Rainbow Seaperch

Surfperches—Family Embiotocidae

 Rainbow Seaperch from the Port San Luis Pier

Species:  Hypsurus caryi (Agassiz, 1853); from the Greek word hyps  (high), the Latin word urus  (a kind of wild ox) and Greek word cary  (a nut)—apparently in reference to the shape. Family Embiotocidae, subfamily Embiotocinae.

Alternate Names: Rainbow surfperch, striped perch. Called moharra by the 19th century Portuguese fishermen; another early-day name was bugara. In Mexico called mojarra arcoiris or perca,

Identification: One of the most beautiful fish in California, rainbow seaperch have a typical perch-like shape, although they’re more elongated then striped seaperch and black seaperch. They have red and blue stripes on the sides, bright blue and red-orange pelvic fins, and a dark spot on the soft dorsal fin rays and anal fin.

Rainbow Seaperch from the Morro Bay T-Pier

Size: To 12 inches; most caught from piers are 8-10 inches.

Range: Punta Santo Tomas, northern Baja California, to Cape Mendocino.

Habitat: Shallow-water, rocky-shore areas.

Piers: Rainbow seaperch are common at only a few piers. Best bets: Gaviota Pier, Coast Guard Pier (Monterey), Monterey Wharf #2, Santa Cruz Wharf, Fort Point Pier, San Francisco Municipal Pier, Elephant Rock Pier, Fort Baker Pier.

Rainbow Seaperch from the Fort Baker Pier

Shoreline: A favored catch for rocky shore anglers in southern and central California.

Boats: An inshore species rarely taken by boaters.

Bait and Tackle: These small perch are best taken with small size 6 or 8 hooks tied directly to your line, or by using a high/low leader. Best baits are fresh mussels, pile worms or small live rock crabs. Fish directly on the bottom.

Rainbow Seaperch from the Fort Point Pier

Food Value:  Fair, although they’re almost too pretty to keep.

Comments: These fish, along with striped seaperch and pileperch, often enter central and northern California streams and spawn in the tidewater areas; when they do, fish will be caught on nearly every cast. They put up a spirited fight, but for me, their beauty and fairly small size warrants a return to the water.

Rainbow Seaperch from the Santa Cruz Wharf

Picture Editor — Robert O’D

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