Last modified: August 17, 2023

Fish Rays, Guitarfish & Skates

California Butterfly Ray

Species: Gymnura marmorata (Cooper, 1864); from the Greek word gymnos (bare) and the Latin word marmoratus (marbled).

Alternate Names: stingray, butterfly stingray, eagle ray, diamond ray or butterfly ray. In Mexico it’s called raya mariposa de California. In Denmark it’s apparently called Californisk sommerfuglerokke; not sure why since it isn’t found in that country.

Identification: Butterfly (diamond) shape with the disk almost twice as wide as long. Tail short with a small sting at its base. Brown to gray above with darker and lighter mottling; white below.

Size: Width to 5 feet. Most caught from piers are 2-3 feet wide.

Range: Paita, Peru, and the Gulf of California, to Point Conception.

HabitatCommon in shallow bays and along sandy beaches. Recorded to a depth of 308 feet.

Piers: Most commonly caught at piers in the San Diego area. Best bets: Ferry Landing Pier (Coronado), Embarcadero Marina Park, Imperial Beach Pier, Ocean Beach Pier, Crystal Pier, and Oceanside Pier. (Quite a few show up in the scientific records as being taken from the Scripps Pier in La Jolla. First recorded there in 1945.)

Shoreline: An occasional catch by southern California surf fishermen.

Boats: An inshore species rarely taken from boats.

Bait and Tackle: Light to medium tackle is common; size 4-2/0 hooks with cut bait (anchovies or squid), ghost shrimp, clams and bloodworms all equally productive.

Food Value: Very good if cleaned quickly and kept chilled. The flesh is mild-flavored and the texture is firm. I caught a good-sized butterfly ray one day while fishing at the Ocean Beach Pier, put it on ice before returning north, and it turned out to be delicious when fried up three days later.

Comments: An incidental catch for most anglers; few anglers target them as a species. However, it is apparently a favorite ray for “eating” in Mexican waters with its white flesh considered superior to that of other rays.

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