Black Rockfish, Blue Rockfish, Bocaccio, Canary Rockfish, Chilipepper, Copper Rockfish, Cowcod, Greenspotted Rockfish, Olive Rockfish, Sculpin, Starry Rockfish, Vermilion Rockfish, Widow Rockfish, Yellowtail Rockfish


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Sculpin

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Family:

Scorpaenidae (Scorpionfishes)

Genus and Species:

Scorpaena guttata

Description:

The body of the sculpin is stocky and slightly compressed. The head and mouth are large, as are the pectoral fins. The color is red to brown, with dark blotches and spotting over the body and fins.

Range:

The sculpin occurs between Uncle Sam Bank, Baja California, and Santa Cruz, California, with an isolated population in the Gulf of California. They are caught over hard, rocky bottoms at depths ranging from just below the surface to 600 feet. Some may occasionally be taken over sand or mud bottoms.

Natural History:

The diet of the sculpin includes crab, squid, octopus, fishes and shrimp. Sculpin first spawn when they are 3 or 4 years, and they may live 15 years or longer. Spawning takes place from April through August, and probably occurs at night. The eggs are embedded in the gelatinous walls of hollow, pear shaped egg-balloons. The paired egg-balloons, each 5 to 10 inches long are joined at their small ends. The walls of these "balloons" are about 0.1 inch thick, transparent or greenish in color, and contain a single layer of eggs. Each egg is about 0.05 inch in diameter. The "balloons" are released at the bottom of the sea and rise rapidly to the surface. The eggs hatch within 5 days.

Fishing Information:

Sculpins readily take a hook that has been baited with a piece of squid or fish and lowered to the bottom in a rocky area where they are known to inhabit. A lot of rebaiting time can be saved by utilizing a "difficult to steal" bait. At times, a considerable amount of chumming with ground fish will attract sculpins to the surface. Hooked sculpins are not noted for their fighting qualities. The sculpin is the most venomous member of the scorpionfish family in California. Its dorsal, pelvic and anal fin spines are associated with venom glands and are capable of causing an extremely painful wound. Penetration of the skin by any of these spines is followed almost immediately by intense and excruciating pain in the area of the wound. Many treatments have been used for sculpin stings, but immersion of the affected part in very hot water seems to be the most effective. Multiple punctures can be quite serious, producing shock, respiratory distress or abnormal heart action and may require hospitalization of the victim.

Other Common Names:

spotted scorpionfish, scorpion, rattlesnake, bullhead, scorpene, California scorpionfish.

Largest Recorded:

17 inches; no weight recorded; however, a 15.25 inch female weighed 3.5 pounds.

Habitat:

Shallow Rocky Environment

 

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Black Rockfish

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Family:

Scorpaenidae (Scorpionfishes)

Genus and Species:

Sebastes melanops

Description:

The body of the black rockfish is oval or egg-shaped and compressed. The head has a steep upper profile which is almost straight; the mouth is large and the lower jaw projects slightly. The color is brown to black on the back, paler on the sides, and dirty white below. There are black spots on the dorsal fin. This species is easily confused with the blue rockfish; however, the anal fin of the black rockfish is rounded while the anal fin of the blue rockfish is slanted or straight. The black rockfish has spots on the dorsal fin, the blue rockfish does not.

Range:

Black rockfish occur from Paradise Cove, California, to Amchitka Island, Alaska. They are wide-ranging fish that can live on the surface or on the bottom to 1,200 feet near rocky reefs or in open water over deep banks or drop-offs.

Natural History:

The diet of the black rockfish includes squid, crab eggs, and fishes. Black rockfish are ovoviviparous, like all members of this family fertilization and development of the embryo take place in the body of the mother. When embryonic development is complete, the female releases the eggs and the exposure to sea water activates the embryo and it escapes from the egg case.

Fishing Information:

These fish are commonly caught from commercial passenger fishing vessels and when trolling for salmon. Use similar fishing techniques as for blue rockfish.

Other Common Names:

black snapper, black bass, gray rockfish, red snapper.

Largest Recorded:

23.75 inches; 10.5 pounds.

