Emerald Sea Photography
The kelp greenling (Hexagrammidae decagrammus) is a near relative of the lingcod. It is also one of the most colorful and shy fishes encountered by divers in rocky near shore habitats. The male and females look so different that they are often thought to be separate species. The body color is variable in both sexes, but commonly brown in the males and golden in the females. Males have large irregular purple patches, while females are uniformly covered with smaller dark spots They can be found at depths up to 500 ft deep but are more common at depths of 150 ft or less.
Populations range along the eastern Pacific coast from La Jolla, California to the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. Kelp greenlings are not known to migrate; on the contrary, adults are often territorial, particularly during spawning season. Kelp greenlings grow to a maximum age of 8 years for males and 13 years for females. The largest recorded size was 21 in, although 17 inches is more common.
The spawning season for kelp greenling occurs from September through December. Females spawn their eggs on rocks. Their egg nests have been observed at depths of 16 to 56 feet. An individual male kelp greenling may guard up to 11 egg masses simultaneously, although the average number is four.
Hatching occurs from December through February with larvae that remain as planktonic organisms until they reach a size of over 2 inches in length. Kelp greenling consume a variety of prey, including crabs, shrimp, snails, chiton, abalones, octopi, fish, fish eggs, and algae. The primary predators of adult greenling are lingcod and harbor seal.