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Bottomfish Identification: Flatfish

Sand Sole
Psettichthys melanostictus

Occasionally caught off the Washington coast by commercial harvesters using otter-trawls.  They are occasionally caught by recreational harvesters within Puget Sound.

Description: A right-eyed flatfish with an elongate to oval body shape.  The skin on the eyed side feels like fine sandpaper and is light green or gray to brown with fine, dark brown to black speckles.  Both dorsal and anal fins often have dull yellow on the edges. The blind side is white. Sand sole have a rounded caudal fin and a lateral line with a slight curve over the pectoral fin.  The accessory dorsal branch is short to moderate in length. This species has a large mouth with large teeth and a maxillary that extends below the middle of the lower eye. Eyes of the sand sole are small with a flat, wide space between them. The anal spine is strong. A distinguishing characteristic of this species is that the first few dorsal fin rays are elongate and mostly free of the membrane.

Maximum Size: To 63 cm (25 in) in length, and 2.7 kg (6 lbs) in weight.

Maximum Age: At least 8 years old.

Range/Habitat:  Sand sole range from the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands to Redondo Beach, southern California. They are found on sandy bottoms less than 70 m (229 ft) deep.  The sand sole is a shallow water species.


  • Kramer, D. E., & Josey, T. (1995). Guide to Northeast Pacific flatfishes: families Bothidae, Cynoglossidae and Pleuronectidae. Sea Grant.
  • Pearson, D. E., & McNally, S. V. (2005). Age, growth, life history, and fisheries of the sand sole, Psettichthys melanostictus. Marine Fisheries Review, 67(4), 9-18.

Photos: S. Axtell