White Sea Bass: How to Catch, Clean, & Cook White Seabass

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The white sea bass is one of the most sought-after fish in the fishing community.

There’s something magical about how it glides through the water, it’s unique croaking noise sound it makes, and it’s ghost-like appearance in the depths.

They also give anglers problems when hunting. Especially spearfishers who have to be extra quiet with the hopes of bumping into one.

White sea bass
A day to remember out on the water with the fine folks at Channel Island Sportsfishing. Source: Channel Island Sportsfishing

If you’re lucky to pull one in the boat either with the pole or spear, you’ll be delighted with a heaping portion of high quality and tasty meat. White sea bass can reach sizes greater than 70 pounds!

If you’re ready to dive into what it takes to bring one of these prized fish home, read the rest of this guide. You’ll even learn about the prized “stones” that white sea bass hunters strive to collect.

What is a White Sea Bass?

Common Name White Seabass, Seabass, weakfish, white weakfish, corvina, corvinata
Scientific Name (Genus and Species) Atractoscion nobilis
Family Sciaenidae
Identifying Characteristics A large fish with a metallic blue to coppery top coat with dark specks. The belly is silver and there is a black blotch on the inner base of the pectoral.

Juveniles have three to six dark bars on their upper back and yellow fins.

Locations for How to Catch Located from Alaska to the tip of Baja

Kelp forests

Rocky structures and bottoms

Algal bottoms

Surf zone

Depth Range 1-125 meters.
What Do They Eat? Fish

Squid

Crayfish

Size Length: 166 centimeters

Weight: 38 kilograms

Catch Limits Between March 15 and June 15, the White Sea Bass limit is one per day (per person)*. Between June 16 and March 14, the White Sea Bass limit is three per day (per person). *The reason the limit is one between 3/15 and 6/15 is because this is when the White Sea Bass are spawning.

According to Fish and Wildlife (for 2018): “Recreational white seabass takes, per California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

(a) Minimum size: Twenty-eight inches total length or twenty and one-half inches alternate length.

(b) Season: Open all year.

(c) Limit: Three, except that only one fish may be taken in waters south of Pt. Conception between March 15 and June 15.”

Largest Recorded Over 5 feet and 93.1 pounds.
Endangered? Was near extinct due to overfishing but due to a reduction in net fishing has been making a comeback. Currently listed as Least Concerned, but are still way below historical levels.

How to Catch a White Sea Bass Using a Pole

The Ideal White Sea Bass Setup

A 25 and 30 pound rig: Shimano Terez TZS72H Spinning Rodwith an Avet MXJ reel.

The Terez is rated for 50-100lb braid (equivalent to 25-50 mono). You should have the Avet spooled with 65lb braid, then tie on whatever leader you’d like…usually a 30lb mono. This setup will be your workhorse setup.

Use dropper loops with a 4oz sinker and a J-hook. You can also use a 0.5oz lead head on some squid or whatever set up you prefer.

It’ll work great to pull in white sea bass of all sizes…even the big ones!

White sea bass heads
A good days catch down in Mexico. Source: WikiCommons

5 Tips for Catching White Sea Bass

  1. White sea bass like fresh dead or freshly killed baits. They are lazy eaters and are used to picking up the scraps in the squid grounds.
  2. Grab a live bait and throw it on the deck of the boat to stun it then hook it up.
  3. Fish towards the bottom or let your bait sink slowly to catch the bigger ones.
  4. You don’t need to be an expert angler to catch these fish. Many times the beginners snag the big ones on rental equipment.
  5. Be cognizant that the fish like 65-degree water or below. If you’re out in warm water, you’ll most likely be fishing for another species.

Your Spearfishing Guide to Hunting White Sea Bass

You’re in luck, we’ve pulled the expertise of Al Schneppershoff and his wife Vicki Rosenthal, to share their insights around what it’ll take for you to become a successful white sea bass spearo.

To stalk the white sea bass successfully, you must become knowledgeable about the fish. For example, you must know what it eats, when it feeds and where its food source can be found.

White seabass like to eat anchovies, pilchards, herring, and other fish…some even feast on squid and crustaceans!

You should do your research and understand the white sea bass’s patterns of travel at different times of the day, which includes the morning, afternoon and evening.

Additionally, you should familiarize yourself with the continual, non-stop changes in the fish’s environment, including the current, water temperature, visibility, etc. You must also understand how these changes affect the movements of the fish.

The white sea bass can be the most difficult Pacific pelagic fish to hunt, especially for a beginning spearo. I have taken out many spearos who have been trying to spear white sea bass for years.

White sea bass Jonny Newell
Spearo Jonny Newell catching a great white seabass down in the depths of the kelp forest. Source: Jonny Newell’s white sea bass

It is definitely not for the faint of heart.

Sometimes it takes years, and in a lot of cases, it never happens. This information might be the most critical in order for beginners to find the white sea bass. Try to find out when the white sea bass shows up in certain areas.

If they aren’t there, you are never going to find them.

White sea bass usually shows up at Palos Verdes, California mid-February to mid-June. Then, they go up the California coast to Malibu to follow the cold water. Malibu is good for white sea bass hunting during the months of July through October.

