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Bottomfish Identification: Rockfish

Quillback Rockfish
Sebastes maliger

Commonly caught off the Washington coast by recreational harvesters and occasionally caught by recreational harvesters in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Recreational harvest within Puget Sound has been closed. See the Sportfishing Regulation Pamphlet.

Description: Adult quillback rockfish are brown, with yellow to orange ventral mottling. They have light-colored dorsal saddle patches on the anterior part of the body with vague bands over the head and through the dorsal fin. The dorsal fin spines have deeply incised membranes and are very long.  All fins are dark brown to black except for the first dorsal fin, which has a yellow streak.  This species has prominent head spines and a silvery-white lining to the body cavity. Hybridization between brown, copper and quillback rockfish is present in Puget Sound, sometimes making species identification difficult. 

Maximum Size: To 61 cm (24 in) in length.

Maximum Age: 95 years old.

Range/Habitat: Quillback rockfish range from the Kenai Peninsula in the Gulf of Alaska to Anacapa Passage in southern California.  They can be found from subtidal waters to depths of 274 m (900 ft).  Juveniles are usually shallower than adults and can be found on bull kelp-covered rocky outcrops, while adults tend to live in deeper water as solitary individuals.  They are bottom dwellers that prefer high-relief, broken rock with flat-bladed kelps. In Puget Sound animals living on high relief areas have a very limited home range and have a high fidelity to their home sites.


  • Kramer, D. E., and V.M.  O'Connell, 1995. Guide to northeast Pacific rockfishes: genera Sebastes and Sebastolobus. Alaska Sea Grant College Program, University of Alaska.
  • Love, M. S., M. Yoklavich, and L. Thorsteinson, 2002. The rockfishes of the northeast Pacific. University of California Press.

Photos: S. Axtell