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Bottomfish Identification: Rockfish

Blackgill Rockfish
Sebastes melanostomus

Occasionally caught off the Washington coast by commercial harvesters using otter-trawls and longline gear.  Once a commonly caught species off the coast of California. Recreational harvest within Puget Sound has been closed.  See the Sportfishing Regulation Pamphlet

Description: When viewed underwater, adult blackgill rockfish are pink, with brown and white blotches on their backs.  After capture, adults are dark red or dark pink with or without dark saddles.  Juveniles are reddish-brown with brown saddles underwater.  After capture they are reddish with distinct brown saddles, a dark blotch on the gill cover, and a dark spot at the base of the pectoral fin. Blackgill rockfish can be distinguished from other rockfish by the black skin in the fold above the upper jaw, as well as having black in the mouth and on the rear edge of the gill cover.

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

Maximum Age: At least 87 years.

Range/Habitat: They range from central Vancouver Island, B.C. to Cedros Island, Baja, California. Blackgill rockfish seem to be relatively uncommon from Oregon northward.   As adults, they inhabit high relief rock outcrops.  They are found at water depths ranging from 87 to 768 m (288-2,520 ft).


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