Equipment Needed to Spear White Sea Bass

In order to effectively spear white sea bass, you need to get the right speargun. 100 centimeters to 120 centimeters (cm) is a perfect size. Or 56 inches to 60 inches. Each speargun should be rigged with a “slip tip” or breakaway spearhead. There are two different types of slip tips: either a “Bullet Nose” or a “Tri-Cut.”

Additionally, you either need a reel on the gun that holds over 200 feet of line, or you need a 100-foot floatline. When you are diving in the kelp, you are not going to have a big float attached to your floatline because it can’t be pulled through the kelp. Neptonics has a carrot-shaped float that can be pulled through the kelp.

White Sea Bass like the deep, rocky environments near kelp forests between 72 and 150 feet, but can be found in shallower waters as well.

Most divers have their floatline rigged breakaway from the gun. That means that once the fish is hit or speared, the fish is now free from the gun, and you have to fight the fish with the floatline in your hand.

Some divers use the Riffe “Utility Float.” It can either be orally inflated or use a CO2 Activator. Once the fish is hit, you can pull this off your weight belt (you can get a “Utility Float Holder” that attaches to your weight belt).

This is when it’s inflated, then you attach it to your floatline, which gives you something to fight the fish with. The best thing to do with the gun that is now free from the fish is to put your left hand through the bands of the gun (that way, the gun won’t drift away).

The Approximate Shooting Range of These Spearguns

  1. 100 cm gun has approximately a 20-foot range.
  2. 110 cm gun has approximately a 22-foot range.
  3. 120 cm gun has approximately a 24-foot range.
  4. A 56-inch gun has approximately a 24-foot range.
  5. A 60-inch gun has approximately a 26-foot range.

If you’re looking for the best white sea bass speargun, be sure to check out our in-depth guide to choosing the best one.

Specific Information about How to Hunt White Sea Bass

There is specific training available to learn how to spear this fish in particular. It cannot be stressed enough the importance of familiarizing oneself with this fish’s habits as stated above.

When I first take somebody out to the kelp beds to show them how to hunt for the white sea bass, I tell them to swim through the kelp on the surface as quietly as possible. This is so that you do not spook any fish below you.

More than just about any other fish, it is imperative for the hunter to be as quiet as possible when hunting white sea bass; hence the phrase “silent hunter.”

Into the Kelp Forest

Sometimes, I will hunt the kelp forest area without ever making a dive and cover a large area until I can find where the white sea bass is.

If the kelp forest area is too thick to swim through, I suggest diving down to 10-15 feet and hanging on the kelp and letting the white sea bass swim to you. That way, you are not using that much oxygen and you are theoretically spooking the fish.

After you have gone through this kelp exercise for twenty or thirty dives, and if you still have not seen any white sea bass, then you start to dive to 10-15 feet and swim through the kelp forest while covering more area.

Some of the kelp forests will have kelp “rooms” where the white sea bass like to sleep during the middle of the day. This way, the target obviously now becomes a lot easier to shoot with a spear gun.

When you dive through the kelp, you must look for a channel to swim through. You do not want to swim into a thick kelp forest. If you are a beginner, you could get tangled and/or stuck. This is why you should always carry a knife. (A knife is also good for killing the fish once you land it and get it in your hand.)

The more area you cover, the more likely that you are going to see more white sea bass.

10 Tips for Hunting White Sea Bass

Tip #1: Surface hunting is the first thing that I usually do when I am hunting White Sea Bass. I do this so that I can very quietly cover an area without making any noise. That way, I won’t spook any White Sea Bass underneath me.

As I swim through the kelp bed, I am always looking left to right (you never know which way the fish is going to be coming from). I continue to cover as much area as possible while looking for the White Sea Bass.

If you do this, hopefully, one will swim underneath you.

Tip #2: If the kelp is too thick to surface hunt, that is when I start diving through the kelp bed to 10-20 feet while I hold my breath and hang on to a piece of kelp. I am always looking left to right.

Tip #3: The third rule of thumb is diving through the kelp beds 10-20 feet and swimming through the kelp as long as I can hold my breath. I am always looking left to right, looking for the White Sea Bass to swim to me.

Tip #4: If the first three (above) isn’t working, then I go looking for the schools of baitfish that the White Sea Bass like to eat – sardines, anchovies, smelt, mackerel, etc., and let the baitfish be my eyes and ears. Once the baitfish spook, then I dive 10 to 20 feet in order to see what’s chasing the bait fish.

At this point, I look left to right (because you never know which direction the fish is coming from). Then, hopefully, a White Sea Bass will come swimming through.

What Else to Try

Tip #5: If each of these four things fails (above), I try diving to the bottom in 10-30 feet of water and wait patiently for a White Sea Bass to swim by.

Tip #6: If there is current, the White Sea Bass tend to be on the bottom. {It is worth noting: White Sea Bass don’t really like current.}

Tip #7: When there is either not much current or no current, the White Sea Bass tend to be in the top 20 feet.

Tip #8: The optimum water temperature for White Sea Bass is 58 to 65 degrees.

PLEASE NOTE: The White Sea Bass size limit is 28-inches.

