Marine Management News Fish Identification Quiz
This fish hatches from free-drifting eggs after an incubation period of around two to three days. Females may spawn year-round; most eggs are found in water less than 250 feet deep and within four miles of shore. The newly hatched young drift with the currents for less than a month, after which they begin to settle on the bottom and move closer to shore.
The young of this species start life with one eye on each side of the body, the same as many other fishes. Their bodies begin to change shape as they migrate closer to shore, becoming flatter and broader. During this morphing period, one eye also begins to migrate to either the right or left side of the body to join the other eye. Young fish prefer shallow, plant-free bays, however fluctuations in nearshore currents may sweep them to the open coast and other habitats.
In bay nursery areas, young fish feed upon the abundant food sources there, beginning with small shrimp-like crustaceans. When the young fish reach about 2½ inches long, they graduate to eating small fishes such as gobies. As they grow and migrate into open coastal waters, their diet begins to include a greater percentage of fish. When fully grown, these ambush predators prefer squid, Pacific sardine, northern anchovy, and other nearshore fish species that swim in the water column.
This species ranges from Washington state to southern Baja California. Adults of this species inhabit soft-bottom habitats in coastal waters generally less than 300 feet deep, most often at depths of less than 100 feet. They may live to 30 years and reach 60 in. long, with a maximum recorded weight of 72 pounds. Males mature at two to three years and 8 to 9 inches long, whereas females mature at four to five years and 15 to 17 inches long. Females reach the minimum recreational size limit at five to six years of age, about a year before males.
Both commercial and recreational fisheries exist for this fish. Commercial fishing gear for this species has included trawl and set nets and, to a lesser extent, hook-and line gear. The largest recorded commercial catch was 4.7 million pounds in 1919. Landings have averaged a little more than 1 million pounds annually since 1980. Estimates of recreational landings since 1980, by anglers using hook-and-line gear, have approached commercial landings with an annual average of 976,000 pounds. A stock assessment is currently being conducted for the first time for this species.
This fish is a California halibut, Paralichthys californicus. The current bag limit is three fish north of Pt. Sur (Monterey County), and five fish south of Pt. Sur (per CCR Title 14, Section 28.15).