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Bottomfish Identification: Rockfish

Brown Rockfish
Sebastes auriculatus

Rarely caught by recreational harvesters off the Washington coast.  Recreational harvest within Puget Sound has been closed.  See the Sportfishing Regulation Pamphlet.

Description:  Brown rockfish are heavy bodied and colored various shades of brown, with dark brown to blackish mottling over the top. Red-brown, brown or orangish stripes radiate back from the eye and upper jaw.  One key characteristic for this species is a prominent dark brown blotch on the upper part of the gill cover, which tends to become faint in large individuals. Brown rockfish have pinkish fins and pinkish coloring on the underside of the throat or lower jaw. They can be mistaken as coppers, which do not have the dark spot on the gill cover and tend to be lighter in color along the lateral line.  In Puget Sound, the apparent hybridization of quillback, copper and brown rockfish make species identification especially difficult.

Maximum Size: To 56 cm (22 in) in length.

Maximum Age: At least 34 years old.

Range/Habitat: Brown rockfish range from Prince William Sound, Alaska, to southern Baja California. They were once abundant in central and southern Puget Sound.   They range in depth from shallow inshore waters to 135 m (444 ft).  They are most commonly distributed above 120 m (396 ft).  Brown rockfish can be found a few meters off the bottom and are common on both low and high relief areas, and occasionally within eelgrass or other vegetation.


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

Photos: S. Axtell