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Barred Sand Bass Enhanced Status Report

Table of Contents

Barred Sand Bass (Paralabrax nebulifer)

Range of Barred Sand Bass

Scientific Name

Paralabrax nebulifer


Barred Sand Bass range from Santa Cruz, California, to southern Baja California, Mexico, but are rare north of Point Conception.


Barred Sand Bass inhabit the ecotone, which is the transitional habitat where sand or mud bottom meets coastal rocky reefs or artificial reefs. They also utilize deep sandy and muddy areas with intermittent patch reef at depths ranging from 10.0 to 30.0 meters (32.8 to 98.4 feet) for spawning aggregations. Juveniles are abundant over shallow sandy bottoms in bays and estuaries at depths of 1.5 to 6.0 meters (4.9 to 19.7 feet).

Adult Barred Sand Bass in kelp forest habitat (Photo Credit: Miranda Haggerty, CDFW).

Size (length and weight)

Barred Sand Bass can measure up to 67.0 centimeters (26.4 inches) total length and 6.0 kilograms (13.0 pounds).

Life span

The oldest recorded Barred Sand Bass is 24-years-old.


Barred Sand Bass release their eggs into the water column where fertilization takes place. Adult fish form large annual breeding aggregations at specific locations within the Southern California Bight (Point Conception to San Diego, including the Channel Islands), predominantly in July and August. Females can spawn multiple times throughout the season.


Adult Barred Sand Bass consume fish, octopus, crabs, polychaete worms and ascidians (sea squirts or tunicates). Juvenile Barred Sand Bass primarily consume gammarid amphipods (scuds), but also eat small fishes, crabs, shrimp, mollusks, snails, clams, octopus, and isopods (small invertebrates with a chitinous exoskeleton and jointed limbs).


Barred Sand Bass are preyed upon by sharks and marine mammals such as Harbor Seals and sea lions.


There is only a recreational fishery for Barred Sand Bass. They were historically fished commercially, but in 1953 commercial fishing for Barred Sand Bass was banned.

Number of CPFV trips in southern California targeting Barred Sand Bass (at least one caught) each year from 1980 to 2017 (MLS database).

Area fished

Popular fishing grounds for Barred Sand Bass in California have historically included spawning aggregation sites, including Silver Strand, Del Mar and San Onofre in San Diego County; Huntington Flats in Orange County; Santa Monica in Los Angeles County; and Ventura Flats in northern Ventura County. Due to the disappearance of local spawning aggregations, many of these specific locations have not been targeted recently.

Fishing season

Barred Sand Bass are fished on coastal reefs year-round, but they are most commonly targeted in July and August when they form large annual spawning aggregations.

Fishing gear

Barred Sand Bass are primarily caught using hook and line, though spears are also used.


There is no market for Barred Sand Bass given the lack of a commercial fishery.

Current stock status

No formal stock assessment exists for Barred Sand Bass, but abundance estimates indicate the population in southern California is severely depressed due to a combination of environmental conditions, poor recruitment and fishing pressure on easily targeted spawning aggregations.


Barred Sand Bass have been managed collectively as part of the saltwater bass complex (Kelp Bass, Barred Sand Bass, and Spotted Sand Bass) since the early 1900s. Due to concerns about the status of both Kelp Bass and Barred Sand Bass, the current bag limit of five fish in aggregate and minimum size limit of 14 inches (35.6 centimeters) was established in 2013. As of 2018 fishery-independent and fishery-dependent data indicate continued declines for Barred Sand Bass, and spawning aggregations have essentially disappeared, suggesting additional management measures may be necessary.

Version: The Barred Sand Bass Enhanced Status Report was updated in print and online in 2019.

Download: Barred Sand Bass Status Report (2019) (pdf)

Contact Us: To contact CDFW regarding Barred Sand Bass, please email fish@wildlife.ca.gov or call (831) 649-2870.

Citation: California Department of Fish and Wildlife. 2019. Barred Sand Bass, Paralabrax nebulifer, Enhanced Status Report.

Contributor(s): Jean Davis and Miranda Haggerty (2019)

Barred Sand Bass Enhanced Status Report (2019)

