of San Francisco and San Pablo bays is 10 fish, per CCR Title 14, Section 28.59(c)(1).

October 2011 Fish ID Quiz

Marine Management News Fish Identification Quiz
October 2011

October 2011 MMN Fish Quiz Photo; CDFW photo by Ed Roberts

Unlike most modern bony fishes, this type of fish mates, has internal fertilization of eggs, and bears live young. Larvae of this species are released from the female from October through March, but primarily in December and January, and spend 3 to 5 months drifting with the currents. Young fish (approximately 1.5 inches in length) settle in rocky nearshore habitat from April through June.

Younger fish mainly consume tiny crustaceans drifting with the currents. As they grow, they shift from eating plankton to feeding mostly on gelatinous forms of life such as tunicates and jellyfish, although squid, small rockfishes and even pelagic red crabs can be important prey for this species.

This species' range extends from Sitka Strait in southeast Alaska to Punta Santo Tomas in northern Baja California, but is most commonly found from Oregon to central California, from near the surface to depths of almost 300 feet. The maximum reported length for this type of fish is 21 inches; males have been aged to 44 years, and females to 41 years. Adult fish form schools segregated by size and sex. In central and southern California this fish is often found in association with olive rockfish and blacksmith. This species is primarily residential; tagging studies have shown movement of up to 27 miles, but most recaptured, tagged fish traveled very little, if at all.

This species was of relatively little importance in California's commercial fishery throughout most of the twentieth century; however, it now makes up a significant portion of the live-fish fishery. For recreational anglers, this species is one of the most important in California. It is usually the most frequently caught fish of this genus north of Point Conception for anglers fishing from skiffs and party/charter boats. It is also an important species for skin and scuba divers using spears, and is occasionally caught by anglers fishing from shore.

This fish is a blue rockfish, Sebastes mystinus. The daily bag and possession limit for blue rockfish is 10 fish within the RCG Complex bag limit of 10 rockfish, cabezon and greenlings in combination, per CCR Title 14, Section 28.55(b).

May 2011 Fish ID Quiz

Marine Management News Fish Identification Quiz
May 2011

May 2011 MMN Fish Quiz Photo; CDFW photo by Ed Roberts

This fish begins life in California waters with many thousands of its fellow larvae in the fall and early winter. The silvery young fish drift with the currents for three to four months after hatching, sometimes hiding below mats of loose, floating kelp.

By early summer, the young fish reach about 1 1/2 inches in length and begin to seek out shallow nearshore habitat such as rocky tidepools and kelp canopies. Around this time, they lose their silvery coloration and take on a mottled red, green, or bronze tone. Some anecdotal evidence suggests this fish can change color to match its surroundings.

This fish moves into deeper water as it matures, though it may return to tide pools during high tides to feed. Adult fish may be found from shallow tidepools to 300 ft. depths in rocky habitat, however most of the commercial and recreational catch is taken in less than 120 ft. of water.

Young fish eat small crustaceans, such as shrimp and small crab, while adults consume abalone, small lobster, squid, octopus, and larger crab. In turn, this fish is preyed upon by rockfishes, lingcod, sculpins, seals and sea lions.

Both males and females of this species mature by the time they reach 18 inches in length and 7 years of age. In the fall and early winter, females lay sticky egg masses, called "nests", in rocky depressions on exposed reefs, sometimes several times per season. Males then fertilize and fiercely guard the nests for two to three weeks while the eggs develop and hatch.

This fish can reach more than three feet in length. The current California recreational hook-and-line record is 23 lb. 4 oz. - a record that has stood since 1958. Biologists believe this fish may live for 20 years or more.

This species' range extends from Sitka, Alaska in the north to Point Abreojos, Baja California in the south, but it is most common between Washington state and southern California.

Records show that recreational fishermen began seriously targeting this fish in the late 1930s; it remains a popular sport fish today. Anglers in private boats take the lion's share of the recreational catch, but this nearshore species is also popular with shore-based anglers and spear fishermen. Current recreational fishing regulations for this species, which is part of the RCG Complex, seem to be keeping the recreational harvest at a sustainable level.

