Bat Ray Fishing Tips

Schooling Bat Rays, Myliobatus californica, Redondo Rock, Galapagos Islands
Jeff Rotman / Getty Images

It is not uncommon for anglers fishing onshore or from piers and jetties to feel a sense of disappointment when they discover that the fish they have just hooked and battled to the surface turns out to be a ray or a skate. Though they are able to put up a good fight the bigger they get, they are simply not viewed with the same esteem as are more popular gamefish. There is, however, one particular species that is actually targeted by onshore anglers fishing the bays and beaches of southern California; the mighty bat ray, Myliobatis californica.

Fishing at Night

Although bat rays can be caught during daylight hours, most veterans who fish for them do so at night, and can often be found around roaring beach bonfires near multiple sand spikes holding heavy duty saltwater fishing tackle capable of handling one of these powerful beasts, which can grow to weights of over 100 pounds.

Reels and a Sturdy Pole

Reels, whether conventional or spinning, should be capable of holding at least 300 yards of quality braided line between 40 and 50-pound test. Make sure that the reel is matched with a sturdy pole that has lots of backbone. If you are using a sand spike, be certain to work it deep enough into the sand to withstand a violent strike and a blazing run until you can reach your gear. Not doing so has often resulted in anglers losing their entire rig to a brute bat ray that inhales and charges off unexpectedly with their bait.

Picking the Right Hook

When it comes to the picking the right hook, remember that bat rays are not finesse feeders and will likely consume the whole bait in one gulp.

The best choice is a 9/0 to 11/0 octopus hook that is big enough to hang one or more whole market size squid, which is one of the bat rays favorite foods. Use a 50 to 60 pounds test monofilament leader about 2 feet in length, more expensive fluorocarbon leader is not really necessary for this type of fishing.

In most circumstances, dropper loops and fish finder rigs are the best way to present your bait.

What Do Bat Rays Consume

Bat rays consume a wide variety of organisms, which include squid, shrimps, mollusks and small crabs. Because of its virtually universal availability, however, either fresh or frozen squid is the bait selected by most bat ray anglers because of its convenience and effectiveness.

It Takes Patience

Above all, fishing for bat rays takes patience; so it pays to come prepared. In addition to the angling gear that you would normally take fishing, things like a folding chair, a lantern, a radio, some snacks and beverages along with a couple of fishing buddies can go a long way in making your bat ray foray more enjoyable.

Exhilarating and Exhausting

Since it is not uncommon to catch a bat ray weighting over 20 pounds, it also helps to have a couple of extra hands available to help land a big one. Battling a huge bat ray can be exhilarating and exhausting, and this is one of the main reasons that onshore anglers target them in the first place. A vast majority of those who catch bat rays release them immediately after they have taken a few pictures, but some consider them as tasty table fare as well.

The wings are best for this application and must be skinned and filleted away from the center cartilage. This portion of their flesh is mild in flavor and texture and is usually prepared by frying or sautéing.

As always, let your conscience be your guide, and only keep the fish you catch if you truly plan to fully utilize them.