Recipes for Rays — Stingrays & Bat Ray

Ken Jones

Staff member
Most pier fishermen in California will sooner or later catch a ray (and I don't mean a ray of sunshine). Round stingrays, diamond stingrays and butterfly stingrays are common in Southern California while thornback rays are seen in both SoCal and CenCal. Bat rays are common from San Diego to Eureka, caught all the way into Oregon, and are the subject of the most attention. For years they were hunted and killed (and often were a main goal during shark and ray derbies designed to get rid of trash fish). Most of the bat rays were simply discarded in the trash heap after the derby. However, many anglers also begrudgenly acknowledged their great fighting ability and over time they gained a second name — mud marlin. Some people even ate them. Today most "Pier Fishing In California" members no longer eat bat rays, we prefer to catch and release them. Why? One of our most distinguished members, Pierhead (Boyd Grant), said he decided on C&R after watching the "Betti Davis" eyes of a bat ray watch him one day. And, of course, many have seen bat rays (or related eagle rays) in "petting ponds" at zoos and aquariums. They're different. They are great fighters and though they contain edible meat they are somewhat difficult to clean. For nearly a dozen years we held "Mud Marlin Derbies" on the Berkeley Pier. All of the fish were brought up by net, weighed, and released back down into the water by net unharmed . I think many if not most of the anglers gained a new appreciation for the species. However, some anglers do keep them and the worst thing to see is a bat ray left to rot on a pier or shoreline area. If you keep one then please eat it — its death will have at least served a purpose — and that's why I post the following.

Posted by Ken Jones

From Pier Fishing In California, 2nd. Ed. For many years my father was just like many of the pier regulars I talk about in this book. However, he didn't fish the piers. He fished around Mission Bay in San Diego. Dad would pump some live ghost shrimp, or pry loose a few mussels, and then find a secluded cove or sandy outcropping. He'd set up rod holders, cast out two long poles, and then sit back to enjoy that smoke which he knew was bad for him but which he wasn't allowed to sneak at home. He became a regular and he learned how to catch fish, a lot of fish, a lot of big fish. Although he caught many large fish (including guitarfish nearly five feet in length), the heaviest were the big old bat rays. Luckily for the bat rays, their flesh has a crab-like consistency; dad preferred the guitarfish and their solid meat. Most bat rays were released but a few were kept which he would usually make into chowder. Here's his recipe.

Bat Ray Chowder a' La Jones


• 3 to 4 pounds of bat ray cut into scallop-like cubes
• 2 cans of clam juice (approximately 10 ounces each)
• 4 pieces of bacon, cut into small pieces
• 1 onion, diced
• 2 large stalks of celery, skinned and cubed
• 4 medium-sized potatoes, cubed
• 1 quart milk
• 1 tablespoon salt
• 1/4 tablespoon pepper
• 3 tablespoons butter


• Fry the bacon in a small skillet over a low heat until brown, about five minutes.
• Add the diced onion and cook until they are soft, about three to five minutes.
• Pour the oil (bacon grease) from the skillet into a larger pan while reserving the bacon and onion.
• Add the clam juice to the larger pan and bring to a boil. Add the cubed potatoes and celery and cook until tender.
• Add the bat ray, cover and simmer for about 10 more minutes.
• Add the bacon and onion, milk, butter, and the salt and pepper. Keep it hot (but do not let it boil). Serve.

Stingrays/Bat Rays — To Eat Or Not To Eat — And A Ribald Tale (Tail)

Once there was a long and extended discussion on the PFIC Message Board on the merits of eating stingrays. Eventually the discussion included everything from the taste of rays to toxins in locally caught fish, and opinions ranged from a solid yes to a pretty solid no (one person suggested cooking the ray on a hickory plank and then eating the plank instead of the stingray — an old joke). The highlight of the discussion was, at least in my opinion, the somewhat risqué story by Tall Tale Squidley Diddley. Cooking tips and entertainment: all at the same time!

Date: March 27, 2000
To: Pier Fishing in California Message Board
From: Joe Pinedo
Subject: Can You Eat Stingrays?

Does anyone know if you can eat stingrays?

Posted by JB in NV

My Brother and I used to catch a lot of large stingrays/bat rays in Newport Harbor years ago. This is how we cooked and cleaned em: First just cut off the wings lengthwise along the body so you have two large triangular pieces of meat. Next, get an industrial strength cookie cutter in about a 2-3 inch size circle and a hammer. Place the cookie cutter on the flap of meat and strike firmly with the hammer. Lightly pound the medallions to tenderize them (they should flatten out just a bit) Soak the "medallions" in milk and a little salt for about an hour or two. I like them best sautéed in olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon. Serve with wild rice and garlic bread and a fresh salad.

