Surfperches/Seaperches: Family Embiotocidae
Alternate Names: Striped surfperch, rainbow perch, blue perch, striped surf fish. Early-day names included squawfish and crugnoli. In Mexico called mojarra azul or perca.
Identification: Striped seaperch have narrow orange and blue longitudinal stripes with blue spots on their head. Their dorsal spines are low and their body is deep and compressed. Dark and light color variations.
Size: To 15 inches; most caught from piers are 9-13 inches long. The California record fish weighed 2 lb 3 oz and was taken from Wilson Beach, Del Norte Co. in 2008.
Range: Punta Cabras, northern Baja California to Klakas Inlet, southeastern Alaska. Unverified range to Port Wrangell, Alaska.
Habitat: Shallow-water, rocky-shore areas, typically found on the bottom.
Piers: Common at central and northern California piers situated near rocks. Best bets: Cayucos Pier, Santa Cruz Wharf, San Francisco Municipal Pier, Elephant Rock Pier, Point Arena Pier, Trinidad Pier, and Citizens Dock in Crescent City. The Point Arena Pier is undoubtedly the top pier in the state for striped seaperch; late winter to spring will almost always yield perch and most are fairly large fish.
Shoreline: One of the main catches for rocky shore anglers in central and northern California.
Boats: An inshore species rarely taken by boaters.
Striped seaperch from the Point Arena Pier
Bait and Tackle: A high/low rigging is most commonly used for these large perch. Use a size 6 or 4 hook, a weight heavy enough to keep your bait stationary, and fish on the bottom near the pier. Striped perch most commonly travel in schools; if one is caught more are probably around. These perch will often make a sharp first strike without hooking themselves. Be patient, they will return and often keep pecking at the bait until hooked. The best bait depends on location. North of San Francisco the best bait is fresh mussels, raw shrimp (small pieces), live rock crabs, live pile worms, frozen tube worms and crab backs; in the Bay Area live grass shrimp and fresh mussels are the top baits.
Food Value: Large enough to eat but the flesh is only fair. Generally pan-fried.
Comments: Although these perch are often large, some anglers do not like to fish for them. In the spring, the largest perch will often be females loaded with live young; when landed, the fish will start to give birth and the angler will be faced with the question of what to do with dozens of small live baby perch. A few anglers save them as bait, many throw them in the water, and some simply refuse to keep the mother perch preferring to let nature work its answer to the question of survival.
Mike Granat and a striped seaperch from the Coast Guard Pier in Monterey