Show of hands: who wants a cool nickname? No matter how hard you try, it won’t hold a candle to white seabass.
Known as “the ghost of the coast”, the nickname for white seabass (Atractoscion nobilis) is a reference to the fish’s ability to stalk and haunt its prey while hiding in kelp beds. They’re voracious predators and exclusive to the West Coast. Starting this month, the California ghosts of the coast are making a seasonal appearance at Water Grill.
White seabass is a true local treasure, found from Central California through Baja California. However, it’s not actually a true bass. It’s a member – one of the largest, in fact – of the Croaker (Sciaenadae) family. And, while “croaker” may not be as cool of a nickname as “ghost of the coast”, it’s more descriptive, as this family of fish makes drumming noises by vibrating their air bladders.
The commercial fishing season in California typically runs from June through March (and year-round in Mexico). White seabass is caught by gill-net and hook and line in many areas off the California coasts, including sandy and rocky bottoms, near- and offshore and, of course, in kelp beds.
They’re a Keeper
White seabass can range from 10-lbs. to 60-lbs.; however, most white seabass will be in the 20-lb. to 30-lb. range. You know it’s a keeper when it’s 28” long. Literally. That’s the length a white seabass must be to keep. It signals that the fish has had an opportunity to reproduce at least once before being pulled from the rotation. Spawning season typically occurs from March to early June.
Fisheries management is supported by NOAA Fisheries, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the White Seabass Fisheries Management Plan (USA) and CONAPESCA and INAPESCA in Mexico.
This is in addition to support from the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute. They operate a white seabass hatchery in San Diego, which contributes fish to the wild stock from grow-out pens up and down the Southern California coast.
White seabass is known for its sweet flavor, firm texture and medium flakes. It’s a great fish for grilling, and its seasonal arrival is timed perfectly for enjoying in the summer months.
At Water Grill, we bring this all together in a preparation of rustic ratatouille, featuring Japanese eggplant, bell peppers, a garlic emulsion and basil oil. See our menus here.