Speckled Sanddab

Speckled Sanddab from the Avila Beach Pier

Order Pleuronectiformes — Lefteye Flounders — Family Bothidae

Species: Citharichthys stigmaeus (Jordan & Gilbert); from the Greek word citharichthys  (a fish that lies on its ribs or side) and the Latin word stigmaeus  (speckled).

Alternate Names: Sanddab, soft flounder and Catalina sanddab. Called lenguado pecoso in Mexico.

Identification: Speckled sanddab are in the left-eye flounder family, have a distinct caudal fin, and scales covering the body. Their coloring is brown or tan with black spots throughout the pigmented side.

Speckled Sanddab from the Santa Cruz Wharf

Size: To 6.7 inches; most caught on piers are 4-5 inches.

Range: Gulf of California to Montague Island, Prince William Sound, Gulf of Alaska.

Habitat: Shallow-water areas; primarily over sand or mud.

Piers: Common at many California piers, primarily those north of Los Angeles; especially common at Central California piers. (I’ve taken them from 26 piers in California with Balboa being the southernmost pier and the Trinidad Pier north of Eureka being the most northern.) Best bets: Balboa Pier, Newport Pier, Redondo Beach Pier, Gaviota Pier, Avila Beach Pier, Port San Luis Pier, Cayucos Pier, San Simeon Pier, Monterey Wharf #2, Santa Cruz Wharf, Pacifica Pier, and the San Francisco Municipal Pier.

Shoreline: Rarely caught from shore.

Boats: Rarely taken from boats due to their small size.

Bait and Tackle: Very small hooks fished on the bottom with strips of squid, pieces of fish, or small pieces of worm will attract these fish.

Food Value: Generally too small to eat. Toss ‘em back—gently.

Comments: As a rule, these are too small to try to catch. At times, however, schools will move in and they will be hard to keep off your hook. One such occurrence happened to me on a visit to the Santa Cruz Wharf when both these fish and small octopus seemed to cover the bottom. Every cast yielded a sanddab or an octopus—or both. I finally had to move to another spot to try to catch more desirable species. Apparently, speckled sanddabs were the most numerous of 104 different kinds of fish taken in a 5-year study of Santa Monica Bay. I’m not surprised, I have taken them from 26 different California piers—from the Balboa Pier in the south to the Trinidad Pier just north of Eureka in the north. Included were every single oceanfront pier between Malibu and Pacifica. I’ve even taken them from the Mukilteo State Park Pier in Washington. It appears they only live to about 3 ½ years of age.

 Speckled Sanddab from the San Simeon Pier

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