Species: Anisotremus davidsonii; from the Greek word anisotremus (unequal aperture, in reference to the pores on the chin), and davidsonii (for George Davidson, a 19th Century astronomer at the California Academy of Sciences).
Alternate Names: China croaker, black croaker, blue bass and grunt.
Identification: Heavy bodied. Their coloring is gray above with silver sides and belly. They have 9 to 11 soft rays in the anal fin (perch have at least 13), and the second anal fin is strong and as long as the soft anal rays (anal fin spines of perch are weak and only half as long as the rays). There is usually a dark vertical bar in the pectoral area which, at times, leads to confusion with pileperch.
Size: To 17.4 inches and just over 3 1/2 pounds; most caught off piers are under 12 inches in length.
Range: Gulf of California (Cape San Lucas to San Felipe) and Magdalena Bay, Baja California, to Santa Cruz. Sargo are uncommon north of Point Conception.
Habitat: Primarily found inshore and in bays around rocky areas.
Piers: Common on both oceanfront and bay piers north to Gaviota. Best bets: Shelter Island Pier, Oceanside Harbor Pier, Seal Beach Pier, Belmont Shores Pier, Cabrillo Pier, Redondo Harbor Sportfishing Pier, the Green Pleasure Pier at Avalon and the Santa Monica Pier.
Bait and Tackle: Sargo are bottom feeders which prefers fresh mussels, worms, or shrimp, but they can be caught on almost baits. Use size 8 to 4 hooks and fish on the bottom or a couple of feet above the bottom. The most commonly used rigging is a high/low leader.
Food Value: Good meat, similar in taste and texture to croakers. Best fried, baked or broiled.
Comments: A good sport fish, very similar to the larger croakers. The first sargo you catch may surprise you when you hold it and feel it grunt -- not surprising since it belongs to the grunt family.