Physical Description

  • Long, oval body with long, very short dorsal (top) and pelvic (bottom) fins.
  • Light blue-brown coloration with white underbelly, and bright turquoise and yellow dorsal (top) and pectoral (side) fins.
  • Colors fade shortly after death.
  • Adults are usually 12-15 inches in length and usually weigh less than 8 pounds, but can be all the way up to 40 inches and 13 pounds.


  • British Columbia to Peru.
  • Most common from Point Conception, California to Baja California, Mexico.


  • Live in rocky reefs, shallow banks, and kelp beds during the night.
  • Found in deeper waters during the day.
  • Prefer offshore islands to mainland coast.
  • Found at depths of 10500 feet.


  • Females mature at 3-4 years old, and 15-19 inches long, and males at 4-5 years old, 18-19 inches long.
  • Spawning occurs from March to July in California.
  • Fish may spawn multiple times a season.
  • Spawning and most recruitment (juveniles adding to the existing population) happens in the warm waters off of Baja, except during warm water years, like El NiƱo years, when we observe much more recruitment success off southern California.


  • Crabs, shrimp, large krill, squid, anchovies, and lanternfish.


  • Giant sea bass, school sharks, and California sea lions.

Interesting Facts

  • Bones of ocean whitefish found in the archaeological kitchen scrap heaps on San Clemente Island show that they were an important food staple of Native Americans.
  • Common names for ocean whitefish include blanquillo, pez blanco, and poor man’s yellowtail.

Sources: California Sea Grant;; California Ocean Protection Council;

Photo: Matthew Meier