Buy Your License Online! Buy Your License Online!

Photo courtesy of Pacific Shark Research Center

Bottomfish Identification: Sharks, Skates and Ratfishes

California Skate
Raja inornata

Caught incidentally in the commercial fishery off the Washington coast with otter-trawls, longline, and jig handline gear. Caught incidentally by recreational harvesters off the outer Washington coast and in northern Puget Sound. 

Description: The flat body of the California skate is in a rhombic shape because their large pectoral fins extend from the snout to the bases of their tails.  They are generally olive-brown above, sometimes with dark mottling and occasionally 2 dark rings or eyespots, and tan below. They have a moderately long and acutely pointed snout that is the product of a projection of cartilage. This species has deeply notched pelvic fins. They have no orbital or scapular spines but have middorsal spines on the tail, and sometimes over the pelvic fins and at the midback. The slightly concave body is otherwise smooth except for scattered small denticles (scales). This skate has a smooth undersurface.

Maximum Size: To 76 cm (2.5 ft) in length.

Maximum Age: Information is lacking for this species.

Range/Habitat: California skates range from the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Washington to central Baja, California.  They are common inshore and in shallow bays, but can be found at depths up to 671 m (2,200 ft).


  • Eschmeyer, W.N., E.S. Herald and H. Hammann, 1983. A field guide to Pacific coast fishes of North America. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, U.S.A. 336 p.
  • McEachran, J. D. and K.A. Dunn, 1998. Phylogenetic analysis of skates, a morphologically conservative clade of elasmobranchs (Chondrichthyes: Rajidae). Copeia, 271-290.