Shortfin Corvina

 Shortfin Corvina — Tony Troncale, Crystal Pier, San Diego

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 and a lower jaw that extends beyond the upper jaw; 1 or 2 LARGE fang-like canine teeth on each side of the upper jaw; no barbels on the chin. 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 but the fang-like canine teeth that are very noticeable in the corvina are lacking in the white seabass.

Shortfin corvina — Caught by Arvin (Pescadora) at the mini piers adjacent to the Ferry Landing Pier in Coronado

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.

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

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

Shortfin corvina and halibut — Ocean Beach Pier, San Diego

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.

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

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

Shortfin corvina — Kara, Crystal Pier, San Diego, July 2015

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 — Angel  Hernandez, Crystal Pier, 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 south San Diego 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.

A collage of fish (including a shortfin corvina) taken by Arvin from the Ferry Landing Pier in San Diego Bay

A variety of fish (spotted bay bass, mackerel, and shortfin corvina) taken by Don and Arvin from the Ferry Landing Pier in San Diego Bay

Fly used to take the shortfin corvina

Shortfin corvina from the mini piers adjacent to the Ferry Landing Pier in Coronado

28-Inch Shortfin corvina taken by Thomas Shinsato from the mouth of the San Diego River

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