Species: Girella nigricans; from the French word girelle (a derivative of julis, an old word used to denote a number of small wrasse in Europe), the Latin word nigr (dark) and the Greek word ikanos
(becoming, in reference to its pleasing appearance).
Alternate Names: Blue-eye perch, green perch, opaleye perch, bluefish, blue bass, greenfish, Jack Benny, Catalina perch, button-back, button-eye, and button bass.
Identification: Opaleye are perch-shaped but heavier bodied. Their coloring is usually dark olive green, usually with two light spots at the base of the dorsal fin; eyes are large and an opalescent blue-green color.
Size: To 25.4 inches and 13 1/2 pounds; most caught off piers are under 16 inches. The California record fish weighed 6 lb 4 oz and was taken near Los Flores Creek in 1956.
Range: From Cape San Lucas, Baja California to San Francisco.
Habitat: Shallow-water, rocky areas and kelp beds.
Piers: Can be caught on almost any pier in southern and central California located near rocks, reefs, or kelp, but they're uncommon north of Cayucos and rare north of Monterey. Best bets in the San Diego area: Shelter Island Pier, Ocean Beach Pier (inshore), and Oceanside Harbor Pier.
Bait and Tackle: Some anglers specialize in opaleye, and many of them swear that moss or frozen peas are the best bait. I've caught them on both, but I've actually caught more on ghost shrimp, fresh mussels, pile worms, bloodworm, and small rock crabs. I also managed to hook a few opaleye using garden snails during an experimental day at Catalina in 2005.
Food Value: A good eating fish that is generally fried.
Comments: Primarily vegetarians, opaleye eat a variety of plants including feather boa kelp, giant kelp, sea lettuce and coralline algae. Evidently they also grab a few tube worms and red crabs as they're making their rounds. Opaleye are a favorite of many anglers; they're hard to hook but once hooked put up a very good fight for their size.
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