Last modified: August 25, 2018

Croaker Fish

Shortfin Corvina

Croakers: Family Sciaenidae

Species: Cynoscion parvipinnis (Ayres, 1861); from the Greek words kyon (dog) and skion (from sciaena, an old name for a European croaker) and the Latin words parvi (small) and pinnis (fins).

Alternate Names: Bigtooth corvina, shortfin seabass, sea trout, weakfish, caravina and my personal favorite—vampire corvina. Called corvina aleta corta or corvina azul in Mexico.

Identification: Elongated body with a large mouth; lower jaw extends beyond upper jaw; 1 or 2 large canine teeth on each side of upper jaw; there are no chin barbels. Their coloring is bright blue-gray above, silvery below; inside of mouth yellow-orange; fins pale to yellowish. Caudal fin slightly indented. Sometimes mistaken for small white seabass.

Size: To 32 inches in length; those caught from piers are usually 14-18 inches. For many years the record fish, as listed by the International Game Fish Association, was 6 pounds, 15 ounces. However, several fish exceeding 7-pounds had been reported from SD Bay. Then, on June 20, 2008, Carmen C. Rose caught a 10 lbs. 6 oz. corvina fishing a dead grunion (without a sinker) from a boat just 40 feet off the beach in the South Bay near the US Navy housing on the Silver Strand.

Shortfin corvina from the Crystal Pier in San Diego

Range: Mazatlan, Mexico and Gulf of California to Huntington Beach.

Habitat: Shallow, inshore sandy or soft mud bottom areas including bays.

Piers: Until recently only reported from piers in San Diego Bay. The last few years have seen increasing numbers showing up at the Imperial Beach Pier, Ocean Beach Pier, and Crystal Pier (especially during grunion runs). A few have also been reported from the Oceanside Pier. Best bets: Coronado Ferry Landing Pier, Embarcadero Marina Pier, Shelter Island Pier, Imperial Beach Pier and Crystal Pier.

Angel Hernandez and a trio of corvina from the Crystal Pier in San Diego

Shoreline: Occasionally taken by shore anglers in San Diego Bay.

Boats: boaters in south San Diego Bay take quite a few.

Bait and Tackle: Light to medium size tackle will work with small, size 4-2 hooks typically used if bait fishing. Best baits are live bait—anchovy, smelt, small queenfish or sardine but ghost shrimp (especially when fished under a bobber) can also be excellent. Although in Baja they are primarily considered a bottom feeder, most reports from SD Bay have them feeding mid-level to the top. They are also considered to be an excellent fish for artificials with many different lures providing action including crank baits, spoons, spinner baits, swim baits and plastic grubs.

Food Value: Excellent, mild-flavored meat that can be prepared in many ways.

Shortfin corvina from the Crystal Pier in San Diego

Comments: These fish, although reported to be common as far north as San Pedro during California’s warm water years of the late-1800s, were considered absent in the state by the 1930s. That changed when fish began to be increasingly seen in the southern parts of San Diego Bay in the 1990s. Whether lured north by warm El Niño waters (’87-’88, ’91-‘92, ’97-’98), or brought in mistakenly by returning long-range Sportfishing boats, the result has been the introduction of a new fish and fishery to San Diego anglers. Although more commonly taken by anglers fishing from boats in San Diego’s South  Bay, increasing numbers have been reported from both bay and oceanfront piers in San Diego County. Nevertheless, any pier catch should be considered fortuitous. Although considered primarily a diurnal feeder (daytime feeder), many of the reports on the PFIC Message Board have concerned nighttime catches. Shrimp is considered their favorite food although an increasing number are reported hitting on live bait—everything from queenfish to small jack mackerel. Most commonly caught April through September.

Angel Hernandez at the Crystal Pier in San Diego

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