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Corbina Fish Fishing Guide: How to Catch Menticirrhus undulatus

Corbina is one of the most popular sportfish in Southern California.

Constantly giving fishermen headaches due to their difficulty to hook based on their pickiness to take the bait. Sometimes they will take whatever you put in front of them and other times they’ll swim on by.

California corbina
A 20 inch corbina will put up a fun fight. Source: N1ywb

Corbina fish are way more fun if you use a light tackle setup due to their fight. You’ll find these fish in shallow water on sandy shorelines rarely deeper than 20 feet. Generally, they are in small spread out schools.

Let’s get you ready for surf fishing Southern California and landing this feisty fish!

Recommended Corbina Fishing Gear:


The corbina is a croaker fish that can be found in shallow bays and along sandy beaches along the California coastline.

Also known as the California kingcroaker, kingfish, and California whiting. This fish can be found in waters from the Gulf of California to Point Conception. The fish has a long, cylindrical and slender body with a barbell on the top of the lower jaw. The body is a dark metallic blue in color or sooty gray on the back and it has a white belly.

This croaker fish survives on a diet of small fish, crustaceans and small invertebrates. It can often be found feeding in a few inches of water in the upper surf.

Corbina Facts

Scientific NameMenticirrhus undulatus
Common Name(s)Corbina, California Corbina, California Whiting, Corvina, Bagre, Surf Fish
Identifying CharacteristicsGreyish-blue top with metallic grey sides and white belly. Slightly wavy lines along the sides. Dusky fins. Older specimens have two stripes from head to tail above pelvic fins and merge behind the anal fins. Look for barbel on the chin.
Depth Range0 to 20 m
HabitatThe fish can be found in Pacific waters from the Gulf of California to Point Conception.
LimitsCheck your local regulations
Largest Recorded8 pound 7 ounces. Generally, around 3 pounds.

Corbina Habitat

Bolsa Chica beach is good for corbina fish
Bolsa Chica is where I spent a lot of time surf fishing while I was younger. Source: Ken Lund

Corbina can be found swimming in shallow troughs and ditches that can be found a parallel to sandy beaches and shallow bays 20m deep. Most can be found in small schools and some adults prefer to swim alone.

The fish swims along the sandy shallows looking for food and seek refuge in the white water that is created by crashing waves.

How to Catch Corbina Fish


The fish is an inshore species so the best way to catch it is from the shore rather than a boat. Since corbina’s preferable food source are soft-shelled sand crabs, that is the best bait you can use to catch them. You can also use small pieces of shrimp and innkeeper worms. Plus, use light to medium tackle with a high/low leader and size 6 to 4 hooks.

Corbina Tackle

Rod Type

Use a light tackle outfit if you’re looking to play a bit with the fish. You can get away with a light to medium rod from 7 feet on up depending on your preference.


Use straight mono or with around a 22-inch fluorocarbon leader. For an added challenge use a 4-6 pound test. Since the fish usually rides the incoming tide to the beach while looking for food, use sight-casting to fish for them.


Hooks can vary from a number 6 on up to a 4/0 depending on your rig. Generally, a smaller hook would be advisable with a light line.


Use one or two sand crabs on your hook. If that doesn’t work, try clams, mussels, or marine worms. Usually, live bait works better than a lure.

Corbina Fishing Tactics

  • If this croaker fish is not feeding far up on the beach, cast further out and pay special attention to the depressions under the surf. Look for those that are parallel to the beach.
  • Corbina will flee at the slightest threat. Make sure that the line is tight so you can detect the smallest bite without making the bait seem unnatural. Plus, keep the tip of the rod high and keep moving up the beach if a spot doesn’t please.
  • Sight-casting is advised. A well-placed cast can ensure you can watch the fish take the bait. To spot the fish from a pier or the shore wear polarized sunglasses to block the sun’s ray’s reflecting off the water. The best way to spot them is from a local pier especially when the tide is high.

Corbina Fishing Tips

  1. Use small, dime-sized sand crabs as bait rather than the large ones or you will have to spend more time cutting up bait than fishing.
  2. For live bait use the fish’s favorite meal such as bloodworms, mussels, ghost shrimp, sand crabs, and bean clams.

Corbina Fish Season

Corbinas can be taken all year round with summer being the most productive.

From mid-July to late September corbina fish bite in droves. The former brings smaller surf and clear waters which the fish uses to full effect in feeding frenzies.

You can catch it at any time of day but they are more active during the evening or early morning in low light conditions.

How to Clean Corbina

Corbina has a food value of good to excellent. Therefore, if you catch a keeper, it’s worth bringing it home to cook.

  1. Place the corbina on a clean cutting surface and use a large and very sharp fillet knife to cut off the head completely.
  2. Starting from the top where the head was run the knife along the spine and make several passes down to the tail.
  3. Make as many passes of the knife as it takes to remove the first fillet from the body.
  4. Separate the second fillet from the rib cage by sliding the knife between them and making several passes till it detaches.

How to Cook California Corbina

Croakers Fish Recipe

  • Cut up the fish into small pieces before washing and drying it. Place in a plastic container.
  • Sprinkle on some salt and pepper.
  • Cover the fish with 2 finely sliced red onions, 2 steamed and seeded Serano chilies and some lemon juice. Marinate for 3 hours in the fridge.
  • Boil a pot of salted water and boil 4 ears of corn for 4 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  • Place some lettuce leaves on a plate, place the fish mixture on top and surround with the cooked corn before serving.


Q: Is corbina good to eat?

A: Yes, corbina has a good mild taste that is pleasant to the palette.

Q: Can you eat croaker?

A: Yes, this fish is safe to eat.

Q: How large can corbina get?

A: Corbina can grow to be as large as 30 inches in length and as heavy as 8 lbs.

Q: Why is the corbina called the croaker?

A: The corbina is often confused with the yellowfin croaker and other croaker varieties because of its similarity to them. Yet, it does belong to the croaker family.

Q: Can I buy a corbina?

A: It is illegal to buy corbina commercially in the state of California so you will have to catch the fish yourself.

Insider Advice

Corbina can be some of the most exciting fish to catch along the California coastline if you have the right setup. To increase your chances of catching this fish, match your bait with the prey it hunts along the shallows. Be ready to put up a fight though. This croaker fish is an aggressive fighter and may give you a hard time when it is hooked.

Do you have any tips and strategies that you use to catch corbina? Share them in the comments and do share this guide if you liked it.

The Anglers Behind This Article:

Jon Stenstrom

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