There was little impetus to target this species commercially until the early 1990s, when the "live-fish" fishery had firmly established itself in the fish markets. In the live-fish fishery, fish are carefully handled when caught and later sold from seawater tanks while still alive. In 1987, landings of this fish totaled only 8,800 lb; by 1998 landings had increased to nearly 373,000 lb due to live fish market demand. The price paid to fishermen also increased, from $0.36 per lb in 1987 to nearly $3 per pound in 1998 (this fish commands considerably more nowadays on the live fish market).

Currently, harvest limits on the commercial catch have reduced landings, yet this fish remains one of the most highly prized in the live-fish fishery, ranking behind only rockfish, greenlings, and flatfish in price paid per pound. In 2006, nearly 90 percent of the 62,900 lb commercial catch went to live-fish markets.

This fish is a cabezon, Scorpaenichthyes marmoratus. The current bag limit for this species is three fish within the 10-fish RCG Complex bag limit of all species of rockfish, cabezon and greenlings combined (per CCR Title 14, Section 28.28(b)). Note: This bag limit changed from two fish to three fish effective June 9, 2011.

October 2010 Fish ID Quiz

Marine Management News Fish Identification Quiz
October 2010

October 2010 Fish Quiz

This species of fish hatches from a clutch of around 4,000 eggs after an incubation period of four to five weeks. The newly hatched young, which measure about one-third of an inch long, may spend up to a year drifting with ocean currents and feeding on tiny crustaceans such as copepods before settling to the bottom near shore.

Both males and females measure around seven inches long by the time they reach three years of age, but thereafter males grow more slowly. Both sexes reach their maximum size by age 12. This species generally reaches a length of around 18 inches, but individuals 24 inches long have been reported.

The two sexes were thought to be different species of fish for over 70 years, until it was discovered that males and females exhibit different coloration (its mostly a matter of spots - and yes, that's a hint!).

Females are sexually mature by four years of age. During the spawning season, which most biologists believe to occur between September and December off California, females lay golf- to tennis-ball sized egg masses at nesting sites chosen by the males. These sites may be established in a variety of locations, from kelp to rocky reefs, and are aggressively guarded by the males. Spawning females produce at least three egg clutches per season, and multiple females may contribute to a single nest.

Adult fish of this species eat a wide variety of food including crabs and other crustaceans, worms, and juvenile fishes. The primary predators of this fish (other than fishermen) are lingcod and harbor seals.

This species is abundant from the Aleutian Islands, Alaska, to central California but is occasionally seen as far south as La Jolla, in southern California. It inhabits kelp beds and rocky reefs but is also known to frequent sandy bottom areas. It is a near shore species found in depths shallower than 150 feet.

This fish is popular with recreational anglers, especially in the northern part of the state. Until the late 1990s, this species was only caught incidentally by commercial fishermen, and landings of sport-caught fish far exceeded any commercial catch. However, in 1997 the emergence of the commercial "live-fish" fishery, where fish are carefully handled when caught and later sold from seawater tanks while still alive, saw commercial landings skyrocket past the recreational catch. The commercial fishery peaked in 2000 when landings reached 52,000 pounds, compared to a high of 5,700 pounds prior to the inception of the live-fish fishery. In 1999 the CDFW reduced the recreational bag limit to 10 fish, followed by further size and bag limit reductions in subsequent years. In the commercial fishery, the CDFW set a catch limit of 19,400 pounds in 2001. The total catch limit was reduced again in 2002, and in 2003 access to the commercial fishery was restricted to a certain number of permit holders. Currently, landings of this species both in the recreational and commercial fisheries are much reduced as a result of regulatory action.

This fish is a female kelp greenling, Hexagrammos decagrammus. It differs from the male in that it has brown spotting/mottling with yellow highlights, whereas the male has bright blue spotting on an olive green/brown background. The current bag limit is two fish within the 10-fish RCG Complex bag limit of all species of rockfish, cabezon and greenlings combined (per CCR Title 14, Section 28.29(b)).

May 2010 Fish ID Quiz

Marine Management News Fish Identification Quiz
May 2010

May 2010 Fish Quiz

This fish hatches from free-drifting eggs after an incubation period of around two to three days. Females may spawn year-round; most eggs are found in water less than 250 feet deep and within four miles of shore. The newly hatched young drift with the currents for less than a month, after which they begin to settle on the bottom and move closer to shore.