Tip #9: Between March 15 and June 15, the White Sea Bass limit is one per day (per person)*. Between June 16 and March 14, the White Sea Bass limit is three per day (per person). *The reason the limit is one between 3/15 and 6/15 is because this is when the White Sea Bass are spawning.

According to Fish and Wildlife (for 2018): “Recreational white seabass takes, per California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Minimum size: Twenty-eight inches total length or twenty and one-half inches alternate length.

Season: Open all year.

Limit: Three, except that only one fish may be taken in waters south of Pt. Conception between March 15 and June 15.”

Tip #10: If you have any friends who are avid White Sea Bass hunters, and if they are willing to take you out and give you some pointers, get as much information from any of your friends as you can.

How to Clean and Cook White Sea Bass

Step by Step Instructions

Start by cutting behind the pectoral fin. They have large scales which you’ll need to work through until you feel the skeleton.

Come down the back of the fish. you should feel your knife riding along the backbone. Use the fin on top as a guideline.

Cut straight across the tail.

Cut around the belly and not too deep that you’ll puncture the gut. Follow the center line all the way back towards the tail.

Work deeper into the fish to remove all the flesh from the bones.

Remove the fillet from the fish.

Flip the fish over and do the other side.

You should have two massive fillets now.

Cut down the center until your through the meat but not through the skin. Slide the knife along the skin to remove the skin from the fillet chunks.

Cut out the bones from the fillets.

Shave off the blood meat if you want although it’s not as pungent as a tuna or other fish.

Put them in a container or plastic bag and store it.

Bonus: Remove the stones from the head if you want a keepsake from your white sea bass. They are located right by the brain. It could take a bit of work, but you’ll have a keepsake forever.

Best White Sea Bass Recipe

Ingredients

  1. 1lb white sea bass
  2. 3 garlic cloves
  3. 1 tbsp olive oil
  4. 1.5 tbsp Italian dressing
  5. 1 tsp fresh ground pepper
  6. pinch of salt
  7. 2 lemon wedges
  8. 1/3 cup white wine vinegar or white wine

Cooking Steps

Preheat the oven to 450F

Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Use a brush or your hand to coat the white sea bass on all sides.

Pour the white wine vinegar or white wine over the fish.

Place the fish in a deep pan for 15 minutes uncovered. After 15 minutes pull the fish out and drizzle the Italian dressing over the top. Throw it back in the oven for 5 minutes or until perfectly flaky.

Pull the fish out of the oven and put it on a serving plate.

Squeeze the lemon over the fish and pair it with a nice side salad.

Now that’s good eats!

White Seabass Fishing Tips

  • The white sea bass is a lazy eater, so if you’re using a rod and reel, test out killing the bait before dropping it in the water.
  • If you’re spearfishing, it’s critical that you hunt silently. Any noise or bubbles can spook the fish.
  • Remember that if you pull up a good size fish, it might still be under the legal limit. White sea bass should be taken when they are large.
  • Make sure you are careful not to pull out the spear from the fish after it’s been shot. Pull gently on your floatline or reel and steer them into the kelp.
  • White seabass like cooler water so make sure you check the reports before going out if that’s the fish you are after for the day.

FAQs

Q: What does a white sea bass taste like?

A: White sea bass is a great tasting fish! It has a meaty texture and forms large flakes when you pull it with a fork. If you’ve ever had black cod or shark, then you’ll know the texture (it’s also milder in flavor profile). You’ll find that it’s a cross between a fishy buttery taste when compared to other fish like tilapia.

Q: How big are white sea bass?

A: White sea bass can grow large. It’s not uncommon to find them in the 30-70 pound range. The minimum legal limit to take them is 28 inches, which takes them about 5 years to develop.

Q: What is corvina sea bass?

A: This topic can be confusing. The white sea bass (Atractoscion nobilis) is sometimes called corvina cabaicucho or corvina blanca as another name for white sea bass in Baja. Corvina, however, can refer to a huge variety of Drums and Croakers in Latin America…sometimes it’s best to stick with the scientific names.

Now that you’re up to speed with all things white sea bass, are you ready to catch one? If you’ve already caught one, share your story in the comments below!

Happy fishing!

White Sea Bass are some of the best eating fish out there. This guide shows you how to catch them with a hook and line or if you're adventurous, even spearfishing. Check out this guide if you want to learn how to catch, clean, and cook white seabass.
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2 thoughts on “White Sea Bass: How to Catch, Clean, & Cook White Seabass

  1. My first time spearfishing was with a pole spear on Catalina Island. I was unable to find anything worthy of the end of my spear until I came across several white sea bass in shallow water(about 10 foot deep or less). The visibility wasn’t great, which I definitely think worked to my advantage. After patiently stalking the school and trying to get close to the larget specimens, I finally came upon one I was ready to take a shot at. I held my pole spear tightly amd slowly approached the fish. I realeased my spear and to my surprise the fish didn’t move an inch. It was dead. I had successfully killed my first fish with a spear. Partially in shock, I pulled the fish in and celebrated. I am truly honored and humbled that my first fish on a spear was a whte sea bass. I hope that I am able to get many more.

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