Habitat:

Shallow Rocky Environment

 

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Blue Rockfish

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Family:

Scorpaenidae (Scorpionfishes)

Genus and Species:

Sebastes mystinus

Description:

The body of the blue rockfish is oval or egg-shaped and compressed with similar dorsal and ventral profiles. The head is relatively short and bluntly pointed. The mouth is relatively small with the lower jaw slightly projecting. The color is dark blue or olive brown to grayish black on the back becoming lighter below; blotched with lighter shades on back and sides. The presence of five spines on the preopercle (gill cover), easily distinguish this species as a rockfish rather than a perch, a bass or a halfmoon which is of similar color. The black rockfish can be confused with this species; however, the black rockfish has spots on the dorsal fin while the blue rockfish does not. The anal fin of the black rockfish is rounded while that of the blue rockfish is slanted or straight.

Range:

The blue rockfish occurs from Punta Baja, Baja California, to the Bering Sea. It is a schooling species that is often caught in large numbers over rocky bottoms and around kelp beds. It is most commonly caught from the surface to 100 feet, although it has been taken from depths as great as 300 feet.

Natural History:

Blue rockfish principally eat small fishes, shrimps, other crustaceans and small pieces of algae or seaweed. Algae may be accidentally ingested while picking up small shrimp and other tidbits. As with other rockfishes, fertilization is internal and live young are born which are quite small and helpless. A 16 inch female contained just over 500,000 eggs. The main spawning season runs from about November to March. Blue rockfish may attain an age of at least 15 years.

Fishing Information:

Blue rockfish can be caught in quantity near rocky shores and around breakwaters, sunken ships, piles of rubble and similar localities along the entire California coastline, especially north of Point Conception. They are caught just beneath the surface in and around kelp beds, but where there is no kelp they live mostly near the bottom. Two or more hooks can be used with good success and almost any kind of cut fish will prove productive bait. Mussel, clam, crab, shrimp and squid strips work almost equally as well, as do some kinds of wet flies and other artificial lures. Blue rockfish are noted for putting up an excellent battle when hooked.

Other Common Names:

blue bass, blue fish, reef perch.

Largest Recorded:

21 inches; no weight recorded; however, a 15 inch female weighed 1.75 pounds.

Habitat:

Shallow Rocky Environment

 

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Bocaccio

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Family:

Scorpaenidae (Scorpionfishes)

Genus and Species:

Sebastes paucispinus

Description:

The body of the bocaccio is elongate and compressed. The head is pointed, the mouth large, and the lower jaw greatly protruding. The color varies from shades of brown to reddish and extends down over the belly. Young fish are generally light bronze with speckling over the sides and back. As they mature, their color generally becomes darker and the speckling gradually disappears.

Range:

Bocaccio occur from Punta Blanca, Baja California, to Kruzof Island and Kodiak Island, Alaska. Young bocaccio 1 or 2 years old travel in loose schools and move into shallow water where they may be captured in quantity. With increasing age they seek deeper water and move from near the surface to near the bottom. Adults are commonly found in waters of 250 to 750 feet over a somewhat irregular, hard or rubble bottom. They have been found at depths as great as 1,050 feet.

Natural History:

The diet of bocaccio includes mainly fishes such as surfperch, jack mackerel, sablefish, anchovies, sardines, Pacific mackerel, deepsea lanternfish, other rockfishes and sanddabs. Squid, octopus, and crab also are eaten. Females start maturing when they are 17 inches long. As with all rockfish, fertilization is internal and development of the embryos takes place within the ovaries of the female until they are ready to hatch. A 28 inch female was estimated to contain nearly 1.5 million eggs. The main hatching period runs from December through April. The newly hatched young, about 0.25 inch long, does not completely absorb the yolk from the egg stage for a period of 8 to 12 days.

Fishing Information:

Almost any rocky or rubble bottom at depths of 250 to 750 feet will yield good catches of bocaccio. The usual rig is made up of three to six hooks above a sinker that is heavy enough to take the line to the bottom on a fairly straight course. Because of the depths fished, it takes a considerable amount of time to let down and haul up this rig; consequently the bait should be sufficiently tough to remain firmly on the hook while being nibbled and chewed upon by the quarry. Pieces of squid are ideal.

Other Common Names:

salmon grouper, grouper, mini-grouper (juveniles), red snapper, Pacific red snapper.

Largest Recorded:

3 feet; 21 pounds.

