Creature Feature: Redtail Surfperch

redtail surfperchRedtail surfperch occur from Monterey Bay north off California. They are the most frequently caught species of surfperch north of Bodega Bay. This species is predominantly a surf-dweller off sandy beaches, but has also been taken in rocky areas adjacent to beaches. They are common in estuaries and protected embayments during spawning season.

Distinguishing Characteristics
Silver with olive green mottling and bars on the side. Tail pink to deep purple. Body oval; upper head is nearly straight from the snout to the dorsal fin, except for a slight depression above the eye.

Life History & Other Notes
Small crabs, shrimp and other crustaceans are the major food items preferred by this species; however, mussels and marine worms are also eaten.

Like all surfperches, the redtail gives birth to live young. Just before spawning in the spring and early summer, redtail surfperch congregate in sheltered inshore waters. Breeding season is in the fall, and the young are born in the following spring and summer, primarily from June to August. Females may give birth to up to 51 young, but average 27 young per pregnancy.

The average size of redtail surfperch landed by sport anglers is 1.5 to 2 lb., although 3 lb. fish are not uncommon. Light tackle using crab backs for bait is preferred in Humboldt Bay, while heavier tackle using sand crabs, tube worms or clams for bait works well when surf fishing.

 Redtail Surfperch Quick Facts:

Scientific Name: Amphistichus rhodoterus

Other Common Names: porgie, rosy surf fish

Range & Habitat: Monterey Bay northward, in surf environments

Length: to 17+ inches

Lifespan: to 9 years

Diet & Suggested Bait: Small crabs, shrimp, mussels, marine worms.Try fishing with sand crabs, tube worms, or clams.

Excerpt from the California Finfish and Shellfish Identification Book. Single copies of the book are available to California residents free of charge by emailing a request to