Buy Your License Online! Buy Your License Online!

Bottomfish Identification: Greenling

Kelp Greenling
Hexagrammos decagrammus

Commonly caught by recreational harvesters within Puget Sound.

Description: A female kelp greenling is freckled all over with small, reddish brown to golden spots on a gray to brownish background.  The fins are mostly yellowish orange. Males tend to be gray to brownish olive, with irregular blue spots on the front half to two-thirds of their bodies. These spots are surrounded by a ring of small, reddish brown spots. The inside of the mouth is yellowish in both sexes. There is often an ocellus (an eyelike, pigmented spot) at the end of the soft dorsal fin, just in front of the tail. They have five lateral lines and two fleshy cirri, one above the eye and one small one midway between the eye and the dorsal fin. The anal fin usually has one weak spine.

Maximum Size: To 53 cm (21 in) in length, and 2.1 kg (4.6 lbs) in weight.

Maximum Age: 18 years old (Northern SE Alaska) and 25 years old (Oregon).

Range/Habitat: Kelp greenling range from the Aleutian Islands, Alaska to La Jolla, California.  They are rare in southern California, but common northward. They are found in rocky inshore areas and are common in kelp beds and on sand bottoms at depths up to 46 m (150 ft).


  • Cope, J. M. and A.D. MacCall, 2005. Status of Kelp Greenling (Hexagrammos decagrammus) in Oregon and California Waters as assessed in 2005. Pacific Fishery Management Council, 7700.
  • Eschmeyer, W.N., E.S. Herald and H. Hammann, 1983. A field guide to Pacific coast fishes of North America. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, U.S.A. 336 p.
  • Munk, K. M. , 2001. Maximum ages of groundfishes in waters off Alaska and British Columbia and considerations of age determination.  Alaska Fish. Res. Bull, 8(1), 12-21.

Photos: S. Axtell, V. Okimura and J. Nichols