Latin name

Semicossyphus pulcher

Other names

Sheepie, goat, billygoat (large), red fish, humpy, fathead; Spanish: vieja de California.


The body is elongated, strong and compressed. This species is hermaphroditic: it begins life as a female and later becomes a male. Females become sexually mature at about 8 inches in length and between 4 and 5 years of age. Most females turn into males at about 12 inches in length, or at the age of 7-8 years. This sex change is accompanied by a marked change in appearance. Young fish (females) are uniformly pinkish-red in color with white mandibles. As they mature and become males, the head and the posterior third of the body become black, the middle of the body remains red, and the mandibles are white. At all stages of its development, it has unusually large canine-like teeth.


Occurs from Cabo San Lucas, Baja California, Mexico, to Monterey Bay, California. An isolated population exists in the Gulf of California, sometimes occurring north of Point Conception, California.


This species is usually harvested in rocky kelp areas near the shore, at depths of 20 to 100 feet, although it is also found at depths of up to 180 feet.


The largest fish recorded on a rod and reel was 36 inches long and weighed 351⁄2 pounds. The average fish weighed less than 15 pounds. The fish weighing 29 pounds and 32 inches long was 53 years old.

Life history and Behavior

Spawning takes place in early spring and summer.

Food and feeding habits

Typical food items are crabstones, mussels, various-size snails, squid, seaurchins, sand dollars, and sea cucumbers. Large fang-like teeth are used to push food away from rocks. A special plate in the throat shreds the shells into small pieces for easy digestion. Occasionally, large adults have been observed out of the water in the intertidal zone, holding on to the mussels after the tide has receded.


No information

Phylum Chordata
Class Actinopterygii
Squad Labriformes
Family Labridae
Genus Semicossyphus
Species S. pulcher
Conservation status Vulnerable
Habitat Pelagic
Life span, years 20
Maximum body weight, kg 16
Maximum length, cm 91
Sailing speed, m/s No information
Threat to people Edible
Way of eating Predator

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Sheephead, California

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