Posted by Bare Hook

Here's another way. Marinate the meat in your favorite sauce for 2-4 hours. Get a plank on hickory wood and place the meat on the plank. Place the plank on BBQ coals or over a fire and roast till meat is cooked. Throw away the meat and eat the plank! Just kidding

Posted by Biff

Do you skin 'em before soaking or cooking? I actually tried a little bit of the stingray in question, without any soaking or treatment, and it was just short of vile. I skinned it before cooking, and baked it until it was tender. One bite was more than adequate to convince me that it was inedible or I had done something wrong.

Posted by JB in Nv

Yes, you need to skin it, I left that part out (apologies). Soaking in milk and a little salt will draw out that nasty taste you speak of, and if you add enough seasonings, you will "cover up" what little nastiness is left over.

Posted by Tall Tale Squidley Diddley

It is kind of a crapshoot. You never know what kind of appendage you'll grow or how long it'll last. For example...caught a bat ray off of Manhattan Pier...I ate day....start to grow a little third arm out of my right elbow got bigger and bigger until I had about two equal size forearms complete with a five-fingered hand. This was really cool and I was pleasantly surprised because now I had an extra rod holder and I could drive my car (a stickshift) without putting my coffee down. only lasted for about a month before it started to shrink and dry out. It eventually looked like a piece of beef jerky...before it fell off while playing a game of racquetball...oh well. Anyway...I went back to that pier and tried again for another bat ray...but they just weren't I drove over to Santa Monica Pier. Hooked up immediately into a nice one but it turned out to be a stingray...but I said what the heck...why not? I ate it and waited around for a few days...nothing. Went to Venice pier and caught a rather large angel shark...I ate it. This time I only grew an extra toe...which did last for some four months...but it was actually a real headache because my shoes no longer fit. I had to cut a hole in a pair of all the stares at work...I decided I'd best not eat any more rays, skates, sharks, or anything and I'd only fish for sport and pleasure. However, one evening I was fishing and I did bring in a mighty fine shovelnose guitarfish...I had never caught one curiosity got the best of me...and I decided...what the heck. I took it home and had a fine supper. make a long story short...I won't go into where I grew another appendage...or what it was even...but let me just say that the Mrs. was quite a happy camper for the next six weeks. So, as you can see by my experience...eating rays and such is really a crapshoot, especially when it comes to growing appendages

Posted by Hank Panky

Squiddley, So what you're saying is that the Mrs. "WAS" a happy camper for six weeks, key word being was, as in past tense. Sounds like you better catch and eat more of them skates, bats, rays, and bottom dwelling, mercury infested, rodents of the sea, and get that smile back on her face. Hank Panky By the way........FUNNY STORY !!!!!

Posted by RJ

You guys are too much! Anyhow... Stingrays are quite good... (but) I prefer thornbacks and bat rays. String rays tend to be on the thin side. These critters eat clams and mollusks and the meat takes on that taste. This is what I do... I immediately kill the sucker by driving the point of my knife through its head. I think that this may help with the taste. I cut off the wings — not an easy feat because the skins are so tough. I discovered that using a pair of garden pruning shears comes in handy for trimming off the edges of the wings. (Shears are great for cutting off rockfish spines too so you don't get skewered when cleaning them). Soak the wings in salted water and later scrub with salt to remove that "slime." Pat dry and fry in hot oil until skin is crisp — they will curl a little. Then I use a spoon or whatever to scrape the meat off the cartilage (it is up to you if you want the skin) — shred this up and make fish tacos with lime juice and salsa and the fixings — excellent with a nice cold one!

Given the number of stingrays and bat rays caught by pier anglers, it's not surprising that questions on eating them became common over the years — with many different viewpoints.

Posted by boiler on October 2, 2000

i was fishing the other day and caught a sixty pound bat ray... my uncle said you could eat the meat off the wings. does anyone know how to prepare it?

Posted by thomas

Hey Boiler, Bat rays are real good eating if you soak the meat from the wings in milk for a few hours. Some places sell bat ray meat as scallops.

Posted by harukan

I was talking to a guy at the pier; he's from southeast Asia and he said bat rays are very good if you saute them with a little soy sauce and a little bit of fresh ginger. Since I've never seen a bat ray, much less cooked one, I can't vouch for that, so if you try it, let me know how it turns out.

