From 26th Trip: Twilight on the Native Sun

Pacific Sanddab

Family: Bothidae (Left-eyed flounders)

Genus and Species: Citharichthys sordidus

Description: The body of the Pacific sanddab is oblong and compressed. The head is deep; the eyes are on the left-side and are large. The color is light brown mottled with yellow and orange on the eyed side and white on the blind side. Although three kinds of sanddabs live in the waters off California, only two are commonly used for food ­ the Pacific and longfin sanddabs. The third, the speckled sanddab, is so small (only about 5 inches) that it is only important to the diet of other fishes. The Pacific sanddab can best be distinguished from the longfin sanddab by the length of the pectoral fin on the eyed side. It is always shorter than the head of the Pacific sanddab and longer than the head of the longfin. Sanddabs are always left “handed” (eyes on the left) and can be distinguished from all other left “handed” flatfish by having a midline that is nearly straight for its entire length.

Range: Pacific sanddabs occur from Cape San Lucas, Baja California, to the Bering Sea. They seldom inhabit water that is shallower than 30 feet or deeper than 1,800 feet. They are most abundant at depths of 120 to 300 feet.

Natural History: Pacific sanddabs eat a wide variety of food. In addition to such items as small fishes, squid, octopus, they eat an assortment of eggs, luminescent sea squirts, shrimp, crabs, and marine worms. During the peak of the spawning season, which is July, August and September, the females spawn numerous eggs. These fish probably spawn more than once during a season.

Fishing Information: If the depth is correct and the bottom suitable, it is extremely difficult to keep sanddabs off the hook. Sportfishing entails the use of small hooks, usually more than one on each line. A variation from the typical rig involves use of an iron ring or hoop around which are dangled several dozen baited hooks of small size. This contraption is lowered on a stout line to a position just off the bottom and allowed to remain a sufficient period to fill all the hooks. Normally this does not require as much time as is needed to rebait the rig after removing the catch. Small pieces of squid or octopus are good baits because they are tough and stay on the hook, but pieces of fish work equally well. Other Common Names: sand dab, soft flounder, sole, mottled sanddab, megrim.

Largest Recorded: 16 inches; no weight recorded; however, an 11.5 inch female weighed just over 0.5 pound.

Habitat: Deep Sandy Environment

From the California Department of Fish and Game

About the Author

Sean loves to fish in Southern California and this site is his journal of his adventures in fishing. He started fishing when he was a little guy with his dad David, and has continued to this day with his family. In his day job, Sean has been a graphic designer for over 15 years, designing everything from in-store displays and signage for supermarkets to e-commerce auction sites for an online consumer electronics company. He was a web and graphic designer then later an art director for McMullen Argus Publishing (Primedia), building and working on sites for Lowrider Magazine and Super Chevy, plus 30 other automotive magazine sites. Sean seized the opportunity to teach other aspiring designers - a passion that took him first to Learning Tree University and then to Golden West College in Huntington Beach, CA, where he has been an integral part of the renowned digital arts department for more than ten years. Throughout his teaching career, Sean maintained a freelance business, designing for clients including the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (Los Angeles Area Emmy Awards), Image Comics and many more. See his work at