California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Surfperch Studies

L to R: Redtail surfperch, CDFW photo by Ken Oda; Barred surfperch, CDFW photo by Ken Oda; Rubberlip seaperch, CDFW file photo

Surfperch studies in central and southern California are focused on barred surfperch, the most common species harvested recreationally along sandy beaches in this region. Field surveys are conducted to obtain a variety of information including angler catch, effort, and daily fishing trends, associated species in the catch, and biological information on length, weight, age, and reproductive condition of surfperch.

Sandy Beach Surveys

Project staff have been conducting instantaneous counts of recreational beach anglers in Monterey County on randomly-selected weekend/holiday and weekday mornings since 2007. This long-term database gives us an estimate of average angler effort within central coast indicator counties. It also allows us to compare our counts with estimates of recreational shore fishing effort produced by the the California Recreational Fisheries Survey using telephone interviews. The graph below shows the combined 2007-2010 monthly average instantaneous angler counts for the three most frequently fished beach locations in Monterey County: Zmudowski State Beach, Salinas River State Beach at Monterey Dunes Colony, and Salinas River National Wildlife Refuge. Weekday/holiday average counts show a typical pattern of more fishing effort from spring through autumn, while weekday average counts do not show such a pattern. Monterey County has many anglers who fish year-round on weekdays and weekends.

Combined 2007-2010 monthly average beach angler counts for three popular fishing locations in Monterey County

Combined 2007-2010 monthly average beach angler counts for three popular fishing locations in Monterey County

Includes data for Zmudowski State Beach, Salinas River State Beach at Monterey Dunes Colony, and Salinas River National Wildlife Refuge.

Barred surfperch. CDFW photo by Lora Lyons.
  • SFMP Sandy Beach Survey Results Adobe Reader required
    The results of the 2007-08 State Finfish Management Project sandy beach angler surveys in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties are summarized in this brochure. Survey methodologies are described. Popular beaches and species targeted are identified, and the average size of fish and catch per person are presented.
  • Guides to Central and Southern California Beach Fishing
    These guides were prepared in collaboration with California Sea Grant offering tips to anglers on when to go beach fishing, what to look for, and rods and reels to use for various species in the central coast region. The centerpieces of these brochures are illustrations of commonly caught surf fish species that can be used to identify fish caught.

Age-Growth Study

How fast does a surfperch grow? Does the rate of growth change with latitude for a particular species? These questions will be answered by comparing the length of a fish caught in a specific location with its age, which is determined by examining its otolith. Otoliths are small bones located in the fish's head. They develop concentric rings as the fish matures, much like the rings in a tree trunk. By counting the otolith rings under a microscope, biologists can determine a fish's age.

The Project began collecting surfperch embryos in 2012 in an effort to learn more about the early life history dynamics of the live-bearing surfperch family.  By examining the rings embedded in the otoliths (ear bones)), we can estimate the age in days as well as the daily growth history.  With this information, along with the age in years of adult females, we hope to determine whether maternal age influences the timing of birth and growth rate during the embryonic phase.  Since these factors have previously been linked to survival, this study may help us understand the importance of maintaining older fish in a population.

Environmental Scientist Kathyrn Crane collecting surfperch samples. CDFW file photo.      Environmental Scientist Kathyrn Crane. CDFW file photo.