Posted by Black Marlin

Boiler, If you have Ken Jones' book on pierfishing it will have some information for you. If you don't have the book, after you order it and are waiting for it to arrive, you can search the archives of this site as I know there have been numerous recipes and techniques given for the preparation of ray wings. I personally have landed hundreds of rays and I cook professionally for a living but have never prepared them. Anyways, one thing to consider is that like other species that inhabit bay waters, the older( hence the larger) they are the more toxins the meat may contain. I would not consider eating a ray over 30 pounds myself. Hope this helps.

Posted by stinkyfingers

For the most part, I wouldn't eat any "big" fish caught out of the bay. In other places (up north, etc.) you can land and eat a big one, but even aside from the contamination the meat won't be as good. The older and bigger a fish gets, the more beat up and soft it's meat gets. Just like people — the muscles get weaker. The best fish for eating for me have always been the ones just above the keeper size. But to each his own...

Posted by hukafish101

Ya, they're totally edible awsome on the grill with preffered sauces or condiments. Don't forget to soak the filletes in lemon juice... and have a very, and i do mean very, strong fish taste. But you'll do fine if you use these fine words of advice.

Posted by pescare

I don't eat fish but from what I've always heard, and read here on many occasions, it's not a great choice. They are very hard to prepare for cooking, very fibrous and tough, very fishy tasting, and on and on. I can honestly say that 99+% of rays I've ever seen caught have been released or killed and dumped, and there's probably a very good reason for that. Target a better fish if you want to bring home dinner, and release the rays for the next fight. Ed Let Them Go

Posted by Songslinger

if you are that hard up for fish, go to Lake Safeway...

Posted by Jim Babwe

To me bat rays seem like the saltwater equivalent of carp — Great fight, but nothing I would want to eat. Nothing irks me as bad as seeing a dead bat ray or carp that has been left on the shore to die because someone thinks they are unworthy trash fish. So what, they are tremendously fun to catch, and its not like killing one will improve your chances of catching something like a halibut or striper. So don't dump them, either release them or eat them. Personally, I will be releasing them.

Posted by Sinker

We are talking Bat Rays correct? I target Bat Rays for the fight. Pound for pound they are tremendous fighters and when you hook a 100+ pound Bat Ray hold on and listen to your drag scream. A lot of people eat them but I wouldn't — too much work.

Posted by gyozadude

Sinker, I'm sure you know all about using appropriate gear for bat rays and making sure that it can withstand the guide-popping, rod snapping bend of one of those power fish :)

Posted by leony

Natural selection vs selection by fishermen. I always wondered about this... If most rays caught were consumed by fishermen instead of being thrown back, of course there will be fewer rays. But will there be more stripers, halibuts and flounders? Rays probably eat baby stripers and halibuts, and may compete for food against adult stripers and halibuts. Every fishermen is keeping adult stripers and halibuts, and the released rays and sharks will also possibly displace these more "desirable" species.

Posted by mforve

Rays aren't predatory but are instead opportunistic bottom feeders. They will happily gorge on a nasty rotting seagull while stripers wouldn't even consider it. I think it's important to have plenty of rays to keep the bay and ocean floor healthy. If you want to talk about fish eating gamefish fry, salmon fry often become prey to stripers as they make their way to the ocean from the rivers. And stripers are not indigenous to the West Coast as the salmon are. Nothin against stripers but I definitely would kill one of them without a second thought. Rays on the other hand. Not a chance.

Posted by McNear Beach Angler on April 21, 2003

Do you know any recipes for bat ray?

Posted by prometheus

Bat ray flesh doesn't hang together well, it is kind of in vertical strips going back along the wing. If you do a good job filleting the ray, it'll hold together on one side and look something like a tank tread (or a long block of 1/4" thick post-it notes) The grain of the meat is vertical inside these strips, and long like scallops. However the strips are only as wide as little scallops, so you could cut it into 1/4" bits and get a scallop looking meat.

A big bonus is that rays don't have the funk that sharks do, so you don't have to worry as much about urea. Soaking might still be a good idea though. The main worry is getting the skin off the fillets without getting slime on them (which does taste nasty), this is a problem. I thought on my first try that I'd wash it with soap and it'd get the slime off. Several cups of slime later, I gave up and just skinned away from the meat, but at some point you have to flip it over, and by then slime is EVERYWHERE. Maybe a few Sunday papers could help.