The young of this species start life with one eye on each side of the body, the same as many other fishes. Their bodies begin to change shape as they migrate closer to shore, becoming flatter and broader. During this morphing period, one eye also begins to migrate to either the right or left side of the body to join the other eye. Young fish prefer shallow, plant-free bays, however fluctuations in nearshore currents may sweep them to the open coast and other habitats.

In bay nursery areas, young fish feed upon the abundant food sources there, beginning with small shrimp-like crustaceans. When the young fish reach about 2½ inches long, they graduate to eating small fishes such as gobies. As they grow and migrate into open coastal waters, their diet begins to include a greater percentage of fish. When fully grown, these ambush predators prefer squid, Pacific sardine, northern anchovy, and other nearshore fish species that swim in the water column.

This species ranges from Washington state to southern Baja California. Adults of this species inhabit soft-bottom habitats in coastal waters generally less than 300 feet deep, most often at depths of less than 100 feet. They may live to 30 years and reach 60 in. long, with a maximum recorded weight of 72 pounds. Males mature at two to three years and 8 to 9 inches long, whereas females mature at four to five years and 15 to 17 inches long. Females reach the minimum recreational size limit at five to six years of age, about a year before males.

Both commercial and recreational fisheries exist for this fish. Commercial fishing gear for this species has included trawl and set nets and, to a lesser extent, hook-and line gear. The largest recorded commercial catch was 4.7 million pounds in 1919. Landings have averaged a little more than 1 million pounds annually since 1980. Estimates of recreational landings since 1980, by anglers using hook-and-line gear, have approached commercial landings with an annual average of 976,000 pounds. A stock assessment is currently being conducted for the first time for this species.

This fish is a California halibut, Paralichthys californicus. The current bag limit is three fish north of Pt. Sur (Monterey County), and five fish south of Pt. Sur (per CCR Title 14, Section 28.15).

January 2010 Fish ID Quiz

Marine Management News Fish Identification Quiz
January 2010

January 2010 Fish Quiz

This fish hatches from an egg about the size of a BB pellet along with hundreds of its siblings after an incubation period of around two weeks. Females may spawn several times from October through April, using long, sticky filaments to attach large egg masses to eelgrass and shallow-water algae. Once hatched, the young swim near the surface in harbors, along sandy beaches, and in the kelp canopy, often mixing with young topsmelt.

The range of this species stretches from Santa Maria Bay, Baja California, to Yaquina, Oregon. Off California, they are found in bays and inshore waters throughout the year. They often form large, dense schools in water less than 100 ft deep, and are most common in 5- to 50-ft depths.

This fish may attain a maximum length of 22 in., with 17-in. fish commonly taken. It grows relatively fast, reaching maturity at two to three years when about 8 in. long. One 16-in. male was aged to 11 years, the oldest fish ever aged for this species.

This fish is targeted by commercial and recreational fisheries for human consumption and for bait. Historically, commercial fishermen have used a variety of nets and setlines to catch this fish. Commercial landing totals have varied sharply, driven by demand: in 1945 more than two million pounds were taken, while in 1999 only 2,530 pounds were taken. Principal commercial fishing areas include bays and harbors such as San Pedro, Monterey, San Francisco, Tomales, and Humboldt.

This species is frequently taken by recreational anglers fishing in the surf and from piers and skiffs. It was the fourth most commonly occurring fish in the California recreational catch during 2007 according to California Recreational Fisheries Survey data. Bright red artificial flies or small hooks baited with shrimp or squid are effective terminal tackle for this species. Larger fish are quite game, and will take a small spinner or lure cast out and retrieved with a series of quick jerks.

Currently, this species' population status is not known. Because this fish occurs in inshore waters, however, it runs the risk of being affected by pollutants and loss of habitat through development.

This fish is a jacksmelt, Athernopsis californiensis. This is one of the few fishes for which there is no bag limit (per Title 14, CCR, Section 27.60[b]).

October 2009 Fish ID Quiz

Marine Management News Fish Identification Quiz
October 2009

October 2009 Fish Quiz

In mid- to late summer, large groups of this fish may be found close to the sea floor, hovering over egg-filled nests built in shallow depressions and surrounded by small stones. Females guard the nests until the young hatch, at which time the tiny fish drift with the currents.

