The California corbina (Menticirrhus undulatus) is a member of the croaker family. California corbina occur from the Gulf of California, Mexico to Point Conception, California, and is a bottom fish found along sandy beaches and in shallow bays. This species travels in small groups along the surf zone in a few inches of water to depths of 45 feet. The largest recorded specimen was 28 inches and 8.5 pounds.
Other names include "California kingcroaker", "California whiting", "surf fish", and "sucker". California corbina should not be confused with corvina, which are taken in the Salton Sea.
The body of the California corbina is elongate and slightly compressed. The head is long and the mouth is small, the upper jaw
scarcely reaching a point below the front of the eye
. The color is uniform grey with incandescent reflections, and with wavy diagonal lines on the sides. This croaker and the yellowfin croaker
are the only two of the eight coastal croakers present in California waters to have a single fleshy projection, or barbel
, on the lower jaw. The California corbina usually has only one weak spine at the front of the anal fin
, while the yellowfin croaker has two strong spines.
Adults have been seen feeding in the surf, at times in water so shallow that their backs were exposed. They scoop up mouthfuls of sand
and separate the food by sending the sand through the gills
. They are very particular feeders, apparently spitting out bits of clam
shells and other foreign matter. About 90 percent of the food they eat is sand crabs
. Other crustaceans
and clams are of lesser importance. Males mature when 2 years old at a length of about 10 inches and females at age 3 when about 13 inches long. Spawning
extends from June to September, but is heaviest during July and August. Spawning apparently takes place offshore as running ripe fish are not often found in the surf zone. The eggs are free floating. Young corbina, 1 inch long, have been observed outside the surf in 4 to 8 feet of water in August. They travel in large groups, commonly known as the "fish of the sea."
California corbina are caught throughout the year along southern California
's sandy beaches, although fishing
is at its best from July through September. They are very wary and difficult to hook as many an avid surf fisherman
can affirm. Perhaps one reason is that they tend to mouth and chew their food and don't strike solidly very often. Sand crabs (usually softshells) are the preferred bait
, though some anglers swear by blood worms
, clams, pileworms
, and ghost shrimp
Corbina are sometimes referred to as "Beans", and for the surf fisherman is one of the most prized catches. The Beans, sometimes also referred to a "Sliders" are seen in the summer months as the water warms and the sand crab beds appear in the sand. As an incoming tide fills in the holes, troughs and structure in the beach, the beans will slide up with an incoming wash and utilize the barbell they have under their chin to dig and sometimes can be seen "tailing" for sand crabs. They are an extremely strong fish and can have you into your backing rather quickly. For anglers who prefer to fly fish in the surf, they are especially difficult to bring to hand. The fly patterns they prefer and will hit represent sand crabs, blood worms and other crustaceans.
The corvina is usually $29.99 a pound compared to the white sea bass which is $21.99 a pound and forever dispelling the rumors of fisherman saying white sea bass is a better quality fish than corvina.
- Much of this article is copied from California Marine Sportfish by the California Department of Fish and Game, Marine Region; a public domain resource.
- Interesting Fly Fishing the surf in California forum with fish pictures, stories and fly patterns. Site is Gary Bulla's web site for his Baja California surf expeditions, but this link is to his forums where the best surf fishermen and women post their reports of their success in the world of salt water fly fishing in the Southern California surf.