Creature Feature: Spotted Sand Bass

spotted sand bassThe Spotted Sand Bass may be found from Monterey southward off California to a depth of 200 ft.; however, this species is generally confined to large bays in Southern California. In fact, it is rarely seen north of Santa Monica Bay. Because of their preference for bays, Spotted Sand Bass are taken less frequently than Kelp Bass or Barred Sand Bass, which are found on the open coast. Within bays, Spotted Sand Bass prefer muddy or sandy areas of eelgrass or surf grass as well as underwater structures such as rocks or pilings.

Distinguishing Characteristics

  • Olive-green with round black spots on body, head, and fins
  • No vertical bars on sides
  • Body moderately elongate; mouth large, bottom jaw protrudes slightly
  • Third dorsal fin spine is much longer than first two dorsal fin spines, and is the longest of the dorsal spines
  • Spawning males: white lower jaw and overall high contrast body coloration
  • Spawning females: yellow lower jaw and darker body coloration

Life History & Other Notes
Spotted Sand Bass mainly consume crustaceans, clams, and small fishes. Spawning occurs from May through September; females release their eggs into the water column. The larvae drift for about a month before settling into preferred habitat.

Spotted Sand Bass are popular sport fish that have been reserved for sport fishermen only (no commercial fishery exists). Most fishing takes place from March through November, with peak catches occurring during the spawning season.

 Spotted Sand Bass Quick Facts:

Scientific Name: Paralabrax maculofasciatus

Other Common Names: Bay Bass, Spotted Bay Bass

Range & Habitat: Monterey southward off rocky reefs and artificial structures.

Length & Weight: To 23 in. and ~6 lb.

Life Span: To 14 years

Diet & Suggested Bait/Lures: Feeds on crabs, clams, and small fishes. Try using live anchovies for bait, or leadhead jigs, swim baits, or wet 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