Last fall, Karen Crow (second from right) contacted Luis Rocha (right), Giacomo Bernardi (middle), me, and Mike Westphal (left) about joining her ichthyology class for some trawls in Monterey Bay aboard the R/V Point Sur.


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


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.


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!

Pink surfperch

The pink, Zalembius rosaceus, is a nice looking surfperch.

Spotfin surfperch
Spotfin surfperch

The spotfin has 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.

Shiner surfperch
Shiner surfperch

I can’t resist showing off our third surfperch, the shiner, Cymatogaster aggregata.

Lab, Point Sur

Here’s Mike in the lab, trying to photograph the anal fin of a male pink while, in the background, Giacomo and Luis identify fish and record a few 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.

Aboard the Point Sur
Aboard the 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.


The 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.


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.

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