Marine Management News Fish Identification Quiz

Welcome to the Marine Management News Fish Identification Quiz for July 2014! Here’s your chance to show off your fish identification knowledge and win an official Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) fish tagging cap. To celebrate the blog’s first Quiz, the winner will also receive a copy of California’s Living Marine Resources: A Status Report. To qualify for the drawing, simply send the correct information to by July 31, 2014 identifying:

  • The species of the fish pictured below (scientific name), and
  • The daily bag limit, as found in the 2014-2015 Ocean Sport Fishing regulations booklet

Be sure to enter “July MMN Fish Quiz” as the “Subject” of your e-mail. The winner will be selected during a random drawing from all correct answers received by July 31, 2014. See the correct answer to the quiz.
7.1.14fishIDquizERThese “lowly” fish enter the world during the spawning season between July and September each year. When they first emerge from the egg, the tiny larvae have an eye on each side of the body just like many other fish species. Initially the larvae inhabit surface waters, sometimes many miles from shore. As they grow to between ½ in. and 1½ in. long, the right eye begins to migrate to the left side of the body. With both eyes on the same side of the body, the young fish leave the surface waters to settle on the sea floor as juveniles.

This species hunts its prey, including shrimp, crab, marine worms, squid, octopus, eggs, and small fish, on or near the bottom. Young fish eat small shrimp and worms, while adults prefer squid and krill. In turn, this species is preyed upon by larger fishes, diving birds, and marine mammals.

Prime habitat for this fish includes muddy or sandy sea floor at depths ranging from 30 to 1,800 ft. (they are most often caught at depths shallower than 600 ft.). Their range extends from the Bering Sea southwards to Cape San Lucas, Baja California Sur, Mexico.

This bottom dweller has a lifespan of around 10 years, and can reach a weight of two pounds. It reaches sexual maturity at around three years of age; females may spawn twice during a single season. The largest specimen on record was 16 in. long, but most measure under 10 in. and weigh no more than half a pound.

The largest recorded commercial landings in California for this type of fish occurred during 1917 when a total of 2.6 million pounds hit the docks. Since then landings have fluctuated, dipping especially low during strong El Niño events, which affect both larvae and adult fish. Most commercial landings are made in northern and central California, with the largest landings coming ashore at Eureka and in the San Francisco Bay Area. Most commercially-landed fish are taken by otter trawls, though some are taken by hook-and-line.

Recreational anglers target this fish with rod and reel, mostly from small vessels. Recreational landings are similarly reduced during El Niño years, but this may be due in part to a shift in fishing effort to more desirable species that accompany warmer El Niño waters.

Marine biologists believe populations of this fish are in good condition, and are reasonably utilized under current management regimes.

If you think you know this species of fish, enter the prize drawing by sending an e-mail to CDFW at by July 31, 2014 with the correct scientific name and the daily bag limit as found in the 2014-2015 Ocean Sport Fishing regulations booklet. Again, be sure to enter “July MMN Fish Quiz” in the “Subject” portion of your e-mail.

Manuel Planessi
Manuel Planessi with a nice lingcod

UPDATE — AUGUST 5    Congratulations go out to Manuel T. Planessi of Redwood City, California for correctly identifying the July 2014 mystery fish as a Pacific Sanddab, Citharichthys sordidus. Sanddabs are one of the few fish for which there is no bag or possession limit, per California Code of Regulations Title 14, Section 27.60(b). You can find this regulation on pg. 33 of the current Ocean Sport Fishing regulations booklet.

Manuel has been a regular Marine Management News newsletter reader for many years. He previously won the Quiz drawing in 2010, and can now claim the honor of being the first to win the Marine Management News blogsite Quiz drawing. Thank you for your patronage Manuel — you’ve carved out a special place for yourself in Marine Management News history!

Manuel was a fabricator journeyman welder for forty years. Retired now, he still likes to go treasure hunting with his metal detector, fish, and hunt, especially for wild pigs. Congratulations again Manuel, we hope that you will continue to read the Marine Management News blog for many years to come!

Look for a new Fish Identification Quiz coming your way in October, 2014.

post by Mary Patyten, CDFW Research Writer  ♦  CDFW fish photo by Ed Roberts III  ♦ Quiz winner photo courtesy M. Planessi