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Bottomfish Identification: Other Bottomfish

Plainfin Midshipman
Porichthys notatus

Caught by recreational harvesters within Puget Sound and in embayments along the outer coast.

Description: The body of the plainfin midshipman is brownish to olive with iridescent purple on the dorsal side, which becomes lighter along the sides, and yellowish or gold on the belly.  Prominent tracts of golden, light-emitting organs (photopores) are readily visible along the head, flanks, and belly of this species.  There is a black crescent and whitish patch below each eye and young individuals may have a dark saddle patch.  This species has wide pectoral fins and a narrow and rounded caudal fin (tailfin). The plainfin midshipman has 2 dorsal spines and 33-37 dorsal soft rays and lacks an anal spine.

Maximum Size: To 38 cm (15 in) in length.

Maximum Age: Unknown.

Range/Habitat: Plainfin midshipman range from Sitka, Alaska, to Magdalena Bay in southern Baja California.  They are found from the intertidal to over 366 m (1,200 ft) in water depth. 

Fun Fish Fact:  This fish can breathe air when it is out of water and is bioluminescent during courtship.  The prominent photopores are used by this nocturnal predator to attract prey.


  • 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.
  • Hart, J.L., 1973. Pacific fishes of Canada. Bull. Fish. Res. Board Can. 180:740 p.

Photos:  A. Hennings and W. Palsson