How to Catch an Opaleye

How to Catch an Opaleye

This is a species of sea chub, which is a family called the Kyposidae. The opaleye feed primarily on algae. They will occasionally eat crustaceans, mollusks, and worms. Opaleye is considered a commercially important game fish. In the spear fishing community, they get a bad name, but they can be fun to catch. They are also referred to as a rudderfish. Across the globe, there are over 18 species of the opaleye. They are not an endangered species.

Their body is oval and laterally compressed. The fish has a small thick-lipped mouth with a short snout at the front of their body. The fin of an opaleye is short and rounded to blunt. The tail fin has a straight margin while the dorsal fin is continuous. The adult opaleye is olive-green to grey-green in color with two to six lighter spots in the middle of their upper back. You may also see a white bar between their eyes, which are opalescent blue-green. On the dorsal surface of a juvenile, it is bluish in color with the ventral surface is a silvery color. They can grow to a maximum length of 27 inches.

Some of the other names that they are referred to by include:

  • Blue-eye perch
  • Green perch
  • Blue bass
  • Catalina perch
  • Button bass

Where to Find an Opaleye

You can find the Opaleye in the Eastern Pacific to southern Baja, California. Usually, you will find them in intertidal zones and shallow waters over kelp beds and rocks. The intertidal zone is also known as the seashore that is underwater at high tide and above water level at low tide. You will find Opaleye at depths of 3 to 105 feet. Although there are many species of this fish, only two of them can be found in the waters off Southern California and Mexico.

Opaleye is generally found near rocky areas that are abundant in algae. They will occasionally venture into estuaries. The young opaleye is usually found alongside floating debris near the surface.

To learn more about Pier Fishing for opaleye in California, visit this site.

How to Catch an Opaleye

One thing to remember when you are fishing for opaleye is that they swim in large schools a couple of feet below the surface. Very rarely will you find them dwelling at the bottom or swimming near the surface. You can find opaleye year-round but from season to season, the location will vary. In the cooler times of the year use other baits but in the summer and spring months, use peas as bait. When fishing for opaleye, you can do it from shore or on a pier. Because they are considered an inshore fish, they are rarely caught from a boat.

Best Bait for Opaleye

As mentioned below, a good bait to use to capture opaleye is frozen peas. When using them, make sure that they are not damaged or torn in any way because this is a lightning-fast fish and it will eat the meaty part, leaving you an empty hook with the pea skin still attached. You can also use ghost shrimp, pile or blood worms, moss, mussels, or small crabs. 

Best Lures & Tackle for Opaleye

To catch opaleye at the depth they like to swim, you use long slip line floats. When this tackle goes down as the opaleye bites the bait, you need to strike fast to prevent it from rushing into the kelp without being hooked. Make sure that you are using small hooks. One of the best light lines to use is fluorocarbon. The hooks need to be size 6 or smaller. It is easier to catch the younger ones than the older ones. You can attract them by using chum with peas. The school that you attract will generally have a mixture of sizes of opaleye. When deciding on which hook to use, use a circle hook as they do not hook that deeply and cause damage to the fish, making it easier to remove the fish.

Tips and Tactics

  • Keep some frozen peas in your cooler to use as bait. They need to remain firm so you can put them whole on the hook. The opaleye will have to take the entire pea in its mouth to get it off the hook. When this happens, the hook will penetrate the flesh, allowing you to reel it in.
  • This is a line shy fish so use a light line that they cannot see.
  • To catch more opaleye, use a long leader and casting bobber setup.

How to Cook an Opaleye

Opaleye has tough skin so if you do not want to fillet them, you can just cook it over charcoal. This is how you would do it this way. Before you can grill them you will have to gut the fish and clean out the gills. You have to pay special attention to the blood that is under the air bladder, making sure that you get that out. Make sure that you leave the fins and scales on the fish.

One way to make this a tasty fish is to stuff the cavity of the stomach with two green onion bulbs but you can leave the cavity empty. Once the charcoal burns red, you can put the entire fish on the rack. Cook the fish until the skin starts to shrink and crack or the fins burn off. This means that the fish is done. Take it off the grill and peel the skin off. When you do this, the scales should easily come off. Sprinkle the flesh with your favorite seasonings and enjoy.

Opaleye Reproduction

The males and females leave the eggs and sperm in the water to fertilize. They spawn from April to June. The larvae hatch in the water column. The juveniles will stay in the tide pools until they mature.

Predators of the Opaleye

The primary predators of this fish are larger fish and birds. If at all possible, they will swim to a safer area. The juveniles will live in rocky tide pools for protection and at a certain age; they will swim out to deeper water.

Fun Facts about an Opaleye

  • The opaleye feeds on kelp. They will hold a piece of the plant in their mouth and then twist side to side so they can break a piece off.
  • Juvenile’s feed on the algae in the tide pools.
  • They can breathe air when they are out of the water.


The opaleye is a great fish for beginners and experts alike. They are not a sport fish as they do not put up much of a fight when they are caught. If you are looking for something fun to do with family and friends or just want a peaceful afternoon fishing, this would be the ideal fish to fish for. It is a great fish to catch when you are having a father-son weekend camping and fishing. 

Just put some frozen peas in a cooler, pack up your rod with a light line and small hooks and head out to your favorite place to fish for opaleye. They are a good tasting fish and several of them would make a great meal on the grill when you get home. You can even bake them in the oven or whatever method of cooking you prefer.

Do you love learning about catching different types of fish? Check out How to Catch a Yellowtail Snapper.

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