Habitat:

Deep Rocky Environment

 

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Chilipepper

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Family:

Scorpaenidae (Scorpionfishes)

Genus and Species:

Sebastes goodei

Description:

The body of the chilipepper is slender and rather elongate. The head is elongate, pointed and with no spines; the lower jaw is projecting. The chilipepper is generally pinkish becoming whitish below. The middle of the chillipepper's side, the lateral line, stands out clearly, as a lighter, bright red zone. In comparison to the bocaccio, it has a smaller mouth with an upper jaw that extends only to about the center of the eye, not past it.

Range:

This species occurs from Magdalena Bay, Baja California, to Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Chilipeppers are not taken as frequently as other rockfishes because they are rarely caught in depths less than 360 feet along the coast of California. They generally occur over rocky bottoms and have been taken as deep as 1,080 feet.

Natural History:

Adult chilipepper feed on small crustaceans, small squids, or on such fishes as anchovies, young hake, small sardines, and lanternfishes. Approximately 50 percent of the males mature when 8.75 inches long and 2 years old; while 50 percent of the females are mature when they are 12 inches long and 4 years old. Chili peppers may live to be at least 16 years old. As with other rockfishes, fertilization is internal and live young are born. The number of developing eggs increases from 29,000 in a 12 inch female to about 538,000 in a 22 inch fish.

Fishing Information:

The usual rig for chilipepper is made up of three to six hooks above a sinker that is heavy enough to take the line to the bottom on a fairly straight course. Chilipepper are often fished in midwater as well on the bottom. Because of the depths, it may take a considerable amount of time to lower and raise this fishing rig; therefore, the bait should be tough enough to remain on the hook while being chewed upon. Pieces of squid, dried salted anchovies or strip bait, or cut bait as it is commonly known, consists of small strips of flesh with the skin still on from freshly caught rockfish, mackerel or other fishes are ideal.

Other Common Names:

chili, red snapper.

Largest Recorded:

22 inches; 5.25 pounds.

Habitat:

Deep Rocky Environment

 

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Cowcod

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Family:

Scorpaenidae (Scorpionfishes)

Genus and Species:

Sebastes levis

Description:

The body and head of the cowcod are somewhat compressed. The head is very large. The mouth is large with a projecting lower jaw. Adults are uniform pale pink to orange in color. Young fish have four dark vertical bands on their sides which gradually fade into dusky blotches as they increase in size. Their heads are large and spined, the dorsal fins are deeply notched, and there is an unusually wide space between the eye and the upper jaw. These three characteristics help to distinguish cowcod from other reddish colored rockfish.

Range:

Cowcod occur from Ranger Bank and Guadalupe Island, Baja California, to Usal, California. This is a deeper water species occurring at depths from 60 feet (young) to 1,200 feet. Cowcod are found over rocky bottoms, particularly where there are sharp, steep drop-offs.

Natural History:

The diet of the cowcod includes mainly fishes, octopus, and squid. Juvenile cowcod eat small shrimp and crabs. Like all members of the genus Sebastes, the cowcod gives birth to live young. These are less than 0.5 inches in length and are produced in great numbers. The young are free floating and may be found in shallower water; however, as they grow larger they move to deeper water.

Fishing Information:

Because of its large size, the cowcod is one of the most sought after rockfishes in southern California. Live squid and oversized metal, lead and rubber jigs are often effective baits for this species. Live or salted anchovies or frozen squid are also considered good baits for the cowcod. Sometimes cowcod are caught while attacking smaller rock fish which have already been hooked and are being brought to the surface.

Other Common Names:

cow, cow rockfish, cowfish, red snapper.

Largest Recorded:

37 inches; 28.5 pounds.

Habitat:

Deep Rocky Environment

 

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Olive Rockfish

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Family:

Scorpaenidae (Scorpionfishes)

Genus and Species:

Sebastes serranoides

Description:

The body of the olive rockfish is elongate and compressed. The upper profile of the head is almost straight, and the snout is long and pointed. The lower jaw is projecting. The olive rockfish is dark olive brown on the back, often with some light areas under the dorsal fin. The sides are a lighter olive green, and the fins are yellow. This species is very similar in appearance to the yellowtail rockfish. The olive rockfish always has nine soft rays in the anal fin; the yellowtail rockfish usually has eight.

