Bat Ray

Species: Myliobatis californica; from the Greekwords myl (a tooth or molar), io (an arrow or poison), batis(a skate or ray) and the Latin word Californica (referring to location).

Alternate Names: Stingray, stingaree, sea ray, eagleray, batfish, big black, sea bird, flapper, mud marlin, and monkey face ray.

Identification: Bat rays have a very heavy raised headand a dorsal fin at the base of a long whiplike tail with a stinger just behind it.Their coloring is blackish or blackish brown above and white below. Beware ofthe stinger.

Size: To six feet across and over 200 pounds; a 240pound bat ray was taken from Newport Bay in 1957. Most bat rays caught off piersare under 50 pounds, but many in excess of a hundred pounds are caught every year.(I've seen pictures of a 176-pound bat ray from the Newport Pier and a 175-poundbat ray from the Aliso Beach Pier.)

Range: From the Gulf of California to Oregon.

Habitat: Prefers a flat, rocky bottom or sand amongrocks. Most commonly caught in bays and the deeper water areas around piers.

Piers: Bat rays are caught at almost all piers in California,both oceanfront and those in bays. Best bets: Shelter Island Pier, San Clemente Pier,Balboa Pier, Newport Pier, Redondo Beach Pier, Hermosa Beach Pier, Strearns Wharf-- Santa Barbara, Cayucos Pier, Santa Cruz Wharf, Berkeley Pier, Candlestick PointPier, San Mateo Pier, Elephant Rock Pier, Angel Island Pier, Tides Wharf -- BodegaBay, Eureka Municipal Wharf and Del Norte Street Pier.

Bait and Tackle: Bat rays have a history of being destructive.Protection had to be devised to keep bat ray out of oyster beds. In areas like TomalesBay where oysters are still raised, they are still considered a pest. Oysters, clams,crabs, and shrimp are their main food, but bat rays will take almost any bait. However,live bait such as anchovies, ghost shrimp, mud shrimp and grass shrimp work best.Frozen squid also works well and is probably the least expensive and easiest baitto use. Central California anglers like to fish at night with a whole cut fish (smallcroakers or mackerel). Because of the potential large size, anglers wishing to fishspecifically for bat ray should use heavy tackle and have available a gaff or netto bring the fish onto the pier.

Food Value: Excellent.

Comments: Many anglers concentrate on bat ray becauseof their large size and good fighting ability, hence their nickname of mud marlin.Not only do the bat rays put up a strong fight but they are delicious to eat oncethe fight is over. Of interest are the bat ray pools found at several aquariums (includingthe Monterey Aquarium and the Chula Vista Nature Center). The bat rays can be pettedand in fact are rather pet-like, some even seem to like to have their backs stroked.Yes, their stingers have been removed. They are cut off about once a month beforethe stingers reach a length long enough to hurt anyone. The bat rays evidently sufferno harm from this minor surgery. However, bat rays in the wild still have their spinesand can do a lot of damage, so be very careful if you catch one. For some reasonStearns Wharf in Santa Barbara sees a lot of small, immature bat rays and there theyare usually called monkey face rays.