Black Perch

Embiotoca jacksoni

Seattle Aquarium

The Science


This fish ranges in color, but is rarely (if ever) actually black!

black perch
Christian Schwarz/iNaturalist

Taxonomic description 

  • Has a compressed, oval body and ranges in color from silvery, orange-brown, light tan, to greenish white, depending on the substrate color that it can blend with. [1]
  • Has thick orange or yellow lips, and sometimes has shading above the upper lip that looks like a mustache. [1]
  • Adults average 15.24cm (6 inches) but can grow up to 38.1cm (15 inches and weight 2 kg (4.5 lbs). [1]


  • Found along the coast of Northern California to Central Baja California, but is mostly south of Central California. [1]

Life history 

  • Matures at 1-2 years, and can live 6-9 years. [1]
  • Fertilized eggs are hatched prematurely in females, and the embryos continue to incubate in the mother for another 12 months until she gives live birth! [1]
  • The number of offspring increases with the age of the female, and she can have about 30 young at a time. [1]


  • Lives in shallow waters, and prefers depths of 0.9m (3 ft), and is often found in the surf zone. [1]
  • Associated with rocky or sandy substrate, kelp forests, near piers, and in eelgrass within estuaries. [1]
  • Predators of the black perch include harbor seels, cormorants, and humans. [1]
  • Preys on amphipods, crabs, brittlestars and worms. [1]

The Fishery


The black perch is a popular fish for recreational anglers, and is available year-round!.

Black perch with parasite caught by angler
K-Bo Smack/SD Fish

Seasonal availability 

  • Available for recreational fishing year-round! [2]
  • The commercial surfperch fishery has a seasonal closure from May 1 through July 31. [4]

Regulatory and managing authority 

  • As established by the Marine Life Management Act, the California Fish and Game Commission regulates the fishery, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife manages this fishery. [14j]

Gear type

  • Typicaly caught by hook-and-line anglers along beaches, bays, and piers. [3,4]
  • Other commercial methods involve A-frame dip nets, beach seines. Perch are caught incidentally with round haul nets and trawl gear. [4]
  • Tips on when and how to fish for all surfperch fish are available at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. [3]

Status of the fishery 

  • As of 2011, annual commercial landings have been decreasing, but recreational landings have remained relatively stable. Commercial declines are likely in part due to changes in demand and regulations that prohibit overfishing. [4]
  • Currently no formal stock assessments of black perch exist. [4]

Potential ecosystem impacts

  • There are few impacts associated with this fishery, as most black perch is caught by the hook-and-line method, which minimizes bycatch and habitat destruction. [4,5]
  • Impact can be minimized by using hooks that allow for easy release of fish or animals unintentionally caught. [5]

The Seafood


The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment recommends eating 1-2 servings of Black perch per week!
Pan fried ocean perch with lemon, spicy aioli sauce, and feta-basil tomatoes



Edible portions 

  • Perch is typically eaten whole, but it is recommended to remove the skin before eating. [7,8]

Description of meat 

  • Black perch, like other surfperch, has a mild-tasting, soft meat that turns white when cooked. It does not have a high oil content. [9]

Culinary uses

  • This fish can be fried, steamed, grilled, or pan-fried. [8,9]
  • For a recipe for surf perch and pineapple salsa, visit Bush Cooking[10]
  • For a Greek-style baked perch recipe, visit [15]

Nutritional information 

  • Nutritional information based on 100g of cooked perch can be found on the table. [6]

Toxicity report 

  • Generally considered safe to eat, but it is monitored by the OEHHA for mercury and PCB's, which are contaminants that are toxic to humans. [7] 
  • Serving recommendations may vary regionally, so it is best to check local regional advisories for information before eating. [7]

Seasonal availability 

  • It is available year-round. [2,3,4]


[1] Aquarium of the Pacific. 2020. Black Perch. Web.…. Accessed 9 July 2020. 

[2] California Department of Fish and Wildlife. 2020. Current California Ocean Recreational Fishing Regulations. Web.…. Accessed 9 July 2020. 

[3] California Department of Fish and Wildlife. 2020. Recreational Surfperch Fishery. Web.…. Accessed 9 July 2020. 

[4] California Department of Fish and Wildlife. 2013. Status of the Fisheries Report: an update through 2011. Web. Accessed 9 July 2020. 

[5] Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch. 2020. Fishing and Farming Methods. Web. Accessed 9 July 2020. 

[6] Self Nutrition Data. n.d. Fish, perch, mixed species, cooked, dry heat. Web.…. Accessed 20 July 2020.

[7] California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment. n.d. Fish: Guidelines for eating fish and shellfish. Web. Accessed 8 January 2021. 

[8] Shaw, H. 2019. Cooking with Pacific Surfperch. The Spruce Eats. Web. Accessed 21 July 2020.

[9] Jones, K. 2018. Recipes for Perch — Seaperch (Rubberlip, Black, White, Pile, Striped, Rainbow) and smaller surfperch (Walleye and Silver). Pierfishing. Web.…. Accessed 21 July 2020. 

[10] Escobedo, P. Bush Cooking. n.d. Surf Perch and Pineapple Salsa. Web. Accessed 8 January 2021.  

[11] K-Bo Smack. 2018. Photo of black perch on ground. SD Fish. Digital image. Accessed 22 July 2020.

[12] Schwarz, C. 2018. Photo of black perch. iNaturalist. Digital image. Accessed 22 July 2020. 

[13] Reddit. 2019. Photo of pan fried ocean perch, feta-basil tomatoes and a spicy aioli sauce. Digital image. Web.…. Accessed 22 July 2020.

[14] Marine Life Management Act. n.d. California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Web. Accessed 24 August 2020.

[15] Food. 2007. Greek Baked Ocean Perch. Web. Accessed 8 January 2021