Opaleye (Girella nigricans)

A member of the nibblers in the Kyphosidae family of sea chub, the opaleye is a tough species to catch and a determined fighter on rod and reel.


The body of the opaleye is oval and compressed, the snout is thick and has an evenly rounded profile, and the mouth is small. Its coloring is dark olive green, and most individuals have one or two white spots on each side of the back under the middle of the dorsal fin. Brightblue eyes and a heavy perchlike body distinguish it from related species.


They are reported to attain a maximum length of 25.5 inches and weight of 13.5 pounds.

Life history/Behavior

Opaleye form dense schools in shallow water when spawning, which occurs from April through June. Eggs and larvae are free floating and may be found miles from shore. Juveniles form schools of up to two dozen individuals. At about 1 inch in length, they enter tide pools, gradually moving deeper as they grow. Opaleye mature and spawn when they are roughly 8 or 9 inches long and between 2 and 3 years old.

Food and feeding habits

Opaleye primarily eat marine algae, with or without encrustations of organisms. Other food sources include feather boa kelp, giant kelp, sea lettuce, coralline algae, small tube-dwelling worms, and red crabs.

Other Names

green perch, black perch, blue-eyed perch, bluefish, Jack Benny, button-back; Japanese: mejina; Spanish: chopa verde.


Opaleye occur from San Francisco, California, to Cabo San Lucas, Baja California.


This species inhabits rocky shorelines and kelp beds. Concentrations of adults are found off California in 65 or so feet of water.