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SURFPERCHES

DID YOU KNOW? That surfperches give birth to fully developed young.

FAMILY NAME: Embiotocidae.

COMMON NAMES: Calico surfperch, Redtail surfperch, Kelp perch, Shiner perch, Striped seaperch, Walleye surfperch, Silver surfperch, White seaperch, and Pile perch.

DESCRIPTION: There are twenty-three known species of surfperch, seaperch, and perch. All perches have short deep bodies that are very thin, with large eyes. All have a single dorsal fin, and deeply forked tail fins. Most perches are brightly colored, and usually have barred or striped coloration patterns. The size varies from 4 to 18 inches, and 1-5 pounds.

TYPICAL LIFECYCLE: The timing of mating and birthing for perches varies geographically by region. Typically, its intricate courtship and mating or breeding season begins in the spring. The female stores the males sperm for five to six months until her eggs are fertilized latter in the year, usually during November and December. She carries the developing young for about one year, and generally gives birth in the summer to 5 to 40 live young. The young are fully developed miniature replicas of their parents, and the female perch are usually larger than the males throughout their lives. Most females and males mature during their first year of life, and have a relatively short life span; it is uncommon to see perch over 6 years of age.

RANGE: From Baja California to southern Alaska depending on the species present. In North America, there are a number of surfperch species however, redtail surfperch, shiner surfperch, and striped surfperch are the most common.

HABITAT AND ECOLOGY: Perches tend to be an aggressive fish that live primarily in and around estuaries, bays, and near-shore shallow areas, traveling in loose schools, moving seasonally inshore and offshore. Perch commonly live adjacent to rocky bottom coasts that provide important habitat structures. Perches rely on near-shore marine, bay and estuarine habitats; utilizing aquatic vegetation, docks, and pilings to rear their young. The feeding behavior of perches depends on food availability. Perches commonly feed in the morning hours on small crustaceans, algae, worms, mussels, and on the eggs of other fishes. The perch themselves are important food for sturgeon, salmon, barred sand bass, great blue herons, and harbor seals.

Research suggests that the quality of estuarine and near-shore marine areas limits the abundance of surfperches. Poor timber and agricultural management practices which cause erosion and run-off of agricultural toxins, further urban development, and wetlands loss can all negatively impact this species.

ECONOMIC VALUE: Several species are fished both commercially and recreationally, with the redtail, striped, shiner, and walleye surfperch the most economically important. Along the Pacific Coast, 564,000 surfperches were caught by sport anglers in 1994. U.S. commercial landings of ocean perch have averaged 40.8 million pounds from 1989-93.


Revised 12/16/96