Pacific Sanddab

The Science

Both eyes are on the left side of the Sanddab’s head [2]

The Fishery

Pacific Sanddab is rarely the sole target for a given fishery, and is mostly caught by bottom trawl [3]

The Seafood

Sweet tasting meat but savory skin.  Said to taste like trout and French Fries, respectively [4]

The Science

Taxonomic description

  • A left-eyed flounder with brown, white, yellow and orange coloration on the eyed side, and white or light brown on the blind side [2]
  • Unlike other flatfish, has a straight rather than slightly curved midline [2]
  • Ranges from 5 inches (12.7 cm) to 16 inches (40.6 cm) in length, and can weigh up to 2 pounds (4.4 kg) [2]


  • Found in the Eastern Pacific from the southern tip of Baja California, Mexico to the Bering Sea [2]
  • Most abundant off north-central California and Southern California [8]

Life History

  • Lives up to 9-10 years [5]
  • Spawn multiple times over the spawning season from July to September, with the females producing numerous eggs each spawning session [5]
  • Pairs with one mate at a time and uses external fertilization [5]


  • Lives on the seafloor in mostly sandy and muddy areas [6] at depths of 30 ft (9 m) to 1,800 feet (568 m), but is most prevalent between 120-300 feet (37-91 m) [2]
  • Young tend to live in shallow waters, found occasionally in tide pools [12]
  • Lives among various rays, crustaceans, cephalopods, other flatfish and bottom feeders [6]
  • Survives on a variety of small fish, cephalopods, eggs and crustaceans [5]
  • Often nestles into the soft seafloor to camouflage from predators, including sharks, rays and halibut [7]
  • Fished commercially and recreationally by humans [7]

The Fishery

Drew Talley

Seasonal Availability

  • Available year-round, but with less frequency in winter [11]

Management Authority

  • NOAA Fisheries and the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC), established by the Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976, regulates this species under the Federal Groundfish fishery [9]

Gear Type

  • Fisheries that catch this species use bottom trawl—a technique that uses a large, cone-shaped net and a crane-like rig to lift full nets out [10]

Status of the Fishery

  • There are no seasonal regulations in place—Pacific Sanddab is rarely the intended catch.
  • There is little concern about the stock which was estimated to be at 95.5% of its unfished level in 2013, well below the management target for flat fish [3]
  • The harvest rate has steadily declined over the last decade, meaning that fewer fish are being caught in relation to the year’s spawning rate [3]

Potential Ecosystem Impacts

  • Bottom trawl has the potential to capture bycatch and damage the seafloor; this species is mostly found in sand and mud which can recover relatively easily from trawling [10]

The Seafood

 Edible portions

  • Whole or fillets [4]

Description of meat

  • Meat is sweeter than most other fish, akin to trout [4]

Culinary uses

  • Sanddab is cut into fillets and deboned after cooking [4]
  • Fillet is best pan fried with olive oil, butter and light breading [4]
  • Skin can be left on (it tastes like fries) [4]

Nutritional information 

  • 1 Fillet is considered a serving, roughly 100 grams [13]

Toxicity report

  • No known toxins

Seasonal availability

  • Available year-round, but with less frequency in winter [11]


[1] Safina Center. 2017. Web. Accessed: 9 April 2017

[2] California Department of Fish and Wildlife. 2017. Web. Accessed: 9 April 2017

[3] He, X. 2013. Status of the U.S. Pacific Sanddab Resource in 2013. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Santa Cruz, CA, United States.

[4] Nordahl, D. 2015. Pacific Sanddab (Citharichtys sordidus). Accessed: 9 April 2017

[5] Fishbase. 2017. Web. Accessed: 17 April 2017

[6] Monterey Bay Aquarium. 2017. Web. Accessed: 17 April 2017

[7] Animalia Life. 2017. Web. Accessed: 17 April 2017.

[8] Fishsource. 2017. Web. Accessed:  30 April 2017.

[9] Pacific Fishery Management Council. 2017. Web. Accessed: 21 May 2017. 57.

[10] Safina Center. 2015. Web. Accessed: 27 May 2017

[11] Seaforager. 2013. Web. Accessed: 9 April 2017.

[12] Froese, R and D. Pauly (eds). 2006. Citharichtys sordidus. Fishbase. Accessed 27 May 2017. 

[13] Pacific Sanddab,Web. Accessed: 21 September 2017.