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Species Profile: California Butterfly Ray (Gymnura Marmorata)

Author: Terra Firma Tackle

Species Profile: California Butterfly Ray (Gymnura marmorata) 

Species Info:

  The California Butterfly Ray (Gymnura marmorata) is a uniquely shaped ray occasionally caught in Southern California. Most Butterfly Rays caught by anglers are fairly small, less than 2 feet in diameter, however, they do get quite large and can reach wingspans up to 5’ across. These fish have small shark-like teeth in their mouths and feed largely on crustaceans and mollusks although they certainly do consume fin fish with regularity as well.  They fight surprisingly hard for their shape, often fooling the angler into thinking that they have hooked a much larger, more desirable species of fish.


  Butterfly Ray, Flutterby Ray, Pancake Ray, Tramp Stamp


  Butterfly Rays are an uncommon catch for the most part, but they readily accept most any bait when present. Live smelt, herring, mackerel, or sardines are the first choice, with frozen bait a close second. Fresh sand crabs or shrimp are good options as well, especially if fishing in the surf.

 These unique rays are powerful fighters, pound for pound one of the most determined fish he landbased angler is likely to hook. They can take surprisingly long runs, and often dog the angler from a distance refusing to give any ground until well and tired. 30lb tackle can handle 90% of the Butterflies likely to be encountered, but in the event that a larger grade fish is hooked the angler will be in for a world of hurt. 50lb line should be a good starting point if hunting for bruisers.  Most anglers opt for a braided line such as Bullbuster Braid ( with a long “rub leader” or shock leader of monofilament. This braid backing gives the angler the capacity to slow down these fish which can make runs in excess of 100 yards when first hooked. Usually 10-12 feet of heavy mono such as Bullbuster Leader Material ( is used as a rub leader to make sure the angler lands their quarry when fishing around shells, rocks, or docks.

   From the surf or bay rigs like the Loop Rig, Pulley Rig, or even the basic Carolina/Fishfinder rig are all good options. These rays small teeth, so while not required, wire is recommended. Circle hooks are the best bet for solid connections as these fish have strange shaped mouths that don’t leave much room for error with the hook set.


  Butterfly Rays can be found all along the Southern California coast, but Orange County seems to be a hotbed for the flat-bodied brawlers. Bays and Harbors can be excellent places to target these fish as well, with Long Beach Harbor and Newport Harbor being known hotspots. Also focus attention on inlets and jetties as these areas seem to hold more of them than other locales.


 While they can be caught all year, winter and spring seem to be the best times to focus on targeting these unusual little rays. There is a correlation between rain and the frequency of capture as well, so keep that in mind.

Thanks for reading! For more information and rigs for targeting these fish please check out our own website at!

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