Kelp Bass
Paralabrax clathratus

Physical Description

  • Fish has brown coloration on back with two rows of rectangular white splotches
  • Easily distinguished from other bass due to these white splotches
  • Head is brownish-olive coloration with randomized yellow spots
  • Tail square cut with yellowish coloration
  • First two dorsal spines are short, third and fourth dorsal spines are about twice as long
  • Breeding adult males have an orange-colored chin


  • Occur from Columbia River, Washington to Magdalena Bay, Baja California
  • Common from Point Conception south to central Baja


  • Found in water as deep as 150 feet
  • Live in shallow rocky environments


  • Kelp bass mature between 3-5 years old
  • Spawning usually takes place in or near kelp forests
  • Females might spawn as often as four times a year
  • Mating occurs between May and October, between sunset and several hours after sunset
  • Breeding groups can be up to 200 males and only one female
  • Kelp bass are very active feeders during spawning


  • Small, shrimp-like crustaceans, anchovies, small surfperch, other small fish
  • With increase in size of kelp bass, increase in amount of fish in diet


  • California barracuda, sea bass, kelp bass, marine mammals, large fishes

Interesting Facts

  • Kelp bass are also called calico bass and are very popular with nearshore recreational anglers.

Sources: California Department Fish and Wildlife;; Scripps Institution of Oceanography;

Photo: Jeremy Smith

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