California Corbina

Species: Menticirrhus undulatus; from the Latin words menticirrhus (chin barbel) and undulatus (waved, referring to the wavy lines on it's sides).

Alternate Names: Whiting or surf fish.

Identification: California corbina have a long, slender, cylindrical-shaped body with a barbel on the tip of the lower jaw. Their coloring is a dark metallic blue or gray on the back fading to lighter sides, with wavy diagonal lines, and a whitish belly.

Size: Up to 28 inches and 7 pounds, 4 ounces (although an unverified 8 1/2 pound fish was reported); most caught off piers are 16-24 inches in length.

Range: From the Gulf of California and Magdalena Bay, Baja California, to Point Conception.

Habitat: Prefers shallow-water, oceanfront surf.

Piers: Common at sandy beach piers in southern California with best fishing occuring during the summer months, July to September. Best bets: Crystal Pier, Oceanside Pier, San Clemente Pier, Belmont Shores Pier, Hermosa Beach Pier, Manhatten Beach Pier, Malibu Pier, and Goleta Pier.

Bait and Tackle: Corbina dine almost exclusively on sand crabs so this is by far the best bait -- especially soft-shelled sand crabs. Many, however, are also caught on bloodworms, clams, fresh mussels, and even small pieces of shrimp. Light to medium tackle is best with a high/low leader and size 6 or 4 hooks. The bait and hook should be totally covered by the bait, and the bait should be slowly reeled in, a foot or so at a time. Corbina like to eat in very shallow water (at times the back will nearly be out of the water), so fish as close to shore as possible. (This is one fish in which pier fishermen are at a disadvantage, because of the angle and wave action it is sometimes hard to hold a spot without using too large a sinker). Corbina are another croaker which often bites far better at night.

Food Value: A very good, mild-flavored fish suited to almost any type of cooking. Unfortunately, due to its bottom eating nature, it may ingest toxic creatures like worms and thus develop low levels of toxicity itself. In some areas, people are warned to restrict their intake of food from corbina. Such is life in the southern California of the 1990s.

Comments: Many fishermen consider corbina the number one surf fish in Southern California because they reach a good size, are good eating, and they're one of the hardest fish to catch without the proper know-how. Corbina have been llegal to take by net since 1909 and illegal to buy or sell since 1915.