Marine Management News Fish Identification 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.