Pier Fishing in California

Resources :: California Fish

Starry Flounder

Starry Flounder


Platichthys stellatus; from the Greek words platy (flat) and ichthys (fish) and the Latin word stellatus (starry).

Alternate Names

Rough-jacket, great flounder, grindstone, emery flounder, leatherjacket, sand paper flounder, and flounder.


Most easily distinguished by the alternating orange and black stripes on the fins. In addition, there are patches of very rough scales throughout the pigmented side of the body. Considered a member of the right-eye flounder family but sixty percent have eyes on the left side.


To 36 inches and 20 pounds; most caught off piers are under 18 inches .


Reported from Santa Barbara to the Bering Sea, Alaska, and along the Arctic coast to the Coronation Gulf, Northwest Territories; from the Bering Strait to Korea and southern Japan. Uncommon south of Pismo Beach.


Most common in shallow-water areas, primarily those with sand, mud and eelgrass.


Common in central and northern California. Best bets: Cayucos Pier, San Simeon Pier, Capitola Wharf, Santa Cruz Wharf, Piller Point Pier, Berkeley Pier, Point Pinole Pier, Dowrellio’s Pier, Martinez Pier, McNear Beach Pier, Paradise Beach Pier, Adorni Pier, and the B Street Pier in Crescent City.

Bait and Tackle

Heavily fished in the San Francisco Bay Area where the most common rigging is a sliding live bait leader with a live grass shrimp or ghost shrimp. Many are also taken on high/low leaders baited with grass shrimp, ghost shrimp, cut anchovy, squid or even pieces of shrimp. Medium-size tackle with number 4 or 2 hooks is adequate. These fish are especially prevalent around the mouths of streams and rivers in the winter and early spring (December to March).

Food Value

Excellent although this is another fish which may be unsafe to eat in areas with heavy pollution. Best fried or baked.


Young starries apparently subsist mainly on a diet of shrimp and worms. As they mature they develop more of an Epicurean craving for such items as crabs, clams, brittle stars, sand dollars and other fish. I imagine anyone baiting up their hook with a brittle star or a sand dollar (and I’m not sure how you would do it) would get a really strange look from other anglers. Could da’ books be wrong? Most authoritarian guides list the range of this fish as south only to Santa Barbara. However, in 1962, I caught a fish off of Newport Pier which seemed to match, in every respect, the characteristics of starry flounder: its coloring was the same, it had rough scales, etc. Several source books conflicted on the southern range of this fish, but one old text did include a listing for a southern starry flounder that showed a more southern range. This satisfied both myself and my biology teacher as to the fish’s identity. No current books list this fish as extending that far south, but I’ll continue to believe that I caught a starry flounder at the Newport Pier