Creature Feature: California Corbina

California Corbina are found from Point Conception southward off California to a depth of 45 ft. Small groups of this species travel along the bottom off sandy beaches and in shallow bays. Adults have been observed feeding in the surf, at times in water so shallow that their backs were exposed. 

Distinguishing Characteristics

  • Uniform gray color with incandescent reflections and wavy diagonal lines on sides
  • Body elongate, head long
  • Mouth small, scarcely reaching a point below the front of the eye
  • Single barbel on lower jaw
  • One weak spine at front of anal fin

Life History & Other Notes
California Corbina scoop up mouthfuls of sand, separating out the food by sending the sand through their gills. They are very particular feeders, sifting out bits of clam shells and other foreign matter to find sand crab, their preferred prey. They will also eat other crustaceans and clams.

California Corbina spawn offshore from June through September, producing free-floating eggs. This species is caught year-round from Southern California’s sandy beaches, however fishing is best from July through September. They are wary and difficult to hook, perhaps because they tend to mouth their food and don’t strike solidly very often. Sand crabs are the preferred bait, though anglers can use a variety of invertebrates. An increasing number of anglers pursue California Corbina with fly fishing tackle. This is very popular sport fish, reserved for sport fishermen only – there is no commercial fishery.

 California Corbina Quick Facts:

Scientific Name: Menticirrhus undulatus

Other Common Names: king croaker, corbie, bean

Range & Habitat: Point Conception south off sandy beaches and in shallow bays

Length & Weight: To 30 in. and 8.5 lb.

Life Span: To 8+ years

Diet & Suggested Bait: Eats sand crabs and other crustaceans, and clam siphons. Try soft-shelled sand crab, mussel, clam, pile worm, or ghost shrimp for bait on very light lines, or flies.

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