This species ranges from Point St. George in Del Norte County, California to Chile, South America, including the Galapagos Islands. It is considered rare off California, especially north of Point Conception, and is most abundant in the upper and central portions of the Gulf of California.

This fish can be found in just about any habitat. Adult fish tend to live close to the bottom near shore, where they seem to prefer the protection of reefs and boulder-strewn slopes. They generally hide during the day by wedging themselves into rocky crevices, although they have been seen venturing onto adjacent areas of sand. At night they tend to disperse a bit. Younger fish are found more frequently over sand, hiding wherever drifting debris provides cover.

This species has been caught at depths ranging from close to the surface to 1,680 ft, and can grow to 2½ feet long. It eats just about anything, from algae growing on rock surfaces and mollusks such as clams, to sea urchins and a variety of crustaceans including crabs, crunching through the tough shells with very strong teeth and jaws. They have also been observed "blowing" jets of water into the sandy sea floor to uncover polychaete worms and other burrowing prey, and feeding on venomous species that most other predators avoid.

This species has not occurred in great enough numbers off California to attract the attention of commercial fishermen over the years; still, the fish arrives in California waters with warm water influxes often enough to delight recreational fishermen who enjoy their feisty, hard-fighting nature.

This fish is a finescale triggerfish, Balistes polylepsis. The daily bag limit for finescale triggerfish is 10 fish, within the general bag limit of 20 fish total (Section 27.60(a)). This bag limit is applicable to all species of fish for which take is allowed, but no other bag limit is specified.

May 2009 Fish ID Quiz

Marine Management News Fish Identification Quiz
May 2009

May 2009 Fish Quiz

Although there are no published scientific studies that provide detailed information about the habits of this fish, biologists believe it migrates to specific areas to spawn each year from July through September. Females are capable of producing millions of eggs annually. The eggs float at the sea surface for 24 to 36 hours before hatching; afterwards, the tiny hatchlings drift with the currents for about a month before settling to the bottom as young fish.

This species ranges from the tip of Baja California, Mexico to Humboldt Bay in northern California although it is rare north of Point Conception. It may also be found in the northern half of the Gulf of California. Adults prefer to live near the edges of shallow (35 to 130 ft.) nearshore rocky reefs, while young fish may be found in a variety of habitats. Young fish have been caught over sandy bottom, sand-mud bottom, and over rocks and deep ridges by anglers targeting rockfish, at depths from 20 to 265 ft.

This species can reach over 500 lb. and 7 ft. in length; adults are nearly as big around as they are long. Males reach sexual maturity at around 40 lb., while females reach maturity at 50 to 60 lb. Young fish are perch-shaped, orange, with large pelvic fins and big black spots. As they grow they become bass-shaped with large tail fins; young adults are bronzy-purple to brown with large black spots, and adults are dark brown, black, or gray, with white bellies. Some researchers believe this species has the ability to change color patterns at will; the large black spots may be present at any age. Biologists estimate this fish takes six years to reach 30 lb., 10 years to reach 100 lb., and 15 years to reach 150 lb.

For the majority of its life, this fish lives close to the bottom and consumes mostly bottom-dwelling fish and shellfish including rays, skates, crabs, shrimps, and squid. When young, it is eaten by many marine mammals and fish.

Both commercial and sport fisheries existed for this species in California, but because it grows slowly and matures at a relatively old age, it is easily overfished. Off California, commercial landings peaked near 200,000 lb. in 1932 before declining. The later-developing California recreational fishery for this fish peaked in 1973 after which landings also declined, partly because fishing excursions often targeted spawning aggregations.

This fish is a young giant (black) sea bass, Stereolepis gigas. Giant sea bass is a no-take species - the bag limit is zero fish in California waters (see Section 28.10).

CONSERVATION NOTE: Giant sea bass undergo distinct body changes before reaching adulthood, at times looking rather like a perch or a rockfish. Identifying and releasing young fish is crucial to preserving the species off California.

January 2009 Fish ID Quiz

Marine Management News Fish Identification Quiz
January 2009

January 2009 Fish Quiz

This fish is unusual in that it is born fully formed and functional- a miniature of its parents- with up to 45 siblings during the birthing period from spring through early fall in California waters. Pregnant females seek out sheltered estuaries and protected embayments to give birth to an average of 27 young.

