Blacksmith

Damselfishes—Family Pomacentridae

Species: Chromis punctipinnis (Cooper, 1863); from the Greek word chromis (a type of Mediterranean fish) and the Latin words punctipinnis  (for spot and fin).

Alternate Names: Blue perch, kelp perch, rock bass and black perch. In Mexico called castañeta herrera.

Identification: Perch-shaped but not so deep—compressed and somewhat elongate. Their dorsal fin is long and undivided. Their coloring is dark blue or black on the back, grayish blue on sides, yellow tones in fins; they have black spots on the posterior half of the body.

Size: Length to 12 inches; most caught from piers are 6-10 inches.

Range: Punta San Pablo, central Baja California, to Monterey Bay. Common in southern California but uncommon north of Point Conception.

Habitat: Shallow-water, rocky-shore areas and in kelp beds; young and adults aggregate according to size. Surface to 150 feet deep although may travel down to 300 feet. Reportedly migrate to  rocky holes shortly before sunset where they hunker down for the night. Those unable to find a hole or crevice cluster after dark in dense schools near the rocks.

Piers: Generally found only at southern California piers, and then only those located close to extensive kelp or reefs, although I have seen a few blacksmith landed at Wharf #2 in Monterey. Best bets: Oceanside Harbor Pier, Green Pleasure Pier and Cabrillo Mole (Avalon), Redondo Harbor Sportfishing Pier, Paradise Cove Pier, and sometimes, in late summer, Gaviota Pier.

Elaine Liu at the Cabrillo Mole in Avalon

Shoreline: A common catch by anglers fishing rocky-shore areas in southern California.

Boats: An inshore species rarely taken from boats.

Bait and Tackle: Size 6 to 8 hooks fished on the bottom to mid-depth. Best bait are live bloodworms and lug worms, live small crabs, fresh mussels, and small pieces of shrimp.

Food Value:  Too small to have much meat.

CommentsA close relative of their damselfish cousins, garibaldi, and like their cousins they are noted as having a “pugnacious” nature. It is reported that young blacksmith seek out cleaning fish, usually juvenile pileperch or senorita, and place themselves in positions where the cleaning fish are almost forced to remove external parasites from them. During these actions, the blacksmith may be head up, head down, on their side or even upside down. If the cleaner tries to leave, blacksmiths follow and prevent escape. Talk about bad manners! At the same time, they are also cleaners themselves having been observed removing parasites from Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola).

 

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