Once it's filleted, you can cook it up. Since it doesn't hang together, grilling is out. However since it tends to get busted up, a stir fry works great. We rolled chunks of it in some Cajunish spices and flour and fried it. The spaces between the rows of meat tended to fill with batter and hold it, which I thought was pretty cool. It's kind of self stuffing. Chowder is also a good idea since it also is something that people are used to having bits of stuff in, as opposed to whole fillets.

It tastes pretty good actually, the only reason I don't eat it often is that my wife, DavisChick (as of 4-19-03), won't eat it. My friend Eric thought it was great and raved about it until he saw a bat ray and then he wouldn't touch it. (Guess when I said "bat-ray" he ran it all together and thought it was an actual fish called a 'batrei', which I guess isn't unforgivable considering 'bonito', 'albacore', 'halibut' and the like.

Posted by churros on September 13, 2003

Just Like Scallops — My 16 year-old son and I planned this trip to Mission Bay a couple of weeks in advance, giving us plenty of time to research PFIC (first and foremost as usual), Kovach, Steinstra, Spira, even a little Ray Cannon, who, to paraphrase, thought all Bat Rays should be taken out back and shot. After all the research we headed out from the desert and 108 degree temps around 5:30, so we’d have a little light to scout and settle before the last two hours of incoming tide. Arrived around 7:30, watching the bumper-to-bumper leaving San Diego and wondering how anyone who lived this close to the ocean could ever drive away from it, let alone sit in traffic. Picked up an extra pound of squid, to go with shrimp, chicken livers, and the infamous several time refrozen squid, after having made several local calls in a vain attempt to score some mudsuckers (Salton Sea bait).

Mariner’s Point, our first choice was already crowded, with a closed nesting area blocking access to the point proper, so we spun around Mariner’s Basin to Mission Point..., We got set up with bait on medium-heavy spinning outfits, sliding slip sinker rigs of 2 and 3 ozs. It took most of incoming for us to figure the pattern and place; we were fishing around the bend in the Basin side through some pretty thick eel grass... My son takes a nap and I started tweaking the pattern, moving around the point towards the main channel, encountering less grass, more current. And of course I went bendo, and of course the gaff I had made just for the occasion, in about 20 minutes with a pool cue blank, a 8/0 Siwash hook, some EE thread and epoxy, was over there. I braced the rod in the rocks, retrieved gaff and landed a 7 lb. Bat Ray. Next bite was a 23 inch Leopard Shark, so I woke my son up, and we had a little flurry including two more Bat Rays. Meanwhile, bait’s a problem, the SBB had munched down almost all the squid and the rods with other baits sat until the now outgoing tide swept them to shore for recasting.

Around 3:30 a.m., a squid recast gets slammed, I single-handed an 8 pound Bat Ray up the rocks and decided to use the last of the squid on all four rods. A quick hit zigged when my 15 lb. test reel's drag zagged, snapping the line, then I had a long fight with an unidentified assailant that kept low, unlike the Bat Rays, finally using a ledge at shore to wrap and break. The bite ended with a small shovelnose. Our ambience highlight was the sprinklers coming on full blast, soaking us and the gear right about maximum sleepy time, thanks park and rec. for the wake-up. Having read such complimentary culinary comparisons for our hard-fighting, fun-catching Bat Rays, they made the trip home with me, packed on ice.

I cleaned them according to PFIC instructions with the exception of skinning before filleting, worked better for me. Best wingspan 23”, weight 8’02”, just like scallops. And the most amazing quantity of perfectly viscous fish slime, just like scallops. Enough slime that maybe it should bear mention in the fish cleaning instructions. Like Ghostbusters and Nicholodeon rolled into one, dripping and oozing all over the cleaning table, the floor, glueing the trash bag closed, sliding the filets like air hockey pucks, just like scallops? Beginning to doubt, I sauted one of the filets in white wine, and butter, with fresh basil and coarsely shred Parmesan cheese, just like scallops. Maybe better. Thanks to all the posts and Ken’s expertise in the preparation, catching and consumption of my catch.

Posted by Ken Jones on May 12, 2004

What are your favorite Bat Ray Recipes?

Posted by 8010_Jun

I've tried it in seafood tofu soup, deep fried using bear batter, steamed with lemongrass and ginger. My favorite... barbeque... put the whole thing over a bed of hot coals. I get some lemon and Tabasco. Yum!

Posted by gyozadude

I've only tasted it maybe twice and didn't like either, but they may have been prepared incorrectly. My mother-in-law tries with black bean sauce and stir fry. She said it's lots of work to clean these beasts. So it's still CnR for me.

