Last modified: August 24, 2018

Croaker Fish

White Seabass

Croakers: Family Sciaenidae

Species: Atractoscion nobilis (Ayres, 1860) from the Greek words atrax (spindle) and skion (from sciaena, an old name for a European croaker) and the Latin word nobilis (noble). Called Cynoscion nobilis until the 1990s

White seabass taken at the Ventura Pier

Alternate Names: Ghost, grey ghost, biscuits, king croaker, Catalina salmon, bull tomcod, croaker, weakfish, or seatrout (young fish). Called corvina cabaicucho or corvina blanca in Mexico.

IdentificationLarge, elongated body with a large mouth in which the lower jaw protrudes slightly beyond the upper jaw. Unlike the shortfin corvina that has large, fanglike-canine teeth, the canine teeth in the upper jaw of white seabass are small and barely noticeable. Very young white seabass are somewhat variable in color—silvery, brownish, golden or even reddish, but as they age their color becomes more standard—silver or gray. Up to two feet in length (most of the fish seen on piers) the young white seabass have three to six broad black vertical bars on their sides and dusky yellow fins. Adults tend to be blue to gray on the back, with silvery sides and a dark spot on the inner base of the pectoral fin. Young white seabass are sometimes (somehow) confused with white croakers but the juvenile white seabass have bars on their sides and do not have a barbell on their chin. White croaker lack bars on their sides and do have a barbell. White seabass are perhaps most easily separated from other croaker by the presence of a ridge running the length of the belly.

White seabass taken by Humberto at the Newport Pier

Size: White seabass are the largest of the California croakers. To five feet and over 90 pounds; those caught off piers are usually the young “seatrout” ranging up to 24 inches in length. The California record fish weighed 78 lb 0 oz and was caught in Monterey Bay in 2002. A fish weighing 93 lb 4 oz was speared by a diver near Malibu in 2007.

Range: Bahia Magdalena, southern Baja California, and the Gulf of Califonia to Juneau and the Boca de Quadra, southeastern Alaska. Considered uncommon north of Monterey Bay and rare north of California. White seabass were fairly common in both San Francisco Bay and Tomales Bay until the late 1940s when they seemed to disappear. Recent years have an increasing number of white seabass taken in San Franciso Bay.

White seabass from the Malibu Pier

Habitat: White seabass migrate along the coast according to their spawning habits. Although some may be caught in southland waters year-round, they tend to move north in the spring and south in the fall, spending the winter months in Baja California. The best fishing is usually June to September. They’re most common around offshore islands. Typically schools over rocky bottoms from 10-40 feet feeding on squid and small fish.

Piers: Commonly taken at southland piers, although rarely if ever caught in numbers approaching that of 40-50 years ago. Runs of the smaller sea trout do occasionally occur in late summer and fall, however, these are usually fish that are under the legal size and must be returned to the water. Best bets: Crystal Pier, Oceanside Pier, San Clemente Pier, Seal Beach Pier, Hermosa Beach Pier, Malibu Pier, Paradise Cove Pier and Ventura Pier. The last decade has seen quite a few taken from the Seacliff Pier and Capitola Wharf.

Large white seabass caught at the Imperial Beach Pier in 2014

Shoreline: A favorite but infrequent catch by southern California shore anglers.

Boats: One of the most prized species for boaters in southern California.

Bait and Tackle: Unlike other California croakers, white seabass prefer the pelagic habitat rather than inshore areas. They prefer to feed in mid-depth areas rather than on the bottom like most croakers. They’re favored meals appear to be squid, pelagic crabs, and small fish As a result, anglers should seek them from the deepest waters of the pier and be willing to try different depths. In addition, the early morning hours have traditionally been the best time for white seabass. Tackle should be medium to heavy with at least 20-pound test line and size 2 to 2/0 hooks fished near the bottom. The best bait is live bait: anchovies, smelt, queenfish or shinerperch. Next, would be frozen anchovies, sardine or mackerel strip bait, or squid. If specifically seeking these fish, try using a live bait sliding leader and cast out a considerable distance from the pier. At the Hermosa Beach Pier, and other piers where artificial reefs have been constructed, a favorite ploy is to cast out a live jack mackerel as close to the reef as possible.

