Marine Management News Fish Identification Quiz
January 2010

January 2010 Fish Quiz

This fish hatches from an egg about the size of a BB pellet along with hundreds of its siblings after an incubation period of around two weeks. Females may spawn several times from October through April, using long, sticky filaments to attach large egg masses to eelgrass and shallow-water algae. Once hatched, the young swim near the surface in harbors, along sandy beaches, and in the kelp canopy, often mixing with young topsmelt.

The range of this species stretches from Santa Maria Bay, Baja California, to Yaquina, Oregon. Off California, they are found in bays and inshore waters throughout the year. They often form large, dense schools in water less than 100 ft deep, and are most common in 5- to 50-ft depths.

This fish may attain a maximum length of 22 in., with 17-in. fish commonly taken. It grows relatively fast, reaching maturity at two to three years when about 8 in. long. One 16-in. male was aged to 11 years, the oldest fish ever aged for this species.

This fish is targeted by commercial and recreational fisheries for human consumption and for bait. Historically, commercial fishermen have used a variety of nets and setlines to catch this fish. Commercial landing totals have varied sharply, driven by demand: in 1945 more than two million pounds were taken, while in 1999 only 2,530 pounds were taken. Principal commercial fishing areas include bays and harbors such as San Pedro, Monterey, San Francisco, Tomales, and Humboldt.

This species is frequently taken by recreational anglers fishing in the surf and from piers and skiffs. It was the fourth most commonly occurring fish in the California recreational catch during 2007 according to California Recreational Fisheries Survey data. Bright red artificial flies or small hooks baited with shrimp or squid are effective terminal tackle for this species. Larger fish are quite game, and will take a small spinner or lure cast out and retrieved with a series of quick jerks.

Currently, this species' population status is not known. Because this fish occurs in inshore waters, however, it runs the risk of being affected by pollutants and loss of habitat through development.

This fish is a jacksmelt, Athernopsis californiensis. This is one of the few fishes for which there is no bag limit (per Title 14, CCR, Section 27.60[b]).