Scorpaenichthys marmoratus

South Coast (Point Dume to Mexico border) Flakey fish Wild caught

Vicky Okimura, WDFW


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

Ken Jones,

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.