Opaleye
Girella nigricans

Physical Description

  • Perch-shaped fish but heavier bodied
  • Coloring is pale green to dark olive green on top, with whitish bellies
  • Distinctive eyes; large and opalescent, blue-green in color
  • Can reach length of 25 inches and weight of 13.5 pounds
  • Juveniles have two light spots on their upper back, by their dorsal fin that are absent in mature adults

Range

  • Otter Rock, Oregon to Baja California, Mexico
  • Gulf of California, Mexico
  • Uncommon north of Point Conception

Habitat

  • Live in temperate, shallow waters
  • Kelp forests, rocky shores, reefs
  • Young opaleye live in tidepools
  • Juveniles often live near surface, near floating debris
  • Older opaleye live in depths of up to 65 feet

Reproduction

  • They form dense schools in shallow water for spawning
  • The eggs are larvae are free-floating in the water, sometimes miles from shore

Diet

  • Feather boa kelp, giant kelp, sea lettuce, coralline algae, red and green algae
  • Also eat organisms attached to plants they are eating, like tube worms and red crabs

Predators

  • Sea lions, cormorants, terns, eagles, ospreys

Interesting Facts

  • They are also called the blue-eye perch, green perch, opaleye perch, Jack Benny, button eye, and button bass.
  • They are known as one of the best sporting fish because they are one of the hardest fish to hook and will put up one of the biggest fights pound for pound.
  • The largest one ever caught (at over 14 pounds) is preserved in the Scripps Marine Vertebrate Collection

Sources: Pierfishing.com; Coal Oil Point Reserve; California Department of Fish and Wildlife; lagunabeachindy.com; Mexican-Fish.com

Photo: Kevin Lee

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