White Seabass

The white seabass (Atractoscion nobilis) is the largest member of the Sciaenid family found in California waters. In addition to being a popular sport fish, white seabass is also targeted by a commercial fishery. There have been commercial and recreational fisheries for white seabass in California since the 1890s. The fisheries occur primarily in southern California but in some years may extend to central California. The commercial fisheries use primarily drift gill nets but some fish are taken on hook-and-line. The current sport angling record is a 78-pound fish caught in Monterey Bay on April 4, 2002 by David L. Sternberg. White seabass are also taken by divers. The current sport diving record is for a 93-pound, 4-ounce fish caught in Malibu on September 17, 2007 by Bill Ernst while freediving.

Species Identification

White Seabass

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Sciaenidae
Genus: Atractoscion
Species: nobilis

The white seabass (Atractoscion nobilis) has an elongated body, large mouth, and a raised ridge along the length of its belly. It is grey-blue to copper on its back, with dark specks on its sides and a silver belly. It has a black spot on the inner base of its pectoral fins. Young white seabass have dark bars on the side. White seabass may be confused with the shortfin corvina (which has 1 or 2 large canine teeth on each side of the upper jaw) or the queenfish (which has a wider gap between the dorsal fins and more soft rays in its anal fin).


  • Ocean Sport Fishing
    Provides links to current Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations, California Code and Regulations, Title 14, regulation changes, closures, and more.


  • Commercial Landing Totals
    All commercially caught fish landed within the State must be accurately documented. The CDFW maintains basic catch records of amounts and values of the various marine resources taken by California's commercial fisheries.
  • Commercial Ocean Fishing
    Provides links to the current Commercial Fishing Digest, California Code of Regulations, Title 14, license information, and more.
  • Fish Business Information
    The CDFW License and Revenue Branch provides excellent service to our customers by issuing licenses, permits, stamps and tags consistent with statutory and regulatory requirements, collecting revenue, and providing information to support the use and enjoyment of California's diverse natural resources and insure that they are available for future generations.

White Seabass Activities

The Southern California Fisheries Research & Management Project conducts an annual review of the white seabass fishery as required by the White Seabass Fishery Management Plan. The Northern and Central California Finfish Research and Management Project assists in sampling the recreational and commercial fisheries in Monterey Bay as needed. Project staff also convene an annual meeting of white seabass fishery stakeholders and produce an annual report (A Summary of Information: White Seabass Fishery and Sampling Programs as related to the Annual Review of the White Seabass Fishery Management Plan) for the Fish and Game Commission.

  • Annual Reviews of White Seabass Fishery Management
    Each year the White Seabass Scientific and Constituent Advisory Panel meets to consider if current management measures are providing adequate protection for the white seabass resource. Annual reviews are conducted so that any changes in management, or to the White Seabass Fishery Management Plan, can be considered by the Commission in accordance with the requirements of the Marine Life Management Act. The Advisory Panel meets with CDFW each spring.
  • Aquaculture and Bay Management Project (ABMP)
    ABMP staff coordinate the activities of the Ocean Resources Enhancement and Hatchery Program (OREHP) which is involved in the experimental culture and release of white seabass for fishery enhancement purposes.

Project Resources

  • Annual Status of the Fisheries Reports (2006)
    The Marine Life Management Act (MLMA) of 1998 mandated that California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) review at least one quarter of state-managed marine fisheries annually with focus on species that are the subject of a directed recreational or commercial fishery. The report contains a history of the fishery, status of biological knowledge, the status of the population, management considerations, and references to more white seabass information.
  • White Seabass (PDF)
    Excerpt from Review of Selected California Fisheries for 2005: Coastal Pelagic Finfish, Market Squid, Dungeness Crab, Sea Urchin, Abalone, Kellet's Whelk, Groundfish, Highly Migratory, Species, Ocean Salmon, Nearshore Live Fish, Pacific Herring, and White Seabass, M. Connell, author. 2006 CalCOFI Report, Volume 47, pgs. 27-29
  • White Seabass (PDF)
    Excerpt from Review of Selected California Fisheries for 2008: Coastal Pelagic Finfish, Market Squid, Ocean Salmon, Groundfish, California Spiny Lobster, Spot Prawn, White Seabass, Kelp Bass, Thresher Shark, Skates and Rays, Kellet's Whelk and Sea Cucumber, V. Taylor, author, 2009 CalCOFI Report, Volume 50, pgs. 27-30
  • White Seabass Brochure (PDF)
    This brochure provides a summary of information about white seabass including fishing, identification, life history, and management.
  • White Seabass Fishery Management Plan
    Concern over the decline in white seabass landings and conflict between recreational and commercial fishermen over this resource from the mid- to late-1900s resulted in legislation requiring the development of the White Seabass Fishery Management Plan. The plan was developed in 1995 and adopted by the Fish and Game Commission in 1996. However, regulations to implement the plan were not adopted at that time. The CDFW revised the plan in accordance with the Marine Life Management Act and submitted it to the Commission, which adopted it on April 4, 2002.

White Seabass

CDFW photo courtesy of CRFS