Physical Description

  • Elongate (long, skinny), cylindrical-shaped body.
  • Shiny, incandescent, solid gray coloration, with wavy diagonal lines on sides and a whitish belly.
  • One barbel (fleshy filament) projecting from chin.


  • Point Conception, California to Gulf of California, Mexico.


  • Bottom-dwelling fish.
  • Found on sandy beaches, shallow bays, and the surf zone.
  • Live at depths of 0-45 feet.


  • Spawning occurs from May to September, especially mid-June to mid-August.
  • Males mature at 2 years old and 10 inches long and females at 3 years old and 13 inches long.
  • Eggs are free floating.


  • 90% of diet is sand crabs.
  • Will ingest mouthfuls of sand to get to sand crabs, and spit the sand out of their gills.
  • Eat some clams and other crustaceans as well.


  • Pacific angel shark, California halibut, bottlenose dolphin.

Interesting Facts

  • Sometimes they feed in such shallow water in the surf zone that their backs are out of the water. 
  • They use their chin barbels to search for sand crabs in the surf zone.

Sources: California Department of Fish and Wildlife; Ocean Protection Council;

Photo: Herb Gruenhagen