California Corbina (Menticirrhus undulatus)

California Corbina (Menticirrhus undulatus)

The California corbina belongs to the Sciaenidae (croaker and drum) family and is a member of the whiting group. Because it lacks a swim bladder, it cannot make the croaking or drumming noises characteristic of the croaker family.


The body of the California corbina is elongated and slightly compressed, with a flattened belly. Its head is long and the mouth is small, the upper jaw scarcely reaching a point below the front of each eye. The first dorsal fin is short and high, the second long and low. Coloring is uniformly gray, with incandescent reflections and with wavy diagonal lines on the sides.

This croaker and the yellowfin croaker (Umbrina roncador) are the only two of the eight coastal croaker present in California waters that have a barbel on the lower jaw. The California corbina has only one weak spine at the front of the anal fin; the yellowfinn croaker has two strong spines.


The average corbina weighs 1 pound. The all-tackle record is 6 pounds, 8 ounces, but corbina are reported to grow to 8 pounds.

Life history/Behavior

Males mature when 2 years old, at a length of 10 inches; females mature at age 3, at 13 inches long. Spawning occurs from June through September, although it is heaviest in July and August, and takes place offshore. California corbina travel in schools or small groups, although large individuals are often solitary.

Food and feeding habits

A fussy feeder, the California corbina primarily consumes sand crabs and spits out bits of clam shells and other foreign matter; it also consumes small crustaceans and marine worms. Corbina scoop up mouthfuls of sand and separate the food by sending the sand through their gills. Adults are sometimes seen feeding in the surf, occasionally in water so shallow that their backs are exposed.

California Corbina (Menticirrhus undulatus)
California Corbina (Menticirrhus undulatus)

Other Names

California whiting, surf fish, sucker.


California corbina occur from the Gulf of California in Mexico to Point Conception, California.


Preferring sandy beaches and shallow bays, the California corbina is a bottom fish, appearing along the coastal surf zone.