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Marine sport fish identification key - Surfperch

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Key to surfperch

1.a. Body with bright blue and reddish orange stripes - Striped Surfperch (Embiotoca lateralis) (38 cm / 15 in) - uncommon species

1.b. Body without bright blue and reddish orange stripes - go to 2

2.a. Fins reddish - go to 3

2.b. Fins not reddish - go to 4

3.a. Spiny part of the dorsal fin much longer than soft part. Total of 8-11 red or brown bars on the side of the body. Body silvery with pale olive tinge above - Redtail Surfperch (Amphistichus rhodoterus) (41 cm / 16 in) - uncommon species

3.b. Spiny part of the dorsal fin is equal in height to the soft portion. Faint bars of red and brown spots on the side of the body, offset at the lateral line. Body may be silvery blue to olive above, pale below - Calico Surfperch (Amphistichus koelzi) (30 cm /12 in) - unusual species

4.a. Striking black tip on pelvic fins. Eyes very large (1/3 the length of the head) - Walleye Surfperch (Hyperprosopon argenteum) (30 cm / 12 in) - unusual species (photo credit Hurn / Wilsman)

4.b. No striking black tip on pelvic fins - go to 5

5.a. Slight indentation in head (concave) above eye. Silvery body with rows of black dots crossed by vertical yellow bars (absent in males during the summer). Dark spot above lip - Shiner Surfperch (Cymatogaster aggregata) (18 cm / 7 in) - unusual species

5.b. No indentation above eye. No dark spot above lip. No yellow bars - go to 6

6.a. Black spot on dorsal and anal fins. Body dusky above, silvery below - Spotfin Surfperch (Hyperprosopon anale) (20 cm / 8 in) - rare species

6.b. No black spot on the dorsal and anal fins - go to 7

7.a. Distinct black line at the base of the dorsal fin. Last spines of the spiny portion of the dorsal fin slightly longer than the beginning rays of the soft portion. Body is silvery blue or pale olive above, silver below with no vertical bars - White Surfperch (Phanerodon furcatus) (32 cm / 12.5 in) - unusual species (photo credit Hurn / Wilsman)

7.b. No black line at the base of the dorsal fin

8.a. Soft part of dorsal fin twice as tall as the spiny part of the dorsal fin. Broad, dark vertical bar at midline. No spots on the anal fin. Dark spot below eye - Pile Surfperch (Damalichthys vacca) (44 cm / 17.5 in) - unusual species

8.b. Soft part of dorsal fin not distinctly taller than spiny part. Occasional black to orange spot on anal fin. Dusky bars on side. Dorsal and tail fins dark-edged. Tail usually pinkish - Silver Surfperch (Hyperprosopon ellipticum) (27 cm / 10.5 in) - rare species

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Eric Schindler
Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife
2040 SE Marine Science Drive
Newport, Oregon 97365
(541) 867-4741


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04/28/2023 7:16 AM