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Bottomfish Identification: Rockfish

Longspine Thornyhead Rockfish
Sebastolobus altivelis

Commonly caught off the Washington coast by commercial harvesters using otter-trawls and occasionally by commercial harvesters using longline gear.  Recreational harvest within Puget Sound has been closed.  See the Sportfishing Regulation Pamphlet.

Description: When viewed underwater, adult longspine thornyhead have orange or orange-red bodies, often with large white patches and some dark stippling, and fins that have some black on them.  Once captured, they are red with some black on the fins and a mostly black gill chamber.  They are characterized by a thorny spine across their cheek. Underwater they appear similar to shortspine thornyheads and are distinguished by an elongated third dorsal spine, a mostly black gill chamber, and usually 15 dorsal spines.

Maximum Size: To 39 cm (15 in) in length.

Maximum Age: At least 45 years old.

Range/Habitat: Longspine thornyhead range from the western Gulf of Alaska to Cabo San Lucas, southern Baja California. This species of thornyhead is found in relatively deep water, from 201 to 1,756 m (663-5,795 ft), but are most common between 500 and 1,300 m (1,815-4,290 ft). They live on mud bottoms in small depressions or among small rocks and sponges.


  • Love, M. S., M. Yoklavich, and L. Thorsteinson, 2002. The rockfishes of the northeast Pacific. University of California Press.