Scripps Fishing

This morning, the men of the Fung and Pilcher families invited me to go on a fishing expedition with them at the Scripps pier just north of La Jolla Shores. The 5 of us headed to the beach around 7:15 after doing a morning devotional held by B. Fung where we prepared our gear. While we were preparing, we saw a few fly fishermen catch a small Corbina, which are notoriously hard to catch but taste amazing. We figured that if they could catch something, then we would have no problem catching fish with mussels that F. Fung and J. Pilcher had collected even earlier that morning…this was not the case. After several frustrating hours, the only thing we had successfully caught was a giant sandcrab I spotted while fishing. Eventually J. Pilcher caught a small 3-inch smelt, and we figured ‘what the heck, why not try to use it for bait.’ Within 15 minutes, the ‘monster’ pole we had on a sand pike went crazy, and we ended up catching a male ~42-inch Shovelnose Guitar fish. The fight that the guitarfish was exhilarating, and took several minutes, but we eventually landed it. Although B. Fung did have a few scares when he tried to wrangle it with his hands as the fish ran and tripped him up. During the fight, J. Pilcher managed to catch another smelt, which was around 6 inches, which we then cast out. Within minutes, we saw the fishing pole bending, and we had another shovelnose guitarfish on the line. The 2nd one seemed to be smaller as it didn’t fight as hard, but when we brought it on shore we realized that it was significantly bigger than the first, sitting at around 4 feet in length. The second, larger guitarfish was female, and had a brownish tint on its underside, while the male had a whiter underbelly. Later on, K. Chezum managed to catch a 3.5 lb corbina, which was the first fish he had ever caught.

Shovelnose Guitarfish are large bottom dwelling scavengers that live primarily along the coast and prefer shallow sandy areas. They are related to Skates, Rays, and Shark, all of which do not have bones, instead they have a cartilage skeleton as well as sandpaper-like skin, and they commonly range from 2-4 feet in size.  The anatomy of the guitarfish is a combination of skates and sharks. Their heads are similar to those of skates and rays, while their tails are like a sharks. Guitarfish are scavengers and search the sandy bottoms of the surf zone for crustaceans and small baitfish. Their mouths consist of a hard palate and pose no threat to humans. These fish are very strong and have muscular tails which make for an entertaining fight, while their heads are very wide, which poses a problem when trying to land them, as they dig their heads into the sand, making it nearly impossible to reel them in. Corbina are another species of bottom dwelling fish that also live in the surf zone. Corbina are in the croaker family and grow typically to 2 feet in length. Corbina are also bottom feeders, and typically feed on sandcrabs, mussels and worms. Corbina are very intelligent fish and are one of the hardest to catch as they are cautious and can detect hooks with their sensitive mouths. The smarter fish have been reported to steal bait off the hooks, and even if they are hooked, there have been cases in which the fish runs towards the fisherman and trash their heads around to dislodge the hooks. Both fish are only found along the Southern California and Mexico coast, and it is common to see both fish while wading in the shallows or surfing.

Corbina are great eating fish as their meat is clean, and has a firm yet flakey consistency, and can be eaten raw. The Corbina that we caught was a female and had 2 large roe sacks. My favorite method of cooking corbina is to steam it with ginger and scallions, and put sweetened soy sauce and hot oil over it. I’ve heard that shovelnose guitar fish are good to eat as well, and taste similar to salmon if prepared properly, but I have personally not tried it, but that will soon change. In order to properly prepare guitarfish, it is crucial that the fish is gutted and bled as soon as possible, as guitarfish, skates, and sharks have uraic acid in their blood which ruin the meat. However, as we were on the beach during the weekend, there were a lot of people and kids coming up to us and asking to touch the fish and take a picture with them. Due to the amount of people that were coming up to us, it would have been foolish to cut up the fish on sight, as they would have surely reported us to PETA for animal cruelty. Thus, we brought the fish back to the Fung’s place to butcher the fish. We used scissors and knives to open up the abdomen and take out the innards while bleeding the fish out. We then beheaded the fish and cut the tails into steaks. As guitarfish are related to sharks and skates, I decided to keep the fins in order to attempt to make sharkfin soup since it’s been banned. We put all of the meat in a vineager and lemon solution to displace the uraic acid, and then we soaked the meat in milk which theoretically would neutralize the acids.

We are still marinating the steaks in milk, so we haven’t tried cooking it yet, but the Pilchers did manage to cook the Corbina. I’ll update you on the taste of the guitarfish soon!

B. Fung and I holding the shovelnose guitarfish

Corbina cooked by the Pilchers

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  1. […] jmw590 I R Rational Skip to content Home ← Scripps Fishing […]

  2. […] filming took a major part of Saturday, and we did a little bit on Sunday after I had finished fishing and gutting the catch. P. Nguyen finished editing the film late Sunday, and we submitted the video early on Monday. I […]



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