Range:

This species occurs from the San Benito Islands, Baja California, to Redding Rock, California. Olive rockfish are generally caught in nearshore waters. They are found primarily around reefs and kelp beds in water less than 150 feet deep, but have been caught as deep as 480 feet.

Natural History:

The diet of olive rockfish consists primarily of fishes; however, crab, shrimp, and squid also are consumed in smaller quantities. Olive rockfish mature and spawn for the first time when they are 3 or 4 years old. As is true among the other rockfish, fertilization is internal and live young are born. The main spawning season is from December through March and a large female may spawn as many as 500,000 young during the season.

Fishing Information:

Olive rockfish may be found in almost every kelp bed along the mainland shore south of Monterey Bay, California. The best rig employs a single hook on monofilament nylon and calls for a lively anchovy. The bait should be cast directly into the floating fronds of kelp and no sinker should be used. If there are any olive rockfish around they will hit the bait right at the surface, usually so hard that they set the hook themselves. The ensuing battle is excellent in every respect and the larger the fish the better the fight. Olive rockfish will also strike a streamer fly or a properly worked metal lure or small wooden plug.

Other Common Names:

johnny bass, johnathans.

Largest Recorded:

24 inches; no weight recorded.

Habitat:

Shallow Rocky Environment

 

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Yellowtail Rockfish

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Family:

Scorpaenidae (Scorpionfishes)

Genus and Species:

Sebastes flavidus

Description:

The body of the yellowtail rockfish is elongate and compressed. The head is rather long and the upper profile is steep and slightly curved. The lower jaw projects, but not beyond the upper profile of the head. The color is grayish brown above which shades to white below. The sides are finely spotted with yellow. The tail is yellow, while the other fins are dusky yellow. When the fish is fresh, reddish brown speckling is visible on some of the scales. As with many of the rockfish, identification can be somewhat difficult. Some of the distinguishing characteristics of the yellow tail rockfish include a convex (surface curves outward) space between the eyes, the absence of spines on top of the head, a projecting lower jaw, an anal fin with eight (rarely seven) soft rays and the lining of the belly is white.

Range:

The yellowtail rockfish occurs from San Diego, California, to Kodiak Island, Alaska; however, it is most often caught by recreational anglers off of central and northern California. It is regularly found over deep reefs from the surface to depths of 1,800 feet.

Natural History:

Adult yellowtail rockfish feed on small hake, anchovies, lanternfishes, and other small fishes, as well as on small squid, and other shrimp-like organisms. These are all good baits to use for the yellowtail rockfish. A few yellowtail rockfish mature when 11 inches long or 3 years old. Fifty percent are mature when 13 inches long or 5 years old. They may live to be 24 years old. As with other rockfishes, fertilization is internal and live young are born. The number of developing eggs increases from 50,000 in a fish 12 inches long to about 633,000 in a fish 19 to 21 inches long.

Fishing Information:

When fishing for yellowtail rockfish in deeper waters, the typical rockfish rig and bait is appropriate (see bocaccio). Since this species occurs quite often at or near the surface, standard surface fishing techniques and baits such as anchovies or squid fished on a small hook are effective. Small silvery lures or small lead and rubber jigs also work well.

Other Common Names:

red snapper, yellowtail.

Largest Recorded:

26 inches; no weight recorded; however, a yellowtail rockfish 24 inches long will weigh about 7.5 pounds.

Habitat:

Shallow Rocky Environment

 

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Canary Rockfish

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Family:

Scorpaenidae (Scorpionfish)

Genus and Species:

Sebastes pinniger

Description:

The body of the canary rockfish is elongate, moderately deep and compressed. The head is large with an upper profile that is somewhat curved. The color is yellow orange with gray mottling on the back and paler, near white, below. The fins are also yellow orange. The middle of the sides are in a clear, gray zone. There is often a black spot near the back of the first dorsal fin in fish shorter than 14 inches. Although the canary rockfish resembles the vermilion rock fish superficially, the two are easily separated. The underside of the lower jaw of the canary rockfish has no scales and feels smooth to the touch when rubbed from back to front. The vermilion rockfish has scales on the underside of its lower jaw so that it feels rough when rubbed forward.

Range:

Canary rockfish occur from Cape Colnett, Baja California, to Cape San Bartolome, Alaska. Canary rockfish are usually caught at depths of 50 to 300 feet, although juveniles have been taken at the surface and adults have been taken from depths as great as 900 feet. They are found around reefs and over soft bottoms.