This species is predominantly a surf-dweller off sandy beaches, but has also been taken in rocky areas adjacent to sandy beaches and off the mouths of rivers and streams entering the sea. It is also commonly found in protected nearshore areas during the spawning season.

The preferred depth range for this fish is from the surface to 60 ft. Its geographic range extends from Vancouver Island, Canada to Avila Beach, California (San Luis Obispo County), but it is most abundant from Monterey Bay northward. It is the only marine species in this family group whose range does not extend southward into Baja California.

Males of this species are sexually mature at two years of age, while females reach maturity at four years. Mating takes place during the fall and winter months, and females may store sperm for up to three months before fertilization takes place. This species reaches a maximum length of just over 17 inches. Anglers often land fish weighing 1½ to 2 lb., and 3 lb. fish are not uncommon.

Both commercial and sport fisheries exist for this species in California. Landings in both fisheries have declined over the years, and regulations have been enacted to help stabilize populations.

The commercial fishery for this species, which is centered around the Crescent City/Eureka area, regularly closes from May 1 through July 15 each year- during the birthing season- and has done so since 1913.

This is the only species in this family group with a minimum size limit for the recreational fishery. The 10½ in. minimum size limit has been in place since 2002. In San Francisco and San Pablo bays, recreational take of this species and others in the family group is specially regulated by a reduced daily bag limit. The fishery for this group is also closed within the bays between April 1 and July 31 each year (except for one small, "shiny" exception).

This fish is a redtail surfperch, Amphistichus rhodoterus. The special daily bag and possession limit for redtail surfperch in San Pablo and San Francisco bays is 5 fish, while outside the bays the limit is 10 redtail surfperch (see Section 28.59).

December 2007 Fish ID Quiz

Marine Management News Fish Identification Quiz
December 2007

December 2007 Fish Quiz

This fish begins life during the March through July spawning period off California along with one to two million of its siblings. Exactly how it spends the first year of its life is a bit of a mystery, although young fish have been observed hanging around vertical walls and oil platforms at depths as shallow as 36 ft. It is generally a bottom dweller, preferring to live a solitary life around rocky crags, caves, and overhangs, although small groups have been observed. Adults are most commonly found at depths between 150 and 1,200 ft.

This species' range extends from the Aleutian Islands of western Alaska in the north, to Ensenada (northern Baja California), Mexico in the south. However, it is not frequently seen in southern California. Adults feed primarily on other rockfishes, herring, sand lance, crab, and shrimp.

This fish has one of the slowest growth rates of all rockfishes off the California coast. It matures late in life, at around 22 years of age (18 in. long), and lives to at least 118 years old. This species reaches a maximum size of around 36 inches in length.

Because they are residential in nature (they don't migrate or travel much) and have been highly prized over the years by both commercial and sport fishermen, this species of fish is very vulnerable to overfishing. In fact, the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC), which manages this and other groundfish species off the California coast, has designated it an "overfished" species. California sport fishermen have not been able to legally keep this fish since 2003, and regulations enacted by the PFMC restrict the type of gear used by commercial fishermen to reduce the amount of this species taken in bycatch. Federal rebuilding analyses estimate that it will take nearly 100 years for this fish to shed its "overfished" designation.

Sport anglers who catch this fish are encouraged to pull anchor and go elsewhere to fish, to reduce incidental catch and to allow the population to rebuild. Anglers fishing in northern California, where this species is most abundant, need to be especially careful about identifying and releasing this species.

This fish is a yelloweye rockfish, Sebastes ruberrimus. The bag limit for yelloweye rockfish is currently zero fish - they may not be retained.

May 2007 Fish ID Quiz

Marine Management News Fish Identification Quiz
May 2007

May 2007 Fish Quiz

This fish begins life in California waters with many thousands- sometimes over a million- of its fellow larvae during the January through May spawning period. Young fish begin moving inshore to intertidal and estuarine habitats at around 4 to 6 months old and 1 to 2 inches in length, although some may choose to stay near drifting algae and seagrass. As it matures, this fish moves into deeper water. It frequently forms loose schools 10 to 20 ft. above shallow (to 120 ft.) rocky reefs, but may also be observed as individual fish resting on rocky bottom, or schooling in midwater over deeper (to 240 ft.) reefs. Adults are most commonly found in water less than 55 ft. deep, but they have been found down to 1,200 ft.

