Species: Peprilus simillimus (Ayres, 1860); from the Greek word pepricos (one of Hesychian’s unknown fish) and the Latin word simillimus (very similar, in reference to a similar Atlantic butterfish).
Alternate Names: Pompano, California pompano, Pacific pompano and dollarfish. Called palometa plateada in Mexico.
Identification: A very deep compressed body with a somewhat perch shape. Butterfish have very long dorsal and anal fins and no pelvic fins. Their coloring is metallic silver or blue on the side with a greenish back.
Size: To 11 inches; most caught off piers are under 8 inches.
Range: Bahia Magdalena, southern Baja, California, and Gulf of California, to the Fraser River, Queen Charlotte Sound, British Columbia.
Habitat: Oceanfront, sandy-shore areas.
Piers: A fairly common catch at sandy-shore piers in southern California; less common but still caught at a few piers north to San Francisco. Best bets: Imperial Beach Pier, Ocean Beach Pier, Crystal Pier, Oceanside Pier, San Clemente Pier, Balboa Pier, Newport Pier, Huntington Beach Pier, Seal Beach Pier, Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier, Hermosa Beach Pier, Manhattan Beach Pier, Venice Pier, Malibu Pier, Ventura Pier, Pismo Beach Pier, Cayucos Pier, Santa Cruz Wharf and Pacifica Pier.
Shoreline: A frequent catch by sandy shore anglers in southern California.
Boats: An inshore species rarely take from boats.
Bait and Tackle: Usually caught on small hooks, size 8 or 6, and small strips of anchovy (although the fish can be finicky and at time will be more attracted by small pieces of fresh mussels or shrimp). A high/low leader works fine, and these fish often like to hit mid-depth similar to silver surfperch.
Food Value: A very-mild, good eating fish, but only the largest fish have enough meat to make it worth the effort. Some people do like to smoke the fish whole. Fish and Game Bulletin No. 49 (The Commercial Fish Catch of California for the Year 1935) states “One of the finest food fishes taken in California for the fresh fish markets is the California pompano, which unfortunately is not caught in any great abundance…It is the highest priced market fish in California.”
Comments: An attractive little fish that often schools together with perch.