Calico Surfperch


 Calico Surfperch

Species: Amphistichus koelzi (Hubbs, 1933); from the Greek words amphi (double) and stoichos (series, referring to the two rows of teeth in each jaw) and Walter Koelz, a U.S. ichthyologist. Family Embiotocidae, subfamily Amphistichinae.

Alternate Names: Surf perch, humpback perch, porgie (or porgee). Called majarra angaripola or perca in Mexico.

Identification: Their coloring is silvery, with olive-green mottling and bars on sides (bars usually broken and disconnected); most fins are reddish colored; caudal fin (tail) pinkish to deep red. Longest dorsal fin spines about equal to or slightly longer than longest dorsal soft-ray; pronounced notch between dorsal fin hard rays and soft rays.  Lower edge of eye is below the upper lip. More disc-like shaped than in redtail surfperch.

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

Size: To 12 inches; most caught from piers are 9-11 inches.

Range: Arroyo San Isidro, northern Baja California to Shi Shi Beach, Cape Flattery, Washington.

Habitat: Shallow-water, sandy-shore areas.

Calico surfperch from the Trinidad Pier

Piers: Calico surfperch are the number one surf area fish caught on central California piers north of Cayucos. In the Pismo Beach-Cayucos region, large numbers of both barred surfperch and calico surfperch are caught; more barred surfperch are landed but the calico surfperch will be slightly larger in size. Best bets: Avila Pier, Cayucos Pier, San Simeon Pier, Seacliff State Beach Pier, Capitola Wharf, Santa Cruz Wharf, Pacifica Pier and (surprisingly) Point Arena Pier.

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

Boats: An inshore species rarely taken by boaters.

Calico surfperch from Citizen’s Dock in Crescent City

Bait and Tackle: Bait and tackle is the same for all three of the large surfperch. Best bait is live sand crabs followed by live sea worms (pile worms or bloodworms); next would be fresh mussels, shrimp or clams. Tackle should be heavy enough to hold bottom in the surf area, and hooks should be size 6 to size 2 baited on a high/low leader.

Food Value: Reaches an edible size but like most other perch the flesh is only fair in taste. Generally pan-fried in butter after coating.

Comments: Calico surfperch will often school right around the inshore pilings; at times, fishing right under the pier, as close to these pilings as possible, will yield the largest fish. Calicos are sometimes mistaken for redtail surfperch.

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

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

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