Table of Contents
  1. The Species
    1. Natural History
      1. Species Description
      2. Range, Distribution, and Movement
      3. Reproduction, Fecundity, and Spawning Season
      4. Natural Mortality
      5. Individual Growth
      6. Size and Age at Maturity
    2. Population Status and Dynamics
      1. Abundance Estimates
      2. Age Structure of the Population
    3. Habitat
    4. Ecosystem Role
      1. Associated Species
      2. Predator-prey Interactions
    5. Effects of Changing Oceanic Conditions
  2. The Fishery
    1. Location of the Fishery
    2. Fishing Effort
      1. Number of Vessels and Participants Over Time
      2. Type, Amount, and Selectivity of Gear
    3. Landings in the Recreational and Commercial Sectors
      1. Recreational
      2. Commercial
    4. Social and Economic Factors Related to the Fishery
  3. Management
    1. Past and Current Management
      1. Overview and Rationale for the Current Management Framework
        1. Criteria to Identify When Fisheries Are Overfished or Subject to Overfishing, and Measures to Rebuild
        2. Past and Current Stakeholder Involvement
      2. Target Species
        1. Limitations on Fishing for Target Species
          1. Catch
          2. Effort
          3. Gear
          4. Time
          5. Sex
          6. Size
          7. Area
          8. Marine Protected Areas
        2. Description of and Rationale for Any Restricted Access Approach
      3. Bycatch
        1. Amount and Type of Bycatch (Including Discards)
        2. Assessment of Sustainability and Measures to Reduce Unacceptable Levels of Bycatch
          Discard Mortality
          Impact on Fisheries that Target Bycatch Species
          Bycatch of Overfished, Threatened, or Endangered Species
          Measures to Reduce Bycatch
      4. Habitat
        1. Description of Threats
        2. Measures to Minimize Any Adverse Effects on Habitat Caused by Fishing
    2. Requirements for Person or Vessel Permits and Reasonable Fees
  4. Monitoring and Essential Fishery Information
    1. Description of Relevant Essential Fishery Information
    2. Past and Ongoing Monitoring of the Fishery
      1. Fishery-dependent Data Collection
      2. Fishery-independent Data Collection
  5. Future Management Needs and Directions
    1. Identification of Information Gaps
    2. Research and Monitoring
      1. Potential Strategies to Fill Information Gaps
      2. Opportunities for Collaborative Fisheries Research
    3. Opportunities for Future Management Changes
    4. Climate Readiness
List of Acronyms

CalCOFI: California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations
CCR: California Code of Regulations
CDFW: California Department of Fish and Wildlife
CPFV: Commercial Passenger Fishing Vessel
CPUE: Catch Per Unit Effort
CRFS: California Recreational Fisheries Survey
DPUE: Discards Per Unit Effort
ENSO: El Niño Southern Oscillation
EFI: Essential Fishery Information
FGC: Fish and Game Code
FMP: Fishery Management Plan
IGFA: International Fish and Game Association
MLMA: Marine Life Management Act
MLS: Marine Logs System
MPA: Marine Protected Area
MRFSS: Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey
MSE: Management Strategy Evaluation
NGO: Non-Government Organization
NPGO: North Pacific Gyre Oscillation
PDO: Pacific Decadal Oscillation
RecFIN: Recreational Fisheries Information Network
SST: Sea Surface Temperature
TL: Total Length

List of Figures

Figure 1-1. Adult Barred Sand Bass in kelp forest habitat.

Figure 1-2. Range map for Barred Sand Bass.

Figure 1-3. Map of Barred Sand Bass tagging locations from historical studies by the Department (1960s and 1990s).  

Figure 1-4. Annual trends in juvenile (<25 cm TL prior to 1991 and <15 cm TL thereafter) and adult (>25 cm TL) Barred Sand Bass abundance at King Harbor, Redondo Beach, Los Angeles County from 1974 to 2016.

Figure 1-5. Age structure of harvested Barred Sand Bass from 1980 to 2017.

Figure 1-6. Annual variability in recruitment of “rock bass” (Barred Sand Bass, Kelp Bass and Spotted Sand Bass) based on quarterly plankton tows by California CalCOFI from 1951 to 2013.

Figure 2-1. Percent change in CPUE by fishing block during peak spawning season (June to August) for Barred Sand Bass between 2000 to 2004 and late 2005 to 2012.

Figure 2-2. Number of CPFV trips in southern California targeting Barred Sand Bass (at least one caught) each year from 1980 to 2017.

Figure 2-3. Proportion of the yearly landings of Barred Sand Bass by month in southern California.

Figure 2-4. Ranking of Barred Sand Bass at landings in southern California from 2004 to 2017.

Figure 2-5. CPUE (black line) and landings (harvested catch) (grey bars) for (A) rock bass (Barred Sand Bass, Kelp Bass and Spotted Sand Bass) retained on CPFV trips from 1947-1980, and (B) Barred Sand Bass retained by CPFVs from 1980 to 2017, and (C) private/rental boats from 2004 to 2017.

Figure 2-6. Annual commercial landings (lb) of sea basses (combined landings of Kelp Bass, Barred Sand Bass, and Spotted Sand Bass) from 1916 to 1953.

Figure 3-1. (A) Annual trends in the proportion of sublegal and legal Barred Sand Bass discarded from CPFVs and annual trends in bycatch of Barred Sand Bass presented as DPUE (black line) and the total number of discards (grey bars) for (B) CPFVs 1995 to 2017, and (C) private/rental boats 2004 to 2017.

List of Tables

Table 1-1. Barred Sand Bass associated and co-occurring species.

Table 2-1. Percent of Barred Sand Bass catch (retained fish) in the recreational fishery by fishing mode from 2004 to 2017.

Table 3-1. Historical record of southern California saltwater bass (Paralabraxspp.) minimum size and bag limit regulations.

Table 3-2. Number caught and percent of trips (frequency of occurrence) for the top ten incidental catch species on CPFV trips where at least one Barred Sand Bass was also caught in 2017.

Table 3-3. Number caught and percent of trips (frequency of occurrence) for species whose take is prohibited.

Table 5-1. Informational needs for Barred Sand Bass and their priority for management. 

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