California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Surfperch Identification

Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Embiotocidae (Surfperches)

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Overview

barred surfperch (above) and redtail surfperch (below), CDFW photos by Ken Oda

The surfperch family refers to fishes with compressed and oval- to oblong-shaped bodies. The dorsal fins are continuous, meaning not notched, and usually have 9 to 11 spines and 19 to 28 soft rays. The anal fin has three spines and anywhere from 15 to 35 soft rays. The caudal (tail) fin is forked. Base coloration is usually silver, and some species have stripes or bars, which may be dependent on the time of year (breeding vs. non-breeding coloration) and whether the fish is a juvenile or adult. Maximum fish length per species ranges from 4 to 18 inches. Within the family Embiotocidae, some species are called surfperch, and others are called seaperch or perch, primarily depending on their habitat. True surfperch species are located mainly in or near the sandy beach surf zone, and seaperches and perches live in kelp beds and deeper water. The two surfperch pictured above are the barred surfperch (top) and the redtail surfperch.

Surfperch are viviparous (livebearers). This means that fertilization is internal and embryos are nurtured and developed inside of the female. They usually produce between 1 to 113 live young per litter. The young are released as fully-formed miniature versions of the adults.

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Identification

  • Common Surfperches of California ID sheet Adobe Reader required
    Provides color photos and key features for identifying barred surfperch, redtail surfperch, calico surfperch, black perch, rubberlip seaperch, pile perch, white seaperch, shiner perch, silver surfperch, walleye surfperch, striped seaperch and rainbow surfperch.
  • Marine Sport Fish Identification
    Provides in-depth information and photos for some of the most popular species of surfperch, including silver surfperch, walleye surfperch, shiner perch, redtail surfperch, rubberlip seaperch, and barred surfperch.