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Marine Sportfish Identification: Rays
Last Updated October 17, 2013
Family: Myliobatidae (Eagle rays)
Genus and Species: Myliobatis californica
Description: The bat ray has a distinct head that is elevated above the disk. The tail is whip-like and as long or longer than the width of the disk with the sting located just behind the body. The color is dark brown to dark olive or almost black above and white below. This species can be distinguished from manta rays or mobulas (that rarely occur off California) by the absence of the arm-like projections manta rays and mobulas have on their heads. Young are 8-12 inches disc width (wing span) at birth, with a maximum disc width of 6 feet.
Range: Bat rays are found from the Gulf of California to Oregon, from surface waters to depths of 150 feet.
Natural History: Bat rays feed chiefly upon mollusks and crustaceans. In bays and sloughs they feed heavily upon clams, oysters, shrimp and crabs. On the open coast they eat abalones and various other snails. When feeding, they swim along the bottom until they encounter currents of water expelled from the siphons of clams. They dig clams by suction created by flapping their wings. The shell of the ingested clam is crushed by their millstone like jaw teeth. Mating takes place during the summer months and the young are born alive, apparently the following summer, when they are 12 to 14 inches in width and weigh about 2 pounds. The young are always born tail-first with their wings rolled up over the body. They come equipped with a stinger and can cause severe painful wounds. Females apparently weigh at least 50 pounds and males 10 pounds before they are mature. Females of 50 to 60 pounds usually have two to four young; whereas, females of 130 to 140 pounds may have 10 or 12 young.
Fishing Information: Most sportfishing for bat rays takes place in protected bays and estuaries. Although bat rays may be taken in the open ocean, anglers prefer to catch them in sheltered waters. Heavy tackle is recommended since anglers often encounter large rays. Favorite baits include shrimp, clams, crabs or even cut mackerel.
Other Common Names: sting ray, eagle ray, batfish, stingaree, bat sting ray.
Largest Recorded: Maximum disc width 4 feet, 9 inches. Largest taken off California by a recreational angler: 181 pounds, no width.
Habitat: Shallow Sandy Environment
Family: Dasyatididae (Stingrays)
Genus and Species: Urolophus halleri
Description: The disk of the round stingray is nearly circular. The back of this species is brown, often mottled or spotted, and the underside is white to orange. The round stingray is one of six rays found in California waters which have a stinger on the tail. It can be distinguished from the others since it is the only one with a true tail fin. The others have either a whip-like tail or very short tail with no fin membrane.
Range: This species occurs from Panama to Humboldt Bay, California, including the Gulf of California. Round stingrays are most abundant off southern California and northern Baja California at depths up to 70 feet.
Natural History: Round stingrays obtain much of their food by burrowing in the substrate. Their diet includes worms, crabs, snails, clams and small fishes. It takes 3 months for the round stingray young to develop and they are approximately 3 inches wide at birth. Sexual maturity occurs at 6 years,, and mating occurs from May to June and in December. There are one to six pups, depending upon the size of the female.
Fishing Information: Most round stingrays are taken incidentally by anglers fishing for other species. However, should one wish to go after them specifically, marine worms or pieces of clam are good bait. Sandy or muddy bottoms along a beach or in a bay should provide good fishing. Round stingrays are potentially dangerous because of the wounds they can inflict. If an angler is stung, the wound should be cleaned thoroughly and bathed in water. One should see a doctor if pain persists or infection occurs.
Other Common Names: ray, stingray, stinger, stingaree.
Largest Recorded: 22 inches disc width; no weight recorded; however, a male 20 inches disc width weighed 1.5 pounds.
Habitat: Shallow Sandy Environment