Barred Surfperch

 Barred Surfperch from the San Simeon Pier

Species: Amphistichus argenteus (Agassiz, 1854); from the Greek word amphistichus (a double series, concerning the two rows of teeth in each jaw), and the Latin word argenteus (silvery). Family Embiotocidae, subfamily Amphistichinae.

Alternate Names: Silver perch, barreds, sand perch, surfperch, and silver surf fish. In Mexico called mojarra de bandas or perca.

Identification: Barred surfperch are one of three large surfperch with bronze or brassy bars on the side. Their coloring is brassy or silvery; olive-green to yellow-green on the back, silvery below; no red in their tail. Most have vertical yellow or gold bars on the sides, generally with a few spots between the bars; some are seen lacking the bars on the sides. The upper jaw extends slightly beyond the lower jaw with the lower edge of eye above the mouth. Dorsal spines are always shorter than the longest dorsal soft-rays.

Barred surfperch from the Pismo Beach Pier in 2000

Size: Up to 17 inches and 4 1/2 pounds (a 9-year-old fish); most caught from piers are less than 14 inches in length. Two fish share the title of California record fish at a weight of 4 lb 2 oz. One was caught in Morro Bay in 1995 and the second was caught in Oxnard in 1996. (See additional information at the bottom.)

Range: Bahia Santa Rosalia, central Baja California to Bodega Bay, Sonoma County.

Habitat: Shallow-water, sandy-shore areas where markings blend with the wave churned environment (although some feel a large population lives in deeper water.) Primarily feeds on sand crabs; also bean clams and small mussels.

Barred surfperch from the Goleta Pier

Piers: Barred surfperch are common at almost all sandy-shore, oceanfront piers, north to the Pacifica Pier. Best bets: Imperial Beach Pier, Crystal Pier, Oceanside Pier, Huntington Beach Pier, Hermosa Beach Pier, Malibu Pier, Ventura Pier, Goleta Pier, Gaviota Pier, Pismo Beach Pier, Avila Pier, Cayucos Pier and San Simeon Pier. Quite a few are also taken further north, especially at the Seacliff Pier, Santa Cruz Wharf and at the Pacifica Pier.

Barred surfperch from the Pismo Beach Pier, 2000

Shoreline: One of the main fish for sandy shore anglers in southern and central California anglers.

Boats: An inshore species rarely taken by boaters.

Barred surfperch from the Cayucos Pier, 2008 (Photo courtesy of the Tidepool, Cayucos)

Food Value:  A mild-flavored flesh that is usually pan-fried in butter.

Bait and Tackle: By far, the best bait for these perch are live sand crabs, which make up 90% of the diet of barred surfperch. Live sea worms, mussels and clams would be the next best baits but barreds are landed on just about every bait imaginable (and many regulars use nothing but plastic grubs). Light to medium tackle can be used depending on conditions. Since the best water to fish is found just outside the first set of breakers, most anglers use a pyramid sinker (with whatever size sinker is needed to hold the bait in place). Line can be 8-to 20-pound test. A high/low leader is most often used with size 6 to 2 hooks. Barred surfperch are caught year-round, but December-January are the best months in southern California according to the California Fish & Game studies. The same studies found the Oceanside area to be the top producer of fish.

Barred surfperch from the Capitola Wharf (Photo courtesy of Capitola Boat and Bait)

Comments: There are three species of surfperch that are large and which are predominate in the inshore surf area: barred surfperch, calico surfperch and redtail surfperch. Barred surfperch are the number one surf-area fish caught on southern California piers. North of Morro Bay, calico surfperch start to replace barred surfperch as the main inshore perch species; north of San Francisco, redtail surfperch replace the calico surfperch. At the Pacifica Pier it is occasionally possible to catch all three species on the same trip, a tri-fecta of sorts. Barred surfperch put up a spirited fight and are a favorite of surf fishermen.

Barred surfperch from the Pismo Beach Pier, 2000

Of note was a study done by the Department of Fish and Game in the Bolsa Chica-Hermosa Beach area between 2007 and 2009. One conclusion was that the number of barred surfperch in tha area had increased relative to the 90s. However, barred surfperch dropped from third to tenth place relative to other surf species collected.

