This study reports the use of a long-term acoustic recording system (LARS) to remotely monitor white seabass Atractoscion nobilis spawning sounds at three sites along the southern California coastline, adjacent to Camp Pendleton. On the basis of previous studies of A. nobilis sound production relative to periods of known spawning activity, LARS were set to continuously record ambient sounds for a 2 h period around sunset from April to June 2009. Acoustic analyses identified A. nobilis courtship sounds on 89, 28 and 45% of the days at the three locations, respectively. From 474 h of acoustic data, spawning-related sounds (chants) were detected on 19 occasions in 2009 with an additional 11 spawning chants recorded during a 2007 validation period. Most spawning chants occurred within 30 min of sunset during the months of May and June at a mean ±s.d. surface temperature of 18·2 ± 1·2° C. Consecutive daily spawning activity was not apparent at any sites in 2009. Atractoscion nobilis spawning chants were recorded at all three sites, suggesting that shallow rocky reefs which support kelp forests provide suitable A. nobilis spawning habitat. Results confirm the utility of passive acoustic recorders for identifying A. nobilis spawning periods and locations.