Last modified: February 18, 2021

Fish Sharks

Gray Smoothhound Shark

Smoothhounds: Family Triakididae

Species: Mustelus californicus from the Latin words mustela (weasel-colored) and californicus referring to its geographic distibution.

Alternate Names: Gray shark, sand shark, mud shark, paloma, or dogfish. Called cazón mamón in Mexico. Early names included dog-shark and oil-shark.

Identification: Very similiar to the leopard shark, but the coloring is a light gray back fading to a lighter belly; with no bars or spots.

Size: To 4.7 feet (although one source gives just over five feet in length, 64.25 inches). Most caught from piers are under four feet in length.

Webmaster Rich Reano and a gray smoothhound from the Ferry Landing Pier in Coronado

Range: From Mazatlán, Mexico, the Gulf of California, and Isla Guadalupe, Baja California, to Cape Mendocino, northern California.

Habitat: Most common south of Point Conception in bays or sandy-beach areas. Crabs, shrimp, fat innkeeper worms and small fish make up the majority of their diet. Found from the surf zone down to 869 feet.

Piers:  Most pier-caught grays are taken from piers south of Long Beach. Best Bets: Imperial Beach Pier, Ocean Beach Pier, Crystal Pier, Ferry Landing Pier, Oceanside Pier, Huntington Beach Pier, Belmont Veteran’s Memorial Pier, Santa Monica Pier, Ventura Pier and Goleta Pier.

Shoreline: A common catch by shore anglers in southern California.

Bait and Tackle: Medium tackle with a size 2 to 4/0 hook. Best baits are live or frozen anchovies, squid, mackerel or clams fished just outside the second set of breakers.

Gray smoothhound from the Crystal Pier in San Diego

Food Value: A mild flavored fish with large flakes, firm texture, and flesh suited to all methods of cooking. It has moderate fat content. It does need to be cleaned properly and kept cool before cooking.

Comments: Late afternoon to early evening hours seem to be the best time to fish for this species.

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