Kelp Bass

The Kelp Bass (Paralabrax clathratus), sometimes referred to as the Calico Bass (leading to easy confusion with the freshwater fishes from the genus Pomoxis), is a species of marine fish found in the eastern North Pacific Ocean from Baja California, Mexico, to Washington, USA (although rare in the northernmost part of its range). As suggested by its common name, it is typically associated with kelp beds, but may also be found in rocky areas or near hard structures. It prefers relatively shallow water, but may occur as deep as 165 ft (50 m).

It can reach a length of 28+1⁄2 inches (72 cm), and, being a slow grower, live for as much as 34 years. It is considered an excellent food fish, and is a popular recreational fishery species in Southern California. While the population is believed to be stable, large individuals are relatively rare due to fishing pressure. Commercial fishing for this species has been illegal since the 1950s. Current regulations in California allow only 14 inch or longer kelp basses to be kept by recreational fishermen.

It feeds on small fishes, squid, crustaceans, and, when abundant, plankton. During the warmer months (May to August in California), Kelp Basses form spawning groups in deeper water. After 1–2 days, the pelagic eggs hatch into larvae, which metamorph into juveniles after approximately a month. The juveniles settle among blades of kelp. Kelp Bass have been known to bite at humans, which can break the skin, but does not usually cause severe puncture wounds. This may be more frequent when the fish are spawning.

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