Physical Description

  • Typical perch shape, oval and vertically compressed body.
  • Brown or copper in color, with white or tan underbelly.
  • Thick lips (hence their name), usually pink or white in color.
  • Largest seaperch, can reach 18.5 inches in length and can weigh 5 pounds.
  • Juveniles have one or two vertical dark bars on side, fade by adulthood.


  • Mendocino County, California to southern Baja California, Mexico.
  • Most common in Monterey Bay area.


  • Live in shallow water, like rocky reefs, kelp forests, and tide pools.
  • Also found in harbors and bays, near jetties and pilings.


  • Like all perch, rubberlip surfperch bear live young.
  • Known to have litters of 20 at a time, up to 3.5 inches long at birth.


  • Feed on thin-shelled invertebrates.
  • Adults feed on crabs, shrimp, and octopus.
  • Juveniles feed on worms, mussels, small crabs, and tiny snails.


  • Adult rubberlip, pile, and striped surfperch are considered too large to often 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

  • Their thick lips are highly sensitive, and even have taste buds. They use their lips to poke around and detect their prey. 

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

Photo: Herb Gruenhagen