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What you'll see while snorkeling at Catalina Island

Snorkeling on Catalina is one of the best ways to experience some of the curious creatures under the surface of the water. Snorkeling is a favorite pastime of locals and visitors to the island alike, and it provides a wonderful and effective way to experience life underwater. You'll encounter many intriguing undersea animals, here are some of the things you can see while snorkeling around Catalina Island.

Senorita wrasse

Senorita wrasse are a fish you might see while snorkeling on Catalina

The senorita wrasse is one of the cleaner fish that you can find happily swimming around kelp forests and the sandy bottom of the sea floor. The senorita wrasse is around 6 to 12 inches long and a bright yellow color with a black spot near the back of their bodies.

Giant Sea Bass

Giant sea bass are sometimes spotted while snorkeling around Catalina Island

The giant sea bass, officially known as wreck fish, is one of the more rare things to see while snorkeling at Catalina, but it's hard to forget once you see one. These massive fish can be found perusing through the kelp forests around the island, mostly near wrecks or places with good cover. Coming in at around 5 to 7 feet, giant sea bass certainly earn their nickname.

Calico Bass

Calico bass, also known as kelp bass, are a more common sight around the island, but their excellent camouflage can make them easy to miss. Calico bass can be found in kelp forests and the rocky sea floor and range from 10 to 14 inches long. While in most areas calico bass are timid, around Avalon they will fearlessly come right up to swimmers in hopes of frozen peas or corn.


Similar to the Calico Bass, opaleye are also very common in the kelp forests of the island, known for the white spot on their back and their bright blue eyes. Opaleye can be from 12 to 25 inches long, and will also come right up to swimmers in hopes of food.

Giant Kelpfish

Giant kelpfish are mostly a red-orange color with some white, or speckles. Kelpfish are most commonly 9 to 14 inches long, but can grow to be up to 18 inches. In its juvenile phase the giant kelpfish will appear as a yellow color, and can be found in kelp forests around the island.


The bright orange garibaldi is one of the most iconic fish on the island, and its bright orange coloring makes them impossible to miss. You’ll first see garibaldi the second you step off the boat, but you can most commonly find it near kelp forests. Garibaldi, despite their size, are one of the feistier fish you’ll find in the waters of Catalina. Garibaldi are usually around 8 to 12 inches, but can be up to 14.

Halfmoon perch

The halfmoon perch is a silvery blue fish that grows to be a little over a foot in length. Half moons can be found at around mid depth scavenging for any food they can fit in their mouths. If you have any sort of fish food with you expect the Halfmoon Perch to be one the first fish to show up, they show no fear of anything offering food to them.

Those are only some of the experiences you can have while snorkeling on Catalina. The island’s diverse ecosystems can give you some of the most memorable interactions with the creatures beneath the waves and snorkeling provides an adventure for nearly all ages to experience the majesty of the ocean. Ready to go snorkeling? Click here to book your adventure.

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Sofie Grønborg Lund Hansen
Sofie Grønborg Lund Hansen
31. Aug. 2022

the last one looks to be a black surf perch

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