Sand Sole

Small Sand Sole from the Trinidad Pier in northern California

Order Pleuronectiformes — Righteye Flounders—Family Pleuronectidae

Species: Psettichthys melanostictus (Girard, 1854); from the Greek words psetta (flounder), ichthys (fish), melas  (black) and stictos  (specks).

Alternate Names: Halibut, sand flounder, spotted flounder, fringe sole or fringe flounder.

Identification: Sand sole are in the right-eye flounder family. Most easily identified by the fact that the first four to five dorsal rays are long and free (seemingly disconnected). Their coloring is generally gray to tan above with light speckling.

Size: To 21 inches; most caught off piers are under 16 inches.

Sand Sole from the Capitola Wharf

Range: Balboa Pier to the southeastern Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands from Unalaska Island to Port Heiden and Gulf of Alaska. (And, I believe, the southern range designation came about due to PFIC. On February 3, 2005 our PFIC Reporter Snookie caught a 15-inch-long sand sole at the Balboa Pier, which was followed by a report on the message board that night.)

Habitat: Shallow-water areas, both sandy shore and rocky shore.

Piers: Primarily landed at piers from Monterey Bay north. Best bets: Seacliff State Beach Pier, Capitola Wharf, Santa Cruz Wharf, Pacifica Pier, Candlestick State Park Pier, Berkeley Pier, Point Pinole Pier, Fort Baker Pier, Del Norte Street Pier in Eureka and the “B” Street Pier in Crescent City.

Sand Sole from the Capitola Wharf

Shoreline: An occasional catch in sandy shore areas in central California

Boats: Only occasionally taken from boats.

Bait and Tackle: Generally taken on cut bait such as anchovy, sardine or squid. Live grass shrimp and pile worms also make good bait. Most often landed on high/low leaders fished on the bottom but many are also taken in the Bay Area by fishermen using the live bait sliding rigging common for flounder. Hooks should be size 6 to 4.

Food Value: Excellent! Mild flavored flesh that is best fried or baked.

Comments: Sand sole are an excellent sportfish and are good eating. However, many of these sole are mistaken for California halibut and unnecessarily returned to the water because they do not meet the minimum size requirements for halibut. Learn to differentiate between the different flatfish species. Sandies live to about ten years of age.

Sand Sole from Pismo Beach Pier (caught by polishfromthedeep—PFIC)

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