Creature Feature: Shiner Perch

Shiner perch illustration

Shiner perch may be found statewide in calmer ocean waters. They prefer bays around eelgrass beds, and the pilings of wharfs and piers. Shiner perch have been captured in trawl nets in 350 to 480 ft. of water and observed at a depth of 120 ft. by divers. They are more numerous in shallow areas.

Distinguishing Characteristics

  • Gray to greenish above
  • Vertical lemon yellow crossbars in the shape of the number “711”
  • Eight horizontal sooty lines along the sides
  • During courtship and breeding the males are dark gray, almost black in color, and have a black spot on each side of the snout
  • Much more slender than the similar island surfperch found in the Channel Islands

Life History & Other Notes

Shiner perch eat mostly small crustaceans and other invertebrates. They are frequently observed around pier pilings nipping the appendages off of barnacles.

Mating takes place during the summer months, and the young are born the following spring and summer. During courtship, the male closely follows the female, their movements remarkably well synchronized.

Shiner perch may be caught from shore, docks, piers, rocks, and almost any other fishing area. They are probably the fish most frequently caught by young anglers. They can be taken on almost any type of bait and any type of fishing equipment, from handlines to spinning gear, so long as the baited hook is small enough to fit in the fish’s mouth.


Shiner Perch Quick Facts

Scientific Name: Cymatogaster aggregata

Other Common Names: shiner surfperch, 7-11 perch, yellow shiner

Range & Habitat: Statewide in bays around piers and eelgrass beds

Length & Weight: To 8 in. and ~3 oz.

Life Span: To ~3 years

Diet & Suggested Bait: Small crustaceans and invertebrates such as barnacles. Will take just about any bait offered on a small hook.


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 publications@wildlife.ca.gov