 

 

Typical “seatrout-size” white seabass taken from the Goleta Pier

 

Food Value: Excellent, mild-flavored meat that can be prepared in many ways. Unfortunately, it tends to discolor rather rapidly and there’s traditionally been a limited market for the frozen form.

Comments: Large white seabass are one of southern California’s top partyboat gamefish. Unfortunately, the numbers of these fish decreased markedly in the 1970s and 1980s. However, with an increased legal size, a decreased daily limit, and efforts by several groups to pen raise juvenile white seabass, a comeback is being made. It is important that all sportsman, and especially pier fishermen who catch the small illegal “seatrout” adhere to the existing laws. If so, large white seabass may once again be a common catch of pier fishermen.

“Unofficial” records of large white seabass — Most, but not all, large white sea bass are taken from boats although a tremendous number were caught from the Ocean Park Pier and the Newport Pier in the ‘20s and ‘30s.

83 Lbs. — Newport Pier, 1920s

Source: Personal communication, Patrick Kennedy, Baldy’s Tackle (1990)

61 Lbs. — Newport Pier, Roger Jackson, December 1, 1927

Source: Santa Ana Register, December 1, 1927

50 Lbs. — Imperial Beach Pier, “Oyuki”, October 2014

Source: sdfish.com (October 28, 2014) and Oceanic Angler (oceanicangler.com), November 11, 2014

48 Lbs. — Newport Pier, June 1, 1934

Source: Santa Ana Register, June 2, 1934

47 1/2 Lbs. — Belmont Pier (Long Beach), October 28, 1959

Source: Long Beach Independent, October 30, 1959

47 Lbs. — Redondo Wharf, Charles McGehee, May 19, 1914

Source: Los Angeles Times, May 19, 1914

45 Lbs. — Capitola Wharf, September 2000

Source: Capitola Wharf Bait Shop

45 Lbs. — Seacliff State Beach Pier, August 2000

Source: Capitola Wharf Bait Shop

45 Lbs. — Avalon Pleasure Pier, Pat Casey, May 5, 1936

Source: Catalina Islander, May 14, 1936

45 Lbs. — Redondo Wharf No. 3, August 5, 1919

Source: Los Angeles Times, August 8, 1919

42 Lbs. — Santa Monica Pier, 1957

Source: Santa Monica Pier Bait Shop, Newspaper & CA DF&G

42 Lbs. — Wharf No. 1 (Redondo Beach), J. V. Henry, May 18, 1914

Source: Los Angeles Times, May 18, 1914

42 Lbs. — Wharf No. 1 (Redondo Beach), N. Row, August 31, 1890

Source: Los Angeles Times, August 31, 1890

41 ¼ Lb. — Pacifica Pier, July 1992

Source: Pacific Bait Shop

41 Lbs. — Balboa Pier, Snagger, June 15, 2017

Source: PFIC and Verona Fath

41 Lbs. — Point Mugu Pier, Charles S. Leonard, August, 1959

Source: Oxnard Press-Courier, August 5, 1959

≈ 40 Lbs. — Monterey Wharf No.2, October 2009

Source: PFIC

40 Lbs. — Balboa Pier, Frank Lopez, July 19, 1959

Source: Los Angeles Times, July 23, 1959

40 Lbs. — Avalon Pleasure Pier, A. E. Eaton, July 3, 1916

Source: Catalina Islander, July 4, 1916

40 Lbs. — Hueneme Wharf, Charlie Chambers, October 1895

Source: Los Angeles Herald, October 27, 1895

36 ½ Lbs. — Balboa Pier, Ed Steif, May 30, 1928

Source: Santa Ana Register, May 31, 1928

35 Lbs. —Wharf No. 1 (Redondo Beach), Harold Rempe, June 3, 1909

Source: Los Angeles Herald, June 6, 1909

32 Lbs. — Hueneme Wharf, Charlie Chambers, October 1895

Source: Los Angeles Herald, October 27, 1895

30 Lbs. — Wharf No. 3 (Redondo Beach), A. J. Bell, May 25, 1909

Source: Los Angeles Times, May 26, 1909

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *