Walleye Surfperch

Walleye Surfperch, Hyperprosopon argenteum

The Walleye Surfperch, Hyperprosopon argenteum, whose common Spanish name is mojarra ojona, is a member of the Surfperch or Embiotocidae Family, known collectively as mojarras viviparas in Mexico. There are only three global species in the genus Hyperprosopon, all three found in Mexican waters of the Pacific.

The Walleye Surfperches have highly compressed deep oval bodies with a typical “perch-like” shape that is 43 to 47% of standard length. They are dark blue dorsally and silvery ventrally and on their sides. The margins of their anal and caudal fins are dusky and the tips of their pelvic fins are black (a key to identification). Juveniles have narrow golden vertical bars on their sides. They have a small head, disproportionately large eyes, a small oblique mouth, and a projecting lower jaw that opens in the front. Their anal fin has 3 spines and 30 to 35 rays; their caudal fin is lunate; and their dorsal fin is continuous with 8 to 10 spines and 25 to 28 rays. They have 28 to 32 gill rakers. Their lateral line is complete and their body is covered with scales.

The Walleye Surfperches are found demersal in the surf and on sand beaches near rocks and around structures such as piers and pilings at depths up to 600 feet; they are found individually, in small schools, and occasionally in dense schools that consist of several hundred fish. They will enter bays during the summer months. They reach a maximum length of 30 cm (12 inches) with males and females being of equal length. They are diurnal and feed primarily on small crustaceans. They are preyed upon by California halibut, various sea birds, bottlenose dolphins, and harbor seals. Reproduction is viviparous with mating in pairs that occurs in early winter. Gestation lasts up to one year with each female producing five to twelve 4.0 cm (1.6 inch) fry; larger females produce larger litter sizes. Females carry the developing young until they mature. They have a lifespan of up to six years. Fossil remains indicate that they were present over one million years ago.

In Mexican waters the Walleye Surfperches have a limited distribution being found only from Guerrero Negro northward along the central and northwest coasts of Baja. In the United States their populations increase significantly northward into Washington State.

The Walleye Surfperch is straightforward to identify due to its perch-like body and striking black-tipped pelvic fins.

The Walleye Surfperches are a favorite of beginning anglers as they are plentiful and easy to catch. They are considered an important game fish that can be caught in the surf, from rocks, and from piers anywhere along the open coast. They are caught year-round on light tackle with small hooks baited with mussels, pieces of fish, worms, squid or shrimp. They can also be caught on small crappie jigs. They are a major component of the pier fishery of the west coast of the United States. They are deemed a marginal food fish due to their small size and limited meat. They are also used as live bait targeting the California halibut. They were an important food source for Native Americans.

Walleye Surfperch, Hyperprosopon argenteum. Fish caught off the Oceanside Pier, Oceanside, California, April 2006. Length: 13.0 cm (5.1 inches).