Natural History:

Adult canary rockfish feed on small crustaceans as well as anchovies, sanddabs, and other small fishes. The canary rockfish, like all members of the genus Sebastes, produces live young. Fertilization and embryo development take place within the body of the mother. The number of eggs increases from 260,000 in a19 inch female to about 1,900,000 in a female 26 inches long. About 50 percent of canary rockfish are mature at a length of 14 inches, or when they are 5 to 6 years old. They may live to be at least 22 years old.

Fishing Information:

The typical rockfish rig and bait may be used for canary rockfish (see bocaccio). This species contributes to the recreational marine anglers mixed rockfish bag.

Other Common Names:

red snapper, fantail, canary, orange rockfish.

Largest Recorded:

30 inches; no weight recorded; however, a 24 inch canary rockfish weighs about 7 pounds.

Habitat:

Deep Rocky Environment

 

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Vermilion Rockfish

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Family:

Scorpaenidae (Scorpionfishes)

Genus and Species:

Sebastes miniatus

Description:

The body of the vermilion rockfish is moderately deep and compressed. The upper profile of the head is some what curved; the mouth is large, with the lower jaw slightly projecting. The color is bright red on the body and fins; many with black and gray mottling on back and sides. On fish shorter than 12 inches, the mottling is much more apparent and the fins are often edged with black. The yelloweye and canary rockfishes are similar in appearance to the vermilion, but the bottom of the yelloweye and canary's lower jaws are scaleless and feels smooth to the touch. The vermilion rockfish has scales on the bottom of the lower jaw which make it rough to the touch.

Range:

Vermilion rockfish occur from San Benito Islands, Baja California, to Vancouver Island, Canada. They are generally caught over rocky bottoms at depths of 100 to 500 feet, although they have been taken from depths as great as 900 feet.

Natural History:

The free swimming young of the vermilion rockfish feed primarily upon shrimp-like organisms, while the larger, bottom-living adults feed almost exclusively upon fishes, squid and octopus. Most fishes that are eaten are other smaller kinds of rockfish.
Vermilion rockfish appear to mature and spawn for the first time when they are 3 or 4 years old. As with all other rockfish, fertilization is internal and they give birth to living young. A vermilion rockfish that was 20 inches long was estimated to contain 282,000 eggs. By this measure a 30 incher might contain as many as 500,000 eggs. The principal reproductive period lasts from December through March.

Fishing Information:

Because a good rockfish "hole" often will yield a dozen or more kinds of rockfishes on any given day, it has been said that rockfish fishing is colorful, interesting, productive, and mysterious. Vermilion rockfish usually are found in the bag of "red" rockfish taken from one of these "holes." The same rig, bait, and technique used for bocaccio works for vermilion rockfish. Again a lot of rebaiting time can be saved by using a tough, difficult to steal bait such as a piece of squid or salted mackerel.

Other Common Names:

red snapper, red rock cod.

Largest Recorded:

30 inches; no weight recorded; however, they attain a weight of at least 15 pounds.

Habitat:

Deep Rocky Environment

 

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Copper Rockfish

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Family:

Scorpaenidae (Scorpionfishes)

Genus and Species:

Sebastes caurinus

Description:

The body of the copper rockfish is moderately deep and compressed. The head is large with a slightly curved upper profile; the mouth is large and the lower jaw projects slightly. The color is copper brown to orange tinged with pink. The back two-thirds of the sides are a clear, light pink area; the belly is white.

Range:

The copper rockfish occurs from San Benitos Islands, Baja California, to the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska. It is found in shallow rocky and sandy areas, and is generally caught at depths of less than 180 feet; however, some have been taken as deep as 60 feet.

Natural History:

The diet of copper rockfish includes snails, worms, squid, octopus, crabs, shrimps, and fishes. Copper rockfish, like all species in the genus Sebastes, give birth to fully developed embryos. Fertilization and development of the embryo take place in the body of the mother. Upon being expelled from the female, the fully developed embryo is released from the egg.

Fishing Information:

The copper rockfish is often the last species to die in a bag of rockfish. Some individuals continue to twitch long after members of other species have died.

Other Common Names:

never die, whitebelly, chucklehead.

Largest Recorded:

22.5 inches; no weight recorded.

