Creature Feature: Starry Flounder

starry flounderStarry flounder inhabit sand, mud, and gravel bottom habitat in coastal ocean waters, bays, sloughs, and even fresh water, from Santa Barbara northward off California. They may be found in extremely shallow water (only inches deep), to a maximum depth of 900 ft.

Distinguishing Characteristics

  • May be right- or left-eyed; the majority are left-eyed even though this species is a member of the right-eyed flounder family.
  • Dark brown on eyed side, white on the blind side
  • Alternating white to orange and black bars on the dorsal and anal fins
  • Body broad, relatively short, and somewhat diamond shaped
  • Head short, eyes and mouth small, lower jaw slightly projecting
  • Large, rough, star-shaped scales on eyed side

Life History & Other Notes
The starry flounder eats a wide variety of prey, including worms, crabs, clams, sand dollars, and brittle stars. Large individuals may eat fishes, including sardines and sanddabs.

The spawning season extends from November through February. Spawning generally occurs in water shallower than 150 ft. Like other flatfishes, the young are born with an eye on each side of the head. By the time they reach about ½ in. long, both eyes are on the same side of the head, and they resemble miniature versions of their parents.

The starry flounder is fairly numerous in central and northern California backwaters, particularly in San Francisco Bay. They are more frequently caught between December and March.

 Starry Flounder Quick Facts:

Scientific Name: Platichthys stellatus

Other Common Names: California flounder, rough jacket

Range & Habitat: Santa Barbara northward, over sand, mud, gravel bottoms

Length & Weight: To 3 ft. and 20 lb.

Life Span: To 24 years

Diet & Suggested Bait: Feeds on worms, crabs, clams, fishes. Try using cut sardines, clams, shrimp, squid, and worms for bait

Excerpt from the California Finfish and Shellfish Identification Book.

Single copies of the book are available to California residents free of charge by emailing a request to