Catalina Mystery Fish ID Answer

An excerpt from the discussion forum thread which the fish ID for my mystery fishes were discussed. Renowned fish ID expert KenT weighs in on the matter…

KenT wrote:

Oh, and I didn’t see Tombo said he mentioned “Olive Rockfish aka Johnny Bass”…I retracted my support for his ID

Your fish #1 is a Yellowtail Rockfish (Sebastes flavidus)…call them a spoon if you want

Your fish #2 is a White Surfperch (Phanerodon furcatus)…call them a fork in you want

Tombo808 wrote:

Okay, I’m confused. But I also said White Surfperch (Phanerodon furcatus) for the second fish, which he said was incorrect.

KenT wrote:

You’re right…he did say so…

Hm…FishBase is really messing up today so I can’t find much yet…

But Google seem to suggest…

Fish #2 is a Sharpnose Seaperch (Phanerodon atripes)? This is just by physical appearance…and I did read somewhere that Sharpnose has brassy colouration on the tips of scales…since Eli pointed out the slight difference in colouration at the tips of scales…

Fish ID can be frustrating and fun sometimes.

obsessiveangling wrote:

Lol… I think its always fun when you get a fish thats more challenging than usual to ID. The yellowtail rockfish was slightly tricky, but you guys are way too good to be fooled.

Initially, I had thought the fish was a pile perch, partly due to the strongly forked tail and thicker lips, but also partly because the deckhand told me thats what it was. However, I took it’s picture because something in the back of my mind said it was different.

Returning home and examining the picture, I realize it did not have the elongated streamers on the dorsal and anal fin that pile perch have. Thus, the next best guess I had was white surfperch. Looking into that ID though, I found that white surfperch have a dark conspicuous line beneath the dorsal fin which was absent on my fish.

What the mystery fish DID have, on the other hand, was a very distinctive reddish bronze coloration along the dorsal side. Also, I noted that the pelvic fins were smoky or dusky, and did not have any yellow at all. Lastly, I noted the environment where the fish was caught: not in the surf, but in deeper water.

Here is a closer look at the lovely reddish bronze scales that were on the fishes back:

All of these clues led me to the same conclusion that Ken has come to. Sharpnose surfperch… a species that is often mis-identified or mistaken, but I believe my specimen has a pretty positive ID.

Thanks for playing my silly game

KenT wrote:

Eli, how many anal fin rays did you count in that rockfish? I counted 7 in one count, 8 in the other…but I’m not sure if it is really those count in the pictures I see on computer.

Just wondering…


It’s actually so hard to tell without a shot of the head spines…

Olive Rockfish can have 8-10 anal rays…although more often it is 9.

But head spines are as follows:

Yellowtail Rockfish can have 7-9 anal rays…although more often it is 7-8.

But head spines are as follows:

So without a head shot, it is hard to call…

Eli, you picked two good ones to challenge us. Always learning to ID fish properly…

obsessiveangling wrote:

Heres a closer pic at the anal fin:

I drew in the soft rays I counted. Too bad it wasn’t an olive rockfish, as I have never caught a positively ID’d one. On the positive side, I don’t have a good picture of a yellowtail rockfish so this all works out well

Well, these ID’s were definitely challenging to me as well, so I thought I’d share the fun

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