Kelp Bass

Species: Paralabrax clathratus; from the Greek words paral (maritime) and abrax (a mystical word), and the Latin clathratus (latticed, referring to the coloring on the back).

Alternate Names: Commonly called calico bass; also rock bass, bull bass, kelp salmon, cabrilla and dinner bass.

Identification: Typical bass shape. Kelp bass have a single dorsal fin notched between the sections, and the third and fourth spines are of about equal length and taller than the soft-rayed section. Their coloring is brownish or olive on the back, brownish white blotches on the uppersides, tinged with yellow on the underside, and yellow fins.

Size: Length is to 28.5 inches and weight to 14.5 pounds. Most caught off piers are under 16 inches in length.

Range: From Magdalena Bay, Baja California to the Columbia River, Washington. Uncommon north of Monterey Bay.

Habitat: Rocky areas or around kelp.

Piers: Oceanfront piers with artificial reefs or extensive summer kelp see the most kelp bass. Best bets: Ferry Landing Pier, Embarcadero Marina Park Pier, Shelter Island Pier, Ocean Beach Pier, Oceanside Harbor Pier, Dana Harbor Pier, Redondo Harbor Sportfishing Pier, Green Pleasure Pier (Avalon), Stearns Wharf, Goleta Pier and Gaviota Pier.

Bait and Tackle: Most kelp bass that are caught off piers are caught while anglers are fishing on the bottom for other species. Typical gear is a high/low leader with number 4-2 hooks. Best bait is live anchovies followed by strip bait, such as anchovy or mackerel. Live bloodworms, fresh mussels and ghost shrimp will also attract the calicos as will well presented artificial lures.

Food Value: If you are lucky enough to land a keeper-size fish you will have a good meal. Kelp bass have a mild-flavored meat suitable to almost any kind of cooking. They can be used as fillets baked whole, or cut into smaller pieces for deep frying.

Comments: One of the favorite sport fish of southern California anglers but not really a leading species on piers. The number of small, immature, and illegal bass found at times around the Green Pleasure Pier at Avalon is almost unbelievable.