Habitat:

Shallow Rocky Environment

 

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Widow Rockfish

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Family:

Scorpaenidae (Scorpionfishes)

Genus and Species:

Sebastes entomelas

Description:

The body of the widow rockfish is elongate and compressed. The head is relatively short, and the upper profile is slightly curved. The mouth is relatively small, the lower jaw projects slightly. The color is brassy brown over most of the body with the belly generally lighter in color, often with a reddish cast. The fin membranes, particularly in the anal and pectoral fins, are black. Specimens smaller than 10 inches are lighter in color and are tinged with vague streaks of orange.

Range:

Widow rockfish occur from Todos Santos Bay, Baja California, to Kodiak Island, Alaska.

Natural History:

Adult widow rockfish feed extensively on small free floating crab-like animals. Occasionally salps, small squids and anchovies are eaten. A few mature when 12 inches long and 3 years old. Fifty percent are mature when 12.75 inches long or 4 years old. Widow rockfish may live to be 16 years old. As with other rockfish fertilization is internal and the young are born live. The number of developing eggs increases from 55,000 in fish 12.75 inches long, to about 900,000 in a fish 20 inches long.

Fishing Information:

Widow rockfish are generally caught by sport anglers fishing on or just above the bottom in deep water up to 1,200 feet, although young fish may be taken at or near the surface. On occasion, widow rockfish form huge schools in midwater where they feed on small plants. At such times, they are vulnerable to recreational anglers as well as commercial trawling gear and are often taken in great quantities.

Other Common Names:

widow, widowfish, red snapper.

Largest Recorded:

21 inches; no weight recorded; however, a 20 inch widow rockfish will weigh about 4 pounds.

Habitat:

Deep Rocky Environment

 

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Greenspotted Rockfish

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Family:

Scorpaenidae (Scorpionfishes)

Genus and Species:

Sebastes chlorostictus

Description:

The body of the greenspotted rockfish is elongate and moderately compressed. The upper profile of the head is rather steep with a nearly straight slope. The jaws are even when closed. The color is yellow pink with distinct green spots over the back and top of the head. There are three to five white blotches with green borders along the upper back, and the pectoral fins carry 17 rays. The underside of the lower jaw has no scales and is smooth to the touch. Two other species, the greenblotched rockfish and pink rock fish, are nearly identical to the greenspotted rockfish. Nevertheless, they can be distinguished from the greenspotted rockfish by the small patches of scales on the underside of their lower jaws. These two look-alike species attain a larger size than the greenspotted rockfish, but are not encountered as frequently since they usually inhabit deeper water.

Range:

The greenspotted rockfish occurs from Cedros Island, Baja California, to Copalis Head, Washington. Greenspotted rockfish are caught around offshore, rocky reefs at depths ranging from 160 to 660 feet.

Natural History:

As with other rockfishes, fertilization is internal and live young are born. The young are born during the period of April through July.

Fishing Information:

The greenspotted rockfish is a common species in the deep-water rockfish catch. It is not considered very desirable, however, because of its small size.

Other Common Names:

chucklehead, red rock cod, bolina.

Largest Recorded:

19.75 inches; no weight recorded.

Habitat:

Deep Rocky Environment

 

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Starry Rockfish

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Family:

Scorpaenidae (Scorpionfishes)

Genus and Species:

Sebastes constellatus

Description:

The body of the starry rockfish is elongate, robust, heavy forward tapering to the tail. The head is rather pointed in profile and the mouth is large with the lower jaw projecting only slightly beyond the upper jaw when the mouth is closed. The body is red orange and profusely covered with small white spots. There are four or five large whitish blotches along the back. It is a very distinctive fish that is not easily confused with any other rockfish.

Range:

The starry rockfish occurs from Thetis Bank, Baja California, to San Francisco, California, and is found around rocky offshore reefs at depths of 80 to 900 feet.

Natural History:

As with other kinds of rockfish, fertilization is internal and live young are born. The young are usually born during March through May.

Fishing Information:

Starry rockfish contribute to the recreational anglers offshore reef catch. The typical rockfish rig and baits are appropriate gear (see bocaccio).

Other Common Names:

spotted corsair, spotted rockfish, chinafish, red rock cod.

Largest Recorded:

18 inches; no weight recorded.

Habitat:

Deep Rocky Environment