heading out of thee harbor, orly morning sunshine

Surfperch Summit

Last fall, Karen Crow contacted Luis RochaGiacomo Bernardi , Mike Westphal, and me about joining her ichthyology class for some trawls in Monterey Bay aboard the R/V Point Sur.

Group shot
Left to right, Mike Westphal, Steve Morey (me), Giacomo Bernardi, Karen Crow, and Luis Rocha aboard the R/V Point Sur | October 26, 2012

Mike, Karen, Giacomo, and I think about surfperch all the time, but this was our first summit.

heading out of thee harbor, orly morning sunshine
R/V Point Sur | Moss Landing

I was excited when we headed out early on October 26. Karen had told us we had a good chance of turning up some pink surfperch, a species I’d never encountered.

Out in Monterey Bay
R/V Point Sur crew readies the otter trawl

Bring on the pinks! Here, the crew readies for our first trawl; an otter trawl. This net has a lead line that bounces along the bottom, while water pressure on the wooden doors (photo center and lower right) hold the mouth open. We did two otter trawls, one at 50 m and one at 100 m. We caught three species of surfperch on our first set!

Close up, hand held
Pink surfperch Zalembius rosaceus

The pink is a nice looking surfperch.

Close up, hand held
Spotfin surfperch, Hyperprosopon anale

Spotfins have a black blotch on the dorsal fin and one on the anal fin. The scientific name, Hyperprosopon anale, refers to the spot on the anal fin. At least that’s what Milt Love says in his great book, Probably More Than You Want  to Know About the Fishes of the Pacific Coast. The spotfin was also a first for me.

Close up, hand held
Shiner surfperch, Cymatogaster aggregata

I can’t resist showing off a shiner, our third surfperch.

Mike Westphal attempting to photograph the anal fin of a male pink | lab, R/V Point Sur

While Mike braces against the roll, Giacomo and Luis (background) identify fish and record notes. Check out some of the neat stuff going on in the Bernardi Lab, at Long Marine Laboratory, University of California, Santa Cruz. The Point Sur, based at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories is a great modern research vessel. It departed for an Antarctic expedition about a month after Surfperch Summit, and began its return voyage on February 24, just a couple a couple weeks ago.

Hanging out during down time
Karen Crow (left), me (middle), Giacomo Bernardi (right) | R/V Point Sur

Karen, me and Giacomo talk strategy while Karen’s ichthyology students count and identify fish. Karen’s lab at San Francisco State University, San Francisco is a lively place. If you are interested, you should check it out; they’re doing a bunch of great research on marine fishes.

Out in Monterey Bay
Time for a tucker trawl | R/V Point Sur

The R/V Point Sur crew prepares to set a tucker trawl. The tucker net is used to sample deep sea animals in mid water. We fished approximately 400 m deep over the 1000 m contour. We caught serveral amazing deepwater fishes and invertebrates. Prior to setting the tucker net, Karen gave us an exercise. She had us each decorate a styrofoam cup. We put the cups in a mesh bag and attached it to the tucker set.

I decorated my cup with my initials and a redtail surfperch

Four hundred meters is a lot of pressure on a styrofoam cup. This is mine, still showing the effects five months later, next to an off the shelf model.

I thank Karen for inviting me on an inspiring field trip. I hadn’t been on a marine trawl since I took ichthyology from Mike Horn many years ago – we had some great field trips aboard the R/V Nautilus.

Note: I updated the photos and lightly edited the text on October 22, 2017.


  1. Great post Steve! Also a great trip, and a great beginning to our shared surfperch research journey.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s