Physical Description

  • Oval-shaped fish with deeply forked caudal (tail) fin.
  • Dark coloration with a dark bar on side beneath the dorsal (top) fin.
  • Top fin’s rays are longer in front, shorter in back.
  • Often has yellow pelvic (bottom) fins.
  • Upon death, fish turns almost white.


  • Southern British Columbia to Isla Guadalupe, central Baja California, Mexico.


  • Found in shallow water, rocky areas, and around piers, pilings, and docks.
  • Found in oceans and bays.
  • Bottom-dwelling fish , in depths to 150 feet.


  • Surfperches have internal fertilization and give birth to live young.
  • There are often 1-113 young per litter.
  • Juveniles are born as miniature versions of adults.


  • Large, hard-shelled invertebrates, such as mussels, crabs, brittle stars, sand dollars, barnacles, bean clams, limpets, dove shells, California cones, Norris top shells, and chitons (a class of marine mollusks).


  • Adult rubberlip, pile, and striped surfperches are considered too large to be eaten by many predators.
  • Kelp bass eat juvenile surfperch.
  • Electric rays, sharks, large serranid bass, seals, and sea lions are also potential predators of surfperch.

Interesting Facts

  • Pile surfperch are able to crush all of their hard-shelled prey with their fused teeth plates. Since other perch do not have this ability, some scientists think they should be in their own genus.
  • It is a common fish caught off of piers; one of the ways to fish for it includes bobbing an entire clump of mussels (their favorite food) with hooks attached!
  • They are also commonly called pile perch.

Sources:;;; Species Profiles: Life Histories and Environmental Requirements of Coastal Fishes and Invertebrates; California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Photo: Herb Gruenhagen