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Rhacochilus toxotes - Pacific coastal fish

"As perch go, Rubber lips are some of the better ones. You can eat them for sure, they aren't bad." - Alashaman¹

Also known as pile perch, rubberlip seaperch, porgee, sprat, liverlip and buttermouth, they may not be the tastiest of fish (one fisherman said he fed his catch to the dog), but they are fascinating wee fish. I say "wee", but they can grow to eighteen inches and can weigh three pounds, though the average is said to be two. I'm no fisherman, but that seems like a decent meal.

They are found along the Pacific coast from Baja to Mendocino, where they live amongst the kelp beds and tide pools, feeding on small crustaceans (think shrimp), and cephalopods (octopots²). The young take whatever they can, mostly worms and baby octopus. Like all members of the surfperch family, they are viviparous, hence the family name of Embiotocidae (embios meaning "persistent" and tokos meaning "birth"). They have large mouths and thick lips, hence "rubberlip", and they frolic in the surf, or at least surfy places.

Like me, their lower jaw is a little smaller than the upper, but unlike me, they come in a variety of colours, ranging from white to pink, with a coppery shade fading to a tan belly. Okay, I'm white to pink too, and have been known to have a tan.

They are not just taken by recreational anglers, either. There is also commercial fishing around Monterey Bay, where they comprise the major part of the surfperch catch.

If you're interested in them, hie thee to the piers of Monterey with clams, shellfish, sand worms or shrimp bait. Go at night (they are nocturnal), and you'll see other anglers after them, so they can't be all that bad to eat.

¹ Spearboard
² Christine's word for octopi

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