Barred Surfperch

Barred Surfperch, Amphistichus argenteus

The Barred Surfperch, Amphistichus argenteus, whose common Spanish name is mojarra de bandas, is a member of the Surfperch or Embiotocidae Family, known collectively as mojarras viviparas in Mexico. Globally, there are only three species in the genus Amphistichus, and all three are found in Mexican waters of the Pacific.

The Barred Surfperch have highly compressed deep oval bodies with a depth that is 42 to 46% of standard length. They are predominantly silver with a series of eight to ten olive green to yellow stripes along their flanks. Keys to identification are the series of spots between the bars on their sides, their uniform fin color, and the lack of spots on their fins. Their head is blunt with a large mouth and a long lower jaw. Their anal fin has 3 spines; their caudal fin is forked; and their dorsal fin is continuous with nine to 11 spines and 19 to 28 soft rays. Their body is covered with small scales.

The Barred Surfperch are a non-migratory species that normally spend their entire lives within a two-mile area. They are found in the surf zone and inhabit bays and inlets with sand or rubble bottoms where they congregate in depressions and are found at depths up to 260 feet. They are also known to enter brackish estuaries. Females are much larger than males, reaching a maximum length of 43 cm (17 inches) and 2.0 kg (4.5 pounds) in weight, while males reach a maximum length of 30 cm (12 inches). They consume sand crabs and smaller quantities of other crabs and clams. Reproduction is viviparous with mating commencing in November followed by a five or six-month gestation period. Each female produces four to 113 fry that are 6.4 cm (2.5 inches) in length. Females have a lifespan of up to nine years; males of up to six years.

In Mexican waters the Barred Surfperch have a limited distribution being found only from Guerrero Negro northward along the central and northwest coasts of Baja.

The Barred Surfperch is most likely confused with the Redtail Surfperch, Amphistichus rhodoterus (dark fins).

The Barred Surfperch, although small in stature, are considered excellent food fish. They are an important target of commercial fishermen providing 25% of California’s commercial perch catch, averaging six tons per annum. They are also commonly caught out of the surf by recreational anglers fishing incoming tides inside the breaker zone and utilizing sand crabs as bait.

Barred Surfperch, Amphistichus argenteus. Fish caught off the Oceanside Pier, Oceanside, California, April 2006. Length: 15.0 cm (5.9 inches).

Barred Surfperch, Amphistichus argenteus. Fish caught off the beach in Cardiff, California, July 2016. Length: 24.0 cm (9.4 inches). Catch, photo, and identification courtesy of Ben Cantrell, Peoria, IL.