Marine Management News Fish Identification Quiz
March 2006

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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.