Redtail Surfperch


Retail Surfperch, Humboldt County

Species: Amphistichus rhodoterus (Agassiz, 1854); from the Greek words amphi (double), stoichus (series, referring to the two rows of teeth in each jaw), and rhodoterus  (rosy). Family Embiotocidae, subfamily Amphistichinae.

Alternate Names: Redtail perch, rosy surf fish and porgy (or porgie).

Identification: Their coloring is silver with olive green mottling and bars on side; fins red with the caudal fin (their tail) pink to deep purple. The longest dorsal spines are longer than the dorsal soft-rays. More elongate than calico surfperch.

Size: To 16 inches and 4 pounds; most caught from piers are under a foot. The California record fish weighed 2 lb 15 oz and was taken from Klamath Beach in 2003.

 Picture below: Redtail Surfperch (and Mel) from the Paradise Beach Pier

Range: Avila Beach to Hesquiat Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

Habitat: Shallow-water, sandy-shore, oceanfront areas. Although generally found in the open ocean, they enter sheltered estuaries and bays just before spawning in the spring and early summer. At such times, hundreds of fish may be concentrated in a fairly small area and it’s pretty easy for anglers to catch a limit.

Piers: Commonly caught at sandy-shore piers and bay piers north of Pacifica. Best bets: Pacifica Pier, Del Norte St. Pier (Eureka), and both the “B” Street Pier and Citizen’s Dock in Crescent City.

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

Boats: An inshore species but sometimes taken by boaters fishing Humboldt Bay.

Mike Jones and a Redtail Surfperch from Mendocino County

Bait and Tackle: Use medium tackle, a large enough sinker to hold bottom, a high/low sinker, and hooks size 6 to 2. Best baits include live sand crabs (in the surf areas), fresh mussels, pile worms or bloodworms, and clams. North of Eureka, two favorite baits (if you can find them) are tube worms (generally frozen) and crab backs.

Food Value: Generally considered a fairly good, mild-flavored fish. Usually pan-fried in butter.

Comments: Redtail surfperch, along with barred surfperch and calico surfperch make up the trio of large surfperch that dominate action on the surf end of most California piers; all are fine sportfish and fine eating.

Mike Jones and a Redtail Surfperch from Humboldt County

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2 Responses to Redtail Surfperch

  1. joe gartland says:

    I believe the surfperch are not “open ocean” fish. They patrol up and down the coast close to shore. Furthermore, I think the season should be closed for two or three months (July and August in Calif.) each year when the females give birth, or just allow catch and release during that time.

  2. kenjones says:

    “Open ocean” simply means they spend the majority of time out in the ocean versus in bays and estuaries. As for limits/seasons etc., that’s up to the DF&W.

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