Creature Feature: White Seabass

White seabass may be found statewide off California, but are seldom seen north of San Francisco Bay. They usually travel in schools over rocky bottoms and through kelp beds.

Distinguishing Characteristics

  • Bluish to gray above with dark speckling, becoming silver below
  • Young will have several dark, vertical bars
  • Body elongate, head pointed
  • Mouth large, with a row of small teeth in the roof of the mouth
  • Lower jaw projects slightly
  • Ridge along the length of the belly

Life History & Other Notes

The white seabass is the largest member of the croaker family found off California, commonly exceeding 30 lb. White seabass feed on fishes, especially anchovies and sardines, and squid. Larger fish may also prey upon Pacific chub mackerel. A fish measuring 28 inches in length will average 3-4 years old and about 7½ lb., and will probably have participated in at least one spawning event.

White seabass are pursued primarily with live bait in relatively shallow water, but they will also take a fast-trolled spoon, artificial squid, or bone jig. Live squid appear to be the best bait for white seabass, but large anchovies and medium-sized sardine are also good. At times, large white seabass will only bite on fairly large, live Pacific chub mackerel.

In 1983, CDFW and public partners began an experimental research program to release hatchery-raised juvenile white seabass off Southern California to enhance the population. If you catch any white seabass, returning their heads to CDFW will assist in this effort. For more information about the white seabass hatchery program, visit the CDFW white seabass hatchery program web page.

White Seabass Quick Facts

Scientific Name: Atractoscion nobilis

Other Common Names: weakfish, king croaker, sea trout (juveniles)

Range & Habitat: Statewide, but mostly south of San Francisco Bay

Length & Weight: to ~5 ft. and ~90 lb.

Life Span: To 28 years

Diet & Suggested Bait/Lures: Feeds on anchovies, sardines, squid, Pacific chub mackerel. Try using the above as bait, or a fast-trolled spoon, jig, or swimbait.

post based on information in the California Finfish and Shellfish Identification Book with additional information from the Marine Species Portal and CDFW biologists.