Posted by tranbaby2

I'm with G-dude, only tried them once and I'm guessing also that i prepared it wrong but my one experience consuming bat ray wasn't at all that good. Tasted chewy and rubbery. I soaked them in 1:4 mixture of lemon juice to water overnight and then pan seared them with some seasoning. Though some swear they taste like scallops. I have yet to experience that.

Posted by Daniel E.

You take one bottle of port wine and a bottle of teriyaki and mix 50/50 in large bowl and then cut up a whole onion red into the mix. Then you take the wings and slice real thin and put into the mix and let soak for 4 hours. Then put on smoker and add a little salt not much just a pinch and some pepper and cook till they just start to dry out with just a little moisture left and then there done. Wow you will not believe the flavor that port wine does with the teriyaki and onion. It makes a whole new flavor. You can use this same mix with tri tip and it will blow your mind.

Posted by dompfa ben

Enough good port will make anything taste great....especially if you put the other 50% of the bottle in a glass and drink it during the preparation stages.

Posted by bcooney

I can't say this is my favorite because I have never made it, but WHEN, (not IF mind you) I do catch a Ray I deem worthy of consumption, I plan on preparing in the manner below. I have checked out a number of recipes, and none of them say anything about preparing or soaking, so I am going to bleed the ray thoroughly and that's it.

Poached Ray Wing in White Butter Sauce


• 4 ray wings
• Broth: 1 carrot, 1 onion, 1/2 lemon, salt, peppercorns, 2 litres water, 1/2 litre white wine, 1 bouquet garni
• White Butter Sauce: 200 g very cold butter, 4 shallots, 15 cl white vinegar, 1 glass white wine, salt, pepper


• Broth: Mince the carrots into slices and put them in a pot with the minced onion, pressed lemon, salt, peppercorns, water, wine and bouquet garni.
• Bring to a boil and simmer for about twenty minutes.
• Put the ray wings in a large pan or rondeau and cover with the boiling broth. Poach for 8 to 10 minutes without boiling.

• Sauce: Finely mince the shallots and put them in a pot with the vinegar, salt and pepper. put over medium heat- Let reduce to a third of its original volume.
• Add at once the cold butter cut into pieces and whisk energetically until smooth and onctuous.
z8 Season if needed and filter through a seive to remove the shallots (optional). Keep warm .

Presentation: Drain and skin the ray wings. Serve each of them on a separate warm plate. Coat with the white butter sauce and sprinkle with chopped parsley or chives.

Serve with boiled potatoes or with creole or pilaf rice.

Posted by blahblahblah

They can be excellent or, as prometheus noted, they can be nasty. It's another one of those sea foods that has to be handled properly and has to be fresh. Like sharks, skates sometimes have an ammonia/urea odor that makes them unappealing. But I've eaten skate wings on a number of occasions, only commercially purchased, and only once has it been bad —I should have stuck to my rule of always smelling purchased fish myself.

In my experience skate is best treated like a small flatfish — sauteed or gently fried, or perhaps added to a soup or stew late in the cooking process. There are a number of Italian-style recipes for them, including one in a Lidia Bastianich book I have that I think is probably more Istrian than what some folks might call Italian.

There is a band of cartilage that can be removed, but I prefer to leave it in while cooking, then remove the flesh from it at table or just before serving.

Posted by Ken Jones

I believe that is a recipe for skate which is very popular in Europe and becoming more and more available and popular at fish restaurants in America. However, I am not sure it works as well with bat ray.
Last edited:

Ken Jones

Staff member
Posted by Ken Jones

Butterfly Ray

As a rule I do not keep round stingrays or thornback rays, both are usually just too small to offer up much meat. Better to let them grow and serve their role in the environment. And, I no longer eat bat rays. However, one day I caught a fair-sized butterfly ray from the Ocean Beach Pier in San Diego that was saved and eaten. I caught it the day before heading home to Lodi and knew that I would be fishing for about three days on the way back. Luckily I had a large cooler! I cleaned the ray and sliced the two wings off (leaving the skin on). Ice then went on the bottom of the cooler, the butterfly ray wings went next, and then the wings were covered with more ice (supplemented each day with free ice from a motel). Basically it stayed frozen on the way home. Upon returning home I skinned the wings, cut the wings into smaller pieces, and soaked the meat in some lemon-water overnight in the refrigerator. For cooking, I simply pan-fried them with the usual flour-egg-Panko ingredients. It was EXCELLENT!