Sargo Fishing Tips — How to Catch Anisotremus davidsonii

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Sargo is a fun fish to catch and spear. The last time I was in Baja, schools of them would swim through the kelp and come within inches of me.

This fish is the largest of the Pacific grunts and is usually caught by anglers by accident, especially during the summer.

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They are also great to eat! Let’s help you catch one.


Adult sargos have a compressed and oval-shaped body with an elevated back. The upper profile of this fish is steep and straight, it has a small mouth, and it is metallic silver in color with a grayish tinge. Some sargo fish can also be completely orange, yellow, and even pure white in color. The fish can be found in the eastern Central Pacific in waters ranging from Magdalena Bay to Santa Cruz, California.

The sargo fish is a bottom feeder like most croakers, and it feeds on crabs, clams, snails, and shrimp. It swims close to the bottom in loose schools and spawns in later spring and early summer.

Sargo Facts

Scientific NameAnisotremus davidsonii
Common Name(s)Sargo, China croaker, blue bass, white sea bream
Identifying CharacteristicsSargos have a compressed and oval-shaped body with an elevated back. The upper profile of this fish is steep and straight, it has a small mouth, and it is metallic silver in color with a grayish tinge
Depth Range8 to 130 feet
HabitatThe fish can be found in the eastern Central Pacific, eastern Atlantic, and western Indian Oceans in waters ranging from, southern Baja California, Magdalena Bay to Santa Cruz, California.
LimitsCheck your local regulations

Sargo Habitat

Sargos can be found inshore and in bays over rocky and rocky/sandy bottoms. They are pre-dominant in kelp beds, around pilings, and other submerged structures. Even though they can be found over 130 feet underwater, they are usually swimming in water that is 8 to 25 feet deep only. They are commonly found in southern Baja, California, to about Santa Monica Bay and are native to the eastern Atlantic and western Indian Oceans.

How to Catch Sargo

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Sargo prefers to remain near submerged rocks and structures that it can hide in when it feels threatened. When it bites, it can either tense up or loosen the line, so make sure that the line remains taut as you reel it in.

Use a simple rod and reel for fishing for this species of croaker but make sure the setup has strong resistance with a 20-pound line. The saltwater rod should be long (about 3 to 3.6 meters) and should be strong enough to stand up to 30 pounds. It should also be rigid enough to take on this combative fish without breaking off especially when you are trying to reel in a sargo from the rocks.

Sargo Fishing Tactics

  1. Sargos are quite ferocious fighters when they are hooked, so make sure to use a light tackle, so you don’t wear yourself out too fast while reeling one in.
  2. Since sargos remain near rocks, use simple rods which are 7 to 8 meters long and small fusiform floats that are about 8 cm long to catch them.

Sargo Fishing Tips

  • Avoid obstacles in the water by using the lightest weights (30 to 50 gms max).
  • Use size 8 to 4 hooks and fish on the bottom or a few feet above the bottom, and use high/low leader as rigging.

Spearfishing Sargo

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  1. Find sargo under submerged rocks and ledges near the Posidonia beds and patches of sand.
  2. If you spot sargos in holes or trying to hide under ledges, lure them out with a grouper call or any other noise. The fish is curious by nature and will swim out to investigate. While you will see many small ones during a dive, be patient and look for bigger varieties to increase your chances of spearing one.

We covered catching other fish in our spearfishing California guide if you haven’t checked it out yet!

Sargo Seasons

The best season for fishing for sargo is the beginning of fall, in April or May. As the season progresses, the fish swims further east, but it won’t disappear from the radar completely irrespective of the time of year. Certain ports, such as Jose Ignacio see sargo all year long, but the highest season ends in November. During that time you won’t be able to find large shoals easily.

Sargo California fishing is always a great time!

How to Clean Sargo

  1. Keep the sargo on ice a day before you want to fillet it so it can be filleted. The fish is quite bony and difficult to fillet, so cutting it while it is frozen will increase your chances of getting clean fillets.
  2. Lay the fish flat on a cutting board and use a (very) sharp fillet knife to cut through the pectoral fin and make a cut down to the bone line.
  3. Run the knife down the dorsal carving until you feel the rib cage. Once you are past it, slice off till the end where the rib cage ends.
  4. Place the fish on its belly and carve around the rib cage till the fillet comes free.
  5. Flip the fish and repeat the process to get the second fillet.

How to Cook Sargo

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  • Heat a griddle pan over high heat.
  • Rub the sargo fillets with olive oil and season with salt and pepper on both sides. You can remove the skin beforehand if you want to.
  • Place the fillets in the hot pan and cook for 4 to 5 minutes on each side. If the fish sticks to the pan when you try to lift it out, give it another minute or till it comes away.
  • Serve with mashed potatoes or French fries.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does sargo taste like?

The sargo fish has good meat, which has a taste and texture that is like croaker. It’s best grilled, baked, or fried.

What do sargos eat?

The fish consumes small crustaceans, mollusks, seaweed, and even some types of coral. It uses its strong jaws to crush shells.

How big do sargos get?

The sargo fish can reach a length of 22 inches.

What is the best bait to catch sargos?

Use natural bait such as mussels, squid, shrimp, prawns, and sea snails to lure this fish on the hook.

Insider Advice

Sargos are tough to catch and delicious to boot, two facts that make them irresistible to novice and seasoned anglers. Plus, since the fish is available year-round, you can try your hand at fishing for it in any season you want.

Do you have any tips, tricks, and spearfishing strategies that are effective in catching this fish? Share your answers in the comments below and share this guide if you liked it.

Jon Stenstrom
Founder & Angler
Jon Stenstrom is a fishing enthusiast. He has over 25 years of fishing experience, and 6 years of spearfishing experience, and is currently learning how to boat. Jon has his Open Water PADI Certification and FII Freediver Level 1 Certification. Jon has traveled the world to fish and dive, most notably in the Great Barrier Reef, Baja Mexico, Thailand, and Malaysia. More Articles
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