The Many Faces & Colors of Black Seaperch

Black seaperch, Embiotoca jacksoni, are one of my favorite fish. They’re readily available throughout much of California, scrappy fighters, pretty little fish, and fair to eat (although I no longer eat them).

Black Seaperch

Species: Embiotoca jacksoni (Agassiz, 1853); from the Greek word embiotoca (bringing forth living young), and jacksoni (in honor of A. C. Jackson of San Francisco, who first noted that these perch give birth to living young and brought it to the attention of Alexander Agassiz who described the species. Family Embiotocidae, subfamily Embiotocinae.

Alternate Names: Buttermouth perch, black surfperch, black seaperch or bay perch. Often called pogie by anglers in the Bay Area. In Mexico called mojarra negra or perca negra.

Identification: Typical perch shape. Although variable, their coloring is usually black or brown to reddish, and yellowish on the belly. They have dark vertical bars on the side and are especially identified by a large patch of enlarged scales between the pectoral and pelvic fins.

Size: To 15.4 inches; most caught off piers are under a foot. The California record fish weighed 1 lb 11 oz and was taken from San Carlos Beach in 2006.

Range: Punta Abreojos, central Baja California, and offshore Isla Gudalupe to Fort Bragg, Mendocino County.

Habitat: Most common in eelgrass beds of bays and rocky-shore areas; both in bays and along the coast.

Piers: Common at most piers north to Bodega Bay. Generally caught at bay piers or inshore piling areas of oceanfront piers. Best bets: Imperial Beach Pier, Shelter Island Pier, Oceanside Harbor Pier, Dana Harbor Pier, Long Beach Finger Piers, Redondo Harbor Sportfishing Pier, Hermosa Beach Pier, Venice Pier, Santa Monica Pier, Cabrillo Pier (jetty side), Malibu Pier, Paradise Cove Pier, Goleta Pier, Gaviota Pier, Morro Bay T-Pier, Monterey Coast Guard Pier, Capitola Wharf, Fort Point Pier, San Francisco Municipal Pier, Candlestick Pier, Berkeley Pier, Ferry Point Pier, Paradise Beach Pier, Elephant Rock Pier, Angel Island Pier, and Fort Baker Pier.

Bait and Tackle: Prefers fresh mussels, bloodworms, pile worms, small pieces of shrimp or small rock crabs. Size 8 or 6 hooks fished on the bottom with a high/low leader seem to work best.

Food Value: In the past this was considered a fairly good, mild-flavored fish. Today, because of our polluted waters, they are considered unfit to eat in some locales.

Comments: Once a favorite spring fish for Bay Area pier fishermen; today there’s a perch closure during the spawning months.

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