This species ranges from the Aleutian Islands of western Alaska in the north to Huntington Beach, California in the south, but it is not frequently seen south of Pt. Conception.

This fish has a relatively fast growth rate. First year growth is usually 3½ to 4 inches; by age five, growth rate for females surpasses that of males, and by age 15, females may average about 2½ inches longer than males. This species reaches a maximum size of around 27 inches long and 10 lb., and can live to be 50 years old.

Recreational anglers often catch this fish, particularly in northern California. It is taken mostly incidentally in the commercial fishery, although increased landings have been seen for the live-fish fishery, primarily from Morro Bay north to Fort Bragg. The federal government has reported that the number of fish greater than two years old underwent a 62 percent decline between 1945 and 1986; however since then, especially in 1994 and 1995, large numbers of new, younger fish have bolstered the population off northern California and Oregon.

This fish is a black rockfish, Sebastes melanops. The daily bag limit for black rockfish is currently 10 fish during the open season, in combination with other RCG Complex fishes.

March 2006 Fish ID Quiz

Marine Management News Fish Identification Quiz
March 2006

quiz photo

This fish begins life in California waters with many thousands - sometimes millions - of its fellow larvae during spawning periods from October through July in southern California and January through May in central and northern California. Very young fish stay in the upper water column for up to 5 1/2 months before settling into various nearshore bottom habitats, often near rocky patches or eelgrass beds.

While still small enough to fit in an adult's hand, young fish are sometimes caught from piers in large numbers. (Note: keeping fish less than 10 inches in length is illegal for this species, so becoming familiar with the appearance of juvenile fish is important!). Young fish are also sometimes found in great numbers near oil platforms in central and southern California.

Adults of this species are most commonly found at depths ranging from 165 to 825 ft. Their geographic range extends from the Alaskan Peninsula to central Baja California, but they are most abundant from Oregon to northern Baja California.

This species grows relatively fast for this particular genus of fish, up to almost 1 millimeter a day while very young. Off California, most males are sexually mature by the time they reach 22 inches in length, while females reach maturity by 24 inches. Once this fish hits maturity, the females are generally bigger than the males. This species reaches a maximum length of 36 inches, and around 15 lbs maximum weight.

In the 1800s, Italian fishermen gave this fish its common name, which means "bigmouth." Over the years, it has been targeted by commercial gillnet, hook-and-line, and trawl fishermen, and has also been a staple of the recreational fishery. By the late 1990s, it is estimated that the species' ability to reproduce had fallen to a mere 2 percent of it's mid-1960s capability, and catches had dropped drastically. The species has been declared "overfished" by the Pacific Fishery Management Council, and a management plan has been implemented to rebuild the population.

This fish is a bocaccio, Sebastes paucispinis. The daily bag limit for bocaccio is currently 2 fish statewide.

September 2005 Fish ID Quiz

Marine Management News Fish Identification Quiz
September 2005

Photo by E. Roberts

This fish begins life in California waters with many thousands - sometimes millions - of its fellow hatchlings, during spawning periods from December through March each year. The tiny young fish, only a fraction of an inch long, are first seen in tide pools and nearshore kelp beds in April. As they mature, the young fish move to deeper, rocky bottom habitat (often where rock meets sand). Adults of this species are found most commonly in waters between 300 and 500 ft. deep.

Just like people, males and females of this species mature at different ages and sizes. Off California, many reach maturity by 13 years of age, when they measure between 16 and 21 inches in length. This slow-growing species can live to be more than 80 years old. The largest specimen on record was close to 30 inches long.

The first record of commercial use for this species extends back to the early 1880s when it was caught off San Francisco, dried, and salted for food. Over the years, this species has been plentiful in commercial trawl and hook-and-line landings in northern and central California, and has also been a staple of the recreational fishery. A recent stock assessment has shown that the current population has been reduced substantially from historical levels, leading to fishing restrictions intended to rebuild the stock.

This species ranges from the Gulf of Alaska to northern Baja California, although it is found less frequently south of the Santa Barbara Channel.

