The Science

The primary diet of the Cabezon consists of crustaceans and molluscs.

The Fishery

The fish is not subject to barotrauma like other bottom dwelling fish because they lack a swim bladder.

The Seafood

The internal organs and eggs (roe) of cabezon can be potentially toxic if ingested [5] 

The Science

Joe Cutler/CC BY-NC

Taxonomic description

  •  The name “Cabezon” comes from Spanish meaning large head, the main identifying feature [1]
  • Can grow to 1 m (3 ft)  length and weigh over 11kg (24 lbs); Females are usually larger than males of the same age [1]
  •  Range in color, brown, red, or green with lots of darker mottling to help with camouflage. Females are usually greenish while males are more reddish [1]
  • Smooth skin without scales [1]


  • Eastern Pacific from north Alaska to central Baja California, Mexico [2]

Life history

  • Adults spawn on rocky outcrops in shallow water, males guard the eggs until they hatch [3]
  • The larval young drift out to sea then develop into small, silvery fish [3]
  • After 3 to 4 months as larvae, the 3-5cm long fish settle at intertidal pools then move to reefs and kelp forests [4]


  • Found nearshore from intertidal to 200m (656 ft.) among jetty rocks, kelp forests, and rocky reefs [3]
  • Because of their relation to the California Sculpin species they are thought to be territorial [2]
  • Eats crustaceans and mollusks from the bottom, along with small fishes from the water column [8]
  • Predators include larger fish as well as marine mammals [8]
  • A prized recreational game fish [3]

The Fishery

Cabezon fishery
Steve Lonhart,

Seasonal availability

  • Commercial  fishery is open from May 2017- March 2018 [9]
  • May only be taken if 15 in. (38 cm) in total length
  • Statewide commercial yearly catch may not exceed 127,200 lbs. (58,000 kg.) [9]

Managing authority

  • Pacific Fishery Management Council and NOAA fisheries regulate this species between 3-200 miles off the coast under the Pacific Groundfish Fisheries Management Plan [6]
  • California Department of Fish and Wildlife regulates this species within 3 miles off the coast under the California Nearshore Fishery Management Plan [7]

Gear type

  • Hook and line, pots and traps [3]

Status of the fishery

  • There is little data about this fish relative to other groundfish [3]
  • Not much concern over stocks of current level exploitation because of wide distribution, size limits on catch, and little demand for the fish [3]
  • Most fishing pressure comes from recreational fishing, in particular by Commercial Passenger Fishing Vessels which increased access to nearshore fisheries starting in the late 1930s [3]

Potential ecosystem impacts

  • Living nearshore increases susceptibility to land use disturbances and birds of prey [3]

The Seafood

Cabezon seafood
Paul Walker,

Edible portions

  • Meat (muscle) [1]

Description of meat

  • The flesh is blue colored but when cooked turns white [1]
  • Sweet shellfish flavored meat that can be prepared in almost any manner [1]

Culinary uses

  • Can be fried, sauted or braised [12]

Nutritional information 

  • No nutritional information available, shown is information for Ling Cod, fairly similar as described by those who fish and eat this fish [10]

Toxicity report

  • Internal organs and eggs can be toxic [5]

Seasonal availability

  • Year round availability [2]


1] Jones, K. 2004. Pier Fishing in California. Print. Publishers Design Group, Roseville, CA, USA.

[2] California Department of Fish and Wildlife, 2017. Current California Ocean Recreational Fishing Regulations. Web. Accessed: 1 May 2017.

[3] Cope, J. M. Key,. 2009. Status of Cabezon in California and Oregon Waters as Assessed in 2009. California Department of fish and Came c/o National Marine Fisheries Service. Fishery Resource Analysis and Monitoring Division Northwet Fisheries Science Center. Web. Accessed: 1 May 2017

[4] California Dept. of Fish and Game, 1953. The Life History of the Cabezon, Scorpaenichthys Marmoratus (Ayres). Web. <>. Accessed: 30 May 2017.

[5] O’Connell, CW. 2014. Acute human tpxicity after the ingestion of cabezon, Scorpaenichthys marmoratus, roe. Web. Accessed: 12 July 2017.

[6] NOAA Fisheries, 2017. Federal Pacific Coast Groundfish Regulations. Web.

. Accessed: 12 July 2017.

[7] California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, 2017. Nearshore Fishery Management Plan. Web. Accessed: 12 July 2017

[8] California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, 2013. California Marine Sportfish Identification. Web. Accessed: 12 July 2017

[9] California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, 2017. State Managed Commercial Fisheries: Cabezon, Greenlings, and Sheephead. Web. Accessed: 12 July 2017. 

[10] Cabezon, Web. Accessed: 21 September 2017.