Hybrid Saltwater Bass?
Two of the most popular saltwater gamefish in Southern California are barred sand bass and kelp (aka calico) bass. Each has distinctive colors and markings. Yet recently, Brandon Cotton, marketing and promotions manager for Okuma Fishing Tackle, caught a bass that had the characteristics of both. As you can see in the picture, its head resembles that of a calico, but there are bars on the mid-section like a sand bass. However, these meld into a pattern near the tail similar to a calico’s checkerboard markings.
To get an expert’s opinion, we sent the picture to Milton Love, Ph.D, professor of marine biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He wrote: “Cool fish. I have never heard of that hybrid, but that does not mean they do not exist. I think spotties [spotted sand bass] are more closely related to [barred] sand bass than are calicos, so you might expect a sandy-spotty hybrid to occur more often. However, I don’t think that a hybrid has been reported of either. However, I expect no one has looked very carefully.”
Only DNA testing could confirm if the catch was a sandy-calico hybrid, but this will prove impossible, as Cotton released the fish. However, if you’re fishing the Long Beach Breakwater, be on the lookout for a rare hybrid bass — one that I call a “sandico.”