This fish is a canary rockfish, Sebastes pinniger. The bag limit for canary rockfish is currently zero fish - they may not be retained.

June 2005 Fish ID Quiz

Marine Management News Fish Identification Quiz
June 2005

Photo of species for June 2005 Fish Identification Quiz

This fish is something of a celebrity. Caught on April 3, 2003 near Carrington Point at Santa Rosa Island, it was tagged, released, and then recaptured over a year and a half later at the same location! Biologists call this tendency to stay in one area "residential" behavior. This species is thought to stake out a home territory of about 110 square feet on rocky sea floor, although this can vary in different areas. The color of the fish in this photograph is a bit unusual, but don't let that fool you. What species of rockfish is it?

This fish is a copper rockfish, Sebastes caurinus. Common names include chucklehead, and whitebelly rockfish. This fish is often an olive/dark brown/coppery pink color. If the red color had you thinking 'vermilion rockfish', look at the dorsal fin: long spines, deeply incised (compared to a vermilion rockfish), and none of the fins are edged in black, as you often find in the vermilion. According to rockfish authorities, bright-red copper rockfish are common off of California. Daily recreational bag limit: not more than 10 in combination with other RCG Complex species. Maximum recorded length: 26 in. Range: Gulf of Alaska to Baja California.

Photo of species for June 2005 Fish Identification Quiz

This fish was taken in 190 ft. of water at Short Bank in Santa Monica Bay. This dwarf species (yes, that's a hint!) of rockfish is a common sight for recreational fishermen in southern California, and has also made inroads into the area's live fish markets. What species of rockfish is it?

This fish is a honeycomb rockfish, Sebastes umbrosus. Common names include crotch cricket, and starry-eye. The green edging on the scales produces a distinctive honeycomb pattern. Daily recreational bag limit: not more than 10 in combination with other RCG Complex species. Maximum recorded length: 11.22 in. Range: central California to southern Baja California.

Photo of species for June 2005 Fish Identification Quiz

This fish, another dwarf species that nibbles on recreational fishermen's hooks, was taken off Santa Barbara. Due to its very small size, it's often discarded by recreational fishermen and is not even found in live fish markets. What species of rockfish is it?

This fish is a calico rockfish, Sebastes dalli. Named after the Smithsonian zoologist William H. Dall. Identified by reddish-brown bars slanting obliquely on a brown or yellowish-green body. The tail shows brown bars that run alongside the fin rays. Daily recreational bag limit: not more than 10 in combination with other RCG Complex species. Maximum recorded length: 8 in. Range: San Francisco to central Baja California, more common south of Pt. Arguello.

Photo of species for June 2005 Fish Identification Quiz

This fish, although small, is not a dwarf: it's a young rockfish, taken off Goleta Pier in southern California. Its grown-up counterparts are much sought-after by both recreational and commercial fishermen. Adults of this species have a recreational daily bag limit of two fish and a minimum size limit of 10 inches total length (that's a BIG hint! But, then, immature rockfishes aren't exactly easy to identify!). What species of rockfish is it?

This fish is a bocaccio, Sebastes paucispinis. Common names include salmon grouper, and mini-grouper. Young bocaccio are frequently taken in significant numbers off piers in central California. The large mouth extending almost past the eye is one characteristic that identifies this fish as a bocaccio. Daily recreational bag limit - 2 fish, statewide. Maximum recorded length: 36 in. Range: Alaskan Peninsula to Punta Blanca, Baja California.

Photo of species for June 2005 Fish Identification Quiz

And finally this fish, taken off Santa Rosa Island in approximately 120 ft of water. It has been very popular with recreational fishermen. Catch rates plummeted between 1980 and 1996 due to fishing pressure and oceanographic changes that did not favor the survival of young fish. What species of rockfish is it?

This fish is an olive rockfish, Sebastes serranoides. Common names include johnny bass, and jonathon. This species is often confused with yellowtail rockfish and kelp bass. Olive rockfish may be distinguished by the lack of dark speckling on the sides, and an often more elongate, bass-shaped body. Daily recreational bag limit: not more than 10 in combination with other RCG Complex species. Maximum recorded length: 24 in. Range: southern Oregon to San Benitos Is., Baja California.