Gray Smoothhound Shark

Ken Jones

Staff member
Recently I received a call from a friend who had caught a small shark while fishing in the surf at Del Mar. He wondered if it was a dogfish shark? Looking at the picture it appeared he had caught a gray smoothhound shark, a common inshore shark in SoCal. But it got me thinking how many people confuse the small sharks.

Gray Smoothhound Shark


A small gray smoothhound caught in San Diego Bay.

Species: Mustelus californicus (Gill, 1864); from the Latin words mustela (weasel-colored) and californicus (referring to its geographic distribution).

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 similar to the leopard shark and brown smoothhound shark, but the coloring is a light gray back fading to a lighter belly, with no bars or spots.


A gray smoothhound caught by halibutcatcher.

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

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 (Coronado), Oceanside Pier, Huntington Beach Pier, Belmont Veteran’s Memorial Pier (Long Beach), Santa Monica Pier, Ventura Pier and Goleta Pier.


A gray smoothhound caught by Rich Reano at the Ferry Landing Pier in Coronado.
Rich is the esteemed webmaster for Pier Fishing In California.

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

Boats: Numbers seem low for most boaters although kayakers fishing shallow waters land a few, especially in San Diego Bay and Mission Bay.

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

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.