Barred surfperch from the Pismo Beach Pier

Barred surfperch from the Pismo Beach Pier, 2000

Barred surfperch from the Pismo Beach Pier, 2000

Barred surfperch from the Cayucos Pier, 2008 (Photo courtesy of the Tidepool, Cayucos)

Barred surfperch caught by Ravis at the Cayucos Pier, 2010 (Photo courtesy of the Tidepool, Cayucos)

Barred surfperch from the Pismo Beach Pier, 2005

A bucket of perch from the Imperial Beach Pier

Barred surfperch with young from the Avila Beach Pier

Barred surfperch from the San Simeon Pier caught by Gip of Paso

Teeth of a barred surfperch taken from the San Simeon Pier by Gip of Paso

A small barred surfperch but a great shirt — Mike Granat at the Santa Monica Pier in 2014

Wylie’s Bait and Tackle — and a record

A state record barred surfperch hanging at Wylie’s Bait and Tackle in Malibu

The official California Fish and Wildlife records show Fred Oakley as one of two anglers holding the state record for barred surfperch with a 4 pound two ounce fish (the other being Artie Ferguson Jr. who caught his fish in Morro Bay, San Luis Obispo Co. on 11/8/1995). According to their records, Mr. Oakley caught his fish in Oxnard, Ventura Co. on 3/30/1996 using a lure. However, Ginny Wylie at the iconic Wylie’s Bait and Tackles in Malibu said they weighed the fish and it actually weighed 4 pounds 2 1/2 ounces and was caught on bait. She says Fred Oakley, who was a friend and a regular at the shop, and who also holds the record for yellowfin croaker, NEVER used lures. 

Wylie’s, which has been in business since the ’40s, measured two other barred surfperch  on their scales that would have been state records. One was a 4 pound 12 ounce fish and the second was a 5 pound 3 ounce fish “caught by a little girl” around 1950. Ginny Wylie is trying to find me additional information and pictures but says most people simply never submit their catches to the state. 

Below is a story from Western Outdoor News on a new record.


Angler Gets Approved By IGFA For All-Tackle World-Record Barred Surfperch

Published: Feb 17, 2015
VENTURA — Surf angler Bert Uyemura of Torrance had quite a 2014 on the beach, picking up a number of chunky barred surfperch over the 14-inch mark early in the year, including 3 that breached the 17-inch mark. That got the fisherman’s wheels turning.

NEW WORLD RECORD barred surfperch for Bert Uyemura of Torrance, approved by the IGFA late last year. The slab perch went 18 inches in length and nearly 4½ pounds, and was taken on a Lucky Craft jerkbait near Ventura.

“After my third 17-inch perch, it got me thinking and I went home to do some research on the biggest barred surfperch ever caught,” Uyemura said. “What I found out was surprising to me. The current record was 17 inches and 4-pounds, 2-ounces, recorded by the IGFA in 1975. With what I found out, it got me thinking that I might’ve had a record fish.”

Uyemura kept plying his trade in the breakers and ran into a nice big perch bite one day in mid-March, plucking out 4 BSPs over 14½ inches. As the tide was beginning to peak, he started fan-casting his way back towards the car when his line went tight once again.

“After about a 3-minute fight, all of a sudden it felt like I was snagged on the bottom no more than five feet from the shoreline,” recalled Uyenmura. “My first thought was of my $20 Lucky Craft lure, but my second thought was the hope for another 17 incher.

“With waves crashing the shoreline, I started walking towards my lure. I managed to get within 5 feet of where my lure was when a bigger wave crashed on the beach. As the big wave receded, I thought I felt some strong head shakes. This fish was sitting in a big trench right out in front of me with my lure in its mouth.

“I couldn’t tell how big the fish actually was, but when the next wave came in, I reeled as fast as I could to beach the fish…there she was – my personal best BSP, at 18 inches in length and 4-pounds, 7-ounces.”

Late last year, the IGFA approved Uyemura’s surfperch as the new all-tackle world record for barred surfperch, giving surf fishers up and down the coast a new benchmark to aim for moving forward.

[It should be noted that his record is an IGFA record and not the California record since he apparently never filed for the state record.]

Article and photos courtesy of Western Outdoor News


Many thanks to Robert O’H for the help with the pictures.

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