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Bottomfish Identification: Flatfish

English Sole
Pleuronectes vetulus
Formerly Parophrys vetulus

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

Description: A right-eyed flatfish with an elongate, diamond-shaped body. Scales at the anterior part of the body are smooth but get rough towards the posterior.  The eyed side tends to be uniformly brown to olive brown but may have white speckles. The blind side is typically white to pale yellow tinged with reddish brown. The upper eye is visible from the blind side.  Both dorsal and ventral fin edges are dark in color.  This species has a small head that is slender and pointed.  It also has a small, asymmetrical mouth with jaws that are stronger on the blind side.  The caudal fin is nearly square with a slight point at the center.  English sole have a nearly straight lateral line with a slight curve and a long accessory dorsal branch. The maxillary extends to the anterior edge of the lower eye. A high, narrow ridge runs between the eyes, and the anal spine is strong.

Maximum Size: To 61 cm (24 in) in length. The average size in commercial catch (mostly females) is about 36 cm (14 in) in length, and 1.5 kg (3.3 lbs) in weight.

Maximum Age: 22 years old.

Range/Habitat: English sole are found from the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands to San Cristobal Bay, Baja California. They prefer a sand bottom and can be found in depths from 0 to 550 m (1,800 ft).

Fun Fish Fact:  The former scientific name for English sole (Parophrys vetulus) means old man’s eyebrow.


  • Fadeev, N.S., 2005. Guide to biology and fisheries of fishes of the North Pacific Ocean. Vladivostok, TINRO-Center. 366 p.
  • Kramer, D. E., & Josey, T. (1995). Guide to Northeast Pacific flatfishes: families Bothidae, Cynoglossidae and Pleuronectidae. Sea Grant.
  • Munk, K. M. (2001). Maximum ages of bottomfishes in waters off Alaska and British Columbia and considerations of age determination. Alaska Fish. Res. Bull, 8(1), 12-21.

Photos: S. Axtell