Ocean Whitefish
Caulolatilus princeps

Physical Description

  • Long body with long, short top and bottom fins
  • Light brown color with white underbelly
  • Bright turquoise and yellow top and side fins; colors fade shortly after death


  • British Columbia to Peru
  • Most common from Point Conception, California to Baja California, Mexico


  • Rocky reefs, shallow banks, and kelp beds during the night
  • Deeper waters during the day
  • Prefer offshore islands to mainland coast
  • Depths of 10500 feet


  • Crabs, shrimp, large krill, squid, anchovies, and lanternfish


  • Giant sea bass, school sharks, and California sea lions

Interesting Facts

  • Bones of ocean whitefish found in the kitchen scrap heaps on San Clemente Island show that they were an important food staple of Native Americans.
  • Spawning and most recruitment (juveniles adding to the existing population) happens in the warm waters off of Baja, except during warm water years, like El NiƱo years, when we observe much more recruitment success off Southern California.

Sources: California Sea Grant; channelislandsportfishing.com

Photo: Matthew Meier

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