|Yep, a croaker, not a bass.
From Pier Fishing in California, 3rd Ed. —
Species: Atractoscion nobilis (Ayres, 1860) from the Greek words atrax (spindle) and skion (from sciaena, an old name for a European croaker) and the Latin word nobilis (noble). Called Cynoscion nobilis until the 1990s.
Alternate Names: King croaker, Catalina salmon, bull tomcod, croaker, weakfish, or seatrout (young fish). Called corvina cabaicucho or corvina blanca in Mexico.
Identification: Large, elongated body with a large mouth and small canine teeth in the upper jaw; the lower jaw protrudes slightly beyond the upper jaw. No barbel on lower jaw. Their coloring is blue to gray back, with silvery sides and a dark spot on the inner base of the pectoral fin. Juveniles, up to two feet in length, have three to six broad black vertical bars and dusky yellow fins. They are perhaps most easily separated from other croakers by the presence of a ridge running the length of the belly.
Size: White seabass are the largest of the California croakers. To five feet and over 90 pounds; those caught off piers are usually the young “seatrout” ranging up to 24 inches in length. The California record fish weighed 78 lb 0 oz and was caught in Monterey Bay in 2002. A fish weighing 93 lb 4 oz was speared by a diver near Malibu in 2007.
Range: Bahia Magdalena, southern Baja California, and the Gulf of Califonia to Juneau and the Boca de Quadra, southeastern Alaska. Considered uncommon north of Monterey Bay and rare north of California. White seabass were fairly common in both San Francisco Bay and Tomales Bay until the late 1940s when they seemed to disappear. Recent years have an increasing number of white seabass taken in San Franciso Bay.
Habitat: White seabass migrate along the coast according to their spawning habits. Although some may be caught in southland waters year-round, they tend to move north in the spring and south in the fall, spending the winter months in Baja California. The best fishing is usually June to September. They're most common around offshore islands. Typically schools over rocky bottoms from 10-40 feet feeding on squid and small fish.
Piers: Commonly taken at southland piers, although rarely if ever caught in numbers approaching that of 40-50 years ago. Runs of the smaller sea trout do occasionally occur in late summer and fall, however, these are usually fish that are under the legal size and must be returned to the water. Best bets: Crystal Pier, Oceanside Pier, San Clemente Pier, Seal Beach Pier, Hermosa Beach Pier, Malibu Pier, Paradise Cove Pier and Ventura Pier. The last decade has seen quite a few taken from the Seacliff Pier and Capitola Wharf.
Shoreline: A favorite but infrequent catch by southern California shore anglers.
Boats: One of the most prized species for boaters in southern California.
Bait and Tackle: Unlike other California croakers, white seabass prefer the pelagic habitat rather than inshore areas. They prefer to feed in mid-depth areas rather than on the bottom like most croakers. They’re favored meals appear to be squid, pelagic crabs, and small fish As a result, anglers should seek them from the deepest waters of the pier and be willing to try different depths. In addition, the early morning hours have traditionally been the best time for white seabass. Tackle should be medium to heavy with at least 20-pound test line and size 2 to 2/0 hooks fished near the bottom. The best bait is live bait: anchovies, smelt, queenfish or shinerperch. Next, would be frozen anchovies, sardine or mackerel strip bait, or squid. If specifically seeking these fish, try using a live bait sliding leader and cast out a considerable distance from the pier. At the Hermosa Beach Pier, and other piers where artificial reefs have been constructed, a favorite ploy is to cast out a live jack mackerel as close to the reef as possible.
Food Value: Excellent, mild-flavored meat that can be prepared in many ways.
Comments: Large white seabass are one of southern California's top partyboat gamefish. Unfortunately, the numbers of these fish decreased markedly in the 1970s and 1980s. However, with an increased legal size, a decreased daily limit, and efforts by several groups to pen raise juvenile white seabass, a comeback is being made. It is important that all sportsman, and especially pier fishermen who catch the small illegal “seatrout” adhere to the existing laws. If so, large white seabass may once again be a common catch of pier fishermen.
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