Kelp Bass, Paralabrax clathratus
The Kelp Bass, Paralabrax clathratus, whose common Spanish name is Cabrilla Sargacera and whose local name is Cabrilla, is a member of the Sea Bass or Serranidae Family, known collectively as “serranos” in Mexico.
The Kelp Bass (also known as the Calico Bass) is very similar to a freshwater Largemouth Bass, Micropherus salmoides. The upper head is olive green with random yellow spots and the upper back is mottled with white, olive-green and black markings. There are two rows of rectangular white blotches in a net pattern along the back. A key to identification is that the third and fourth dorsal spines are of equal length and approximately twice the length of the second spine. They feed on crustaceans and small fish.
The Kelp Bass are found within and near kelp beds at depths up to 130 feet. They reach a maximum length of 72 cm (28 inches), and weigh up to 6 kg (14 pounds). Kelp Bass do not undergo a mid-life sex change. However, the males are seasonally sexually dichromatic during spawning season (June to September) indicated by a significant change in facial coloration (see photo below). The Kelp Bass is found from the United States boarder to just north of Cabo San Lucas on the west coast of Baja, with the southern range established by a fish in our possession.
The Kelp Bass is similar to and can be confused with the Barred Sand Bass, Paralabrax nebulifer (upper two-thirds of body and tail base with dark blotches; third dorsal spine longest and two and a half times longer than second and less than twice as long as second); the Goldspotted Sand Bass, Paralabrax auroguttatus (head, body and fins covered with dense orange spots, third dorsal spine three times longer than second); the Parrot Sand Bass, Paralabrax loro (head covered with orange spots and lines, seven dark bars on the sides; third dorsal spine three times longer than second); and the Spotted Sand Bass, Paralabrax maculatofasciatus (numerous black, brown and orange spots, dark bar from eye to gill cover, third dorsal spine elongated three times longer than second).
The Kelp Bass is considered to be an excellent food fish and an important game fish with annual catch levels being in excess of 500,000 by California party boats.