Physical Description

  • Fish has brown coloration on back with two rows of rectangular white splotches.
  • Easily distinguished from other bass due to these white splotches.
  • Head is brownish-olive coloration with randomized yellow spots.
  • Tail square cut with yellowish coloration.
  • First two dorsal spines are short, third and fourth dorsal spines are about twice as long.
  • Breeding adult males have an orange-colored chin.


  • Occur from Columbia River, Washington to Magdalena Bay, Baja California.
  • Common from Point Conception south to central Baja.


  • Found in water as deep as 150 feet.
  • Live in shallow rocky environments.


  • Kelp bass mature between 3-5 years old.
  • Spawning usually takes place in or near kelp forests.
  • Females might spawn as often as four times a year.
  • Mating occurs between May and October, between sunset and several hours after sunset.
  • Breeding groups can be up to 200 males and only one female.
  • Kelp bass are very active feeders during spawning.


  • Small, shrimp-like crustaceans, anchovies, small surfperch, other small fish.
  • With increase in size of kelp bass, increase in amount of fish in diet.


  • California barracuda, sea bass, kelp bass, marine mammals, large fishes.

Interesting Facts

  • Kelp bass are also called calico bass and are very popular with nearshore recreational anglers.

Sources: California Department Fish and Wildlife;; Scripps Institution of Oceanography;

Photo: Jeremy Smith