California Sheephead


The California ‍Sheephead, scientifically‌ known as ⁤Semicossyphus pulcher, is a unique species ​that⁤ belongs to⁢ the ‍Labridae family. This distinctive fish is⁤ known⁢ for its vibrant color and⁢ interesting sexual dimorphism, where males and females show distinct differences in their physical appearance.⁢

Conservation Status

As per the ⁢International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the California Sheephead is currently classified as Vulnerable. Efforts are​ ongoing to maintain and improve the‍ population numbers through regulation of fishing. Special management areas have also been designed⁣ to protect these‌ unique‌ species.


Average Length 35-91 cm (male), 30-61 cm (female)
Weight Range 14⁣ kg (max)
Average Lifespan Up to 53‌ years
Sexual Maturity Between 4-6‍ years


California Sheephead are⁢ generally found ⁤in the Eastern Pacific, from Monterey, California, ‌USA ​to the Gulf of California, Mexico. They are non-migratory species and usually ‍stay within‍ their home ranges.


California Sheephead prefer rocky reefs and kelp forests. They are found at depth range of 3 – 61 meters. They thrive in a⁢ temperature range of 59 – 72 °F (15 – 22 ​°C) .

When and⁣ Where ​to ⁢See

They are most active during the ​day whereas at‍ night‌ they‍ go into crevices. ⁤They can be observed throughout the year but ⁤are most commonly seen during the spawning season⁣ which⁣ is ‍in the late summer and early fall.

Best Fishing‌ Locations

  1. Point Loma, California
  2. Santa ‌Catalina⁤ Island, California
  3. San Miguel​ Island, ​California
  4. Channel Islands, ⁢California
  5. La Jolla,⁣ San Diego, ⁣California

How to Catch

Squid is one of the preferred baits for catching California Sheephead, and they can also​ be ⁣tempted with shrimp or crabs. Bottom fishing is the preferred method as ⁣they spend most of their time near the sea bed. The best time to fish is during the day.

Identification Guide

California Sheephead are ⁣identified by their elongated bodies ‍with ‌black head and tail, and a red midsection. Males have‌ a protruding forehead while​ females do‌ not.


California Sheephead is a ​great ⁤source of protein and is ‌low in fat. ⁢Their ⁢firm, white flesh has a mild, sweet flavor with a non-fishy smell. They‍ can be prepared in ‌a variety of ways ‍- boiled, baked, fried, or grilled.

Additional‌ Information

California Sheephead are omnivorous and​ their⁤ diet ⁣includes ‌sea urchins, crabs, and ‍various small invertebrates. Major predators include sea lions,‍ harbor seals, and large fish. The‌ California⁤ Sheephead has a unique sexual transformation characteristic where most‌ individuals are ⁢born female⁢ and transform into males at around ‌13-14⁤ years.

References and Further Reading