Calico Bass (Kelp Bass) – Paralabrax clathratus. Common names: Calico bass, kelp bass, cabrilla.

Identifying Characteristics and Biology

  • Fish caught over sandy/rocky areas will sometimes be very light with lots of white and contrasting brown. Fish caught deep in kelp beds will be colored the same color as the kelp, with orange-yellow to golden tints.
  • Calico-style markings on sides in colors of olive, gray and brown.
  • Smaller breeding males sometimes have yellow chins.

Range and Locations

  • Washington state to southern Baja California.
  • Can be found around kelp, rocks, ocean structures.

Market Forms

  • Fresh. Excellent table fare – although this species is commonly a catch-and-release fish by sportfishermen. Illegal to sell this bass commercially.


  • Off Southern California: this is the saltwater version of the largemouth bass, using similar techniques as you would on freshwater largemouth bass.
  • They readily hit jigs, plastic baits, and live bait.
John Shelton, the Fishing Chef, will help you get ‘that’ fish onto ‘your’ plate. John’s motto is ‘release it unharmed or do it justice on the plate.’ Executive Chef, photographer, and surfer, John photographs ocean marine life when he's out fishing, and creates masterpieces in the kitchen with what he keeps on deck. His photo works have been used in OEHHA Fish Advisories, National Geographic presentations, and nonprofit marine life groups. When he's not fishing, he's making great BBQ. Visit him at, and send him a message using the contact form using the link above.