Physical Description

  • Oval-shaped flatfish with both eyes on the top of the fish and a small mouth.
  • Unlike some flatfish, can be right-eyed or left-eyed.
  • Uniform brown color on top, with tiny blue spots and two dark brown spots.
  • Very young fish swim upright with one eye on each side of their head.
  • Juvenile fish have more spotting and mottling (spots and smears) than adults.
  • Can grow up to 21 inches long as adults.


  • Monterey Bay, California to Gulf of California, Mexico.
  • Most common from central Baja California to southern Baja California.


  • Live in sandy and muddy environments.
  • Like sandy spots among kelp beds, eelgrass beds, or rocks.
  • Found at depths of 0-446 feet, but most commonly depths of 20164 feet.
  • Often buries itself into sand or mud on the bottom.


  • Spawn throughout the year.
  • Most spawning activity from August-December.
  • Pelagic, or open ocean, larvae that swim in the water column until settling into adult form.


  • Almost exclusively crabs, but also worms, mollusks, small shrimp, squid, and some other crustaceans.


  • Sharks, marine mammals, and larger fanfish.

Interesting Facts

  • When fantail sole are young, they swim upright and have eyes on both sides of their head. As they get older, they settle to the bottom and one eye moves to the other side of their body! 

Sources: California Finfish and Shellfish Identification Book;; NOAA Fisherie; Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute; California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Photo: Herb Gruenhagen