Kelp bass, Paralabrax clathratus

About this species

A kelp bass among the kelp (Photo © Douglas Klug)

Young kelp bass prefer to stick close to kelp forests, where they are less vulnerable to being preyed on.

Serranidae, a large family of carnivorous fish

Washington to southern Baja California, but most commonly found off the coast of California


The kelp bass are medium-sized fish with an elongate body and down-turned mouth (that looks like it is frowning!). The top of the fish is brown to olive green with white spots, yellowish fins, and a white underside.

Habitat & Behavior

Kelp bass occur in or near kelp beds and prefer shallow water from 2 to 20 meters. They are carnivores; young kelp bass eat small, shrimp-like crustaceans, while adults tend to hunt anchovies and other small fishes. They will also feed on plankton when it is abundant.

About this map

The bright yellow areas in this map show reef habitat that is more suitable for kelp bass, while dark blue areas are less suitable. Researchers modeled suitability across all currently known reefs in the Southern California Bight (the dashed gray line shows the extent of the modeled area). The model has a spatial resolution of 200 meters and includes areas shallower than or equal to 45 meters deep.

Kelp bass (Photo © Jonathan Williams)

Data source: Species distribution model derived from Zellmer et al. 2019 in Frontiers in Marine Science, 6. [link]

Acknowledgements: We would like to thank Amanda J. Zellmer for generously sharing this coastal marine biodiversity data.

References: Animal Diversity. “Paralabrax clathratus.” [link]