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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Fish Bulletin No. 54. The Fishes of the Family Sciaenidae (Croakers) of California


Sciaenidae is quite an extensive and diversified family, including a large number of species, divided, according to Jordan (1923, pp. 201–202), among not less than 84 recent genera, many of which are so closely related that their definitions offer great difficulties. Even the delimitation of the family is fraught with complications.

The family is nearly limited to warm seas, where most of the species occur along sandy shores. A few species extend into relatively cool waters, but none of them tolerates cold water. Occurrence in fresh water is very rare.

Most of the members of the family are capable of producing a peculiar noise, hence their name "croakers." On the west coast of North America, several of the vernacular names are misleading. Such names as herring, sea trout, tomcod, whiting, etc., which should be applied to widely different species, are frequently used for some of the California species. In order to avoid further confusion, these names have barely been mentioned in connection with the treatment of the species dealt with in this paper. Only one English name has been given to each species, viz., the one accepted by the California Division of Fish and Game.

Only those species of Sciaenidae which have been recorded in California have been described in the present paper. Other species of the family, viz., Cynoscion othonopterus (gulf corbina), Cynoscion reticulatus (striped corbina), Cynoscion xanthulus (orange-mouthed corbina), and Cynoscion macdonaldi (totuava), have appeared more or less recently in our fresh fish markets. These forms, however, are not native in California, but are taken in Mexican waters, mainly in the Gulf of California and are shipped mostly by trucks into California where they are sold extensively in the southern part of the State. In regard to the striped corbina, it must suffice to state that it is not brought into California in commercial quantities. The orange-mouthed corbina also plays a minor role in the fresh fish supply. The most important species are the totuava and the gulf corbina.

Most of the members of the family occupy a very prominent position among the sport fishes of California, especially in southern California where they are more or less abundant. The California corbina, the yellowfin, and the spotfin have thousands of devotees among the surf fishermen, the first of these forms undoubtedly being the most popular sport fish in the surf of our southern sandy beaches. Few people, indeed, realize how large an army of sportsmen find their recreation along the beaches of southern California because of the

excellent fighting qualities of these three attractive fishes. Furthermore, among the anglers who specialize in medium sized game fishes, the white sea-bass is one of the most popular species.

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