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2018 AOTY/DOTY Entry

Topic: Artificial key for California saltwater gamefish?  (Read 1223 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.


  • Guest
Back when they were just inventing dirt, and I was hoping to become a marine biologist, we had to create what were called "artificial keys" to identify species of fish in as few steps as possible. Does something like this exist for California saltwater gamefish?



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I'm not sure what you mean by artificial keys.  There are keys, Miller and Lea's Coastal Marine Fishes of California has a decent dichotomous key but you need to know scientific names for fish parts.  Of course, this key includes a lot of non-game species.

Here is the full refernce..
        Miller, D.J. and R.N. Lea. 1972. Guide to the coastal marine
        fishes of California. California Department of Fish and Game.
        Fish Bulletin 157. 249pp.

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  • Guest
Artificial meant whatever was the fastest way get through the tree of choices to identify the fish whether it was color, size, weight, texture, shape, unique part of the fish, or anything else that worked. Often the branches were based on something other than scientific nomenclature. It was whatever got to identification with the fewest steps, often with more than two choices or branches per step.

The primary technique was keen and original observation of the fish coupled with the analytic ability to see and diagram the shortest logic path that sorted out the fish to get the job done. Use of the specialized language of icthyology, anatomy, etc. was usually a poor approach. Counting rays or spines or figuring ratios of lengths, etc. were tactics of very last resort.

My teachers asked us to imagine we knew nothing of the scientific and presented us with a pile of fish (usually a collection in jars) to sort out. Our test was to show the easiest way to get to a correct identification. I used to imagine my mom running the identification tree to keep the right mind set.


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Sounds like a fun project.  I'll look around to see if there is anything out there already like that.   If not maybe as a group we can work on one.

We should start by listing all the species we want to include in the key.  Then we should list as many easy distinguishing characteristics as well as general shape, color, etc...  Apply some puzzle solving logic and make a nice key and add some of our own fish pictures.  Once that's done we'll get Joel/Mooch to make us laminated copies.

How's that sound?


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Mooch has a great start on the pictures.

We can include the little knobs on the top of the heads of coppers....and that coppers have scales and cabezon don't...... :smt001

Let's see........cabezon and Lings may have blue/green mouths.....cabbies will poop on you............ :smt005

Cabs have "antennae"
Saltwater is the cure for everything that ails us,
sweat, tear or the sea.


  • Guest
Now you're talking! Hope we can generate enthusiasm with a few more folks and get this thing rolling.

I think the right idea is first to put together a list of the fish, second to experiment with different ways to distinguish the fish (aided by collecting good photographs), and third to try to find the most efficient way to put the logic tree together. I will help where I can.

Good fun and useful too, epecially for saltwater fishing newbies like me.


  • Guest
So you got you:r flat fish, sharks, rays, bass-like fish, perch, lingcod, etc.  What game fish would you put on the list?