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Bottomfish Identification: Rockfish

Blue Rockfish
Sebastes mystinus

Unlikely to be caught by recreational harvesters off the Washington coast or in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  See the Sportfishing Regulation Pamphlet.

Description: Blue Rockfish are a very deep-bodied fish with large pectoral fins.  They have steel-blue to greenish-blue body color with large, dark, angular blotches that are easily discernible in larger specimens.  Two stripes run across the eyes, and distinct striping is also present on the forehead.  Their body is lighter ventrally with blue-tipped pelvic fins.  

Blue Rockfish resemble Black Rockfish after capture and when viewed underwater.  They are distinguished by having a more oval body shape than Black Rockfish, smaller mouth, distinct angular blotches, stripes across the head, and no spots on the dorsal fin membrane.

Blue Rockfish closely resemble Deacon Rockfish after capture and when viewed underwater.  They are distinguished by having a lighter green-blue coloration, distinct angular blotches, generally rounded head shape, and smaller symphyseal knob on the tip of their lower jaw.

Maximum Size: To 53 cm (21 in) in length.

Maximum Age:  44 years old for male and 41 years old for female.

Range/Habitat: Blue Rockfish is distributed from central Oregon to northern Baja California, with the highest concentrations occurring off the coast of central to southern California.  This species is most common from near the surface to about 90 m (297 ft).  They are a schooling rockfish and are found just off bottom over rocky reefs, pinnacles, and kelp forests.  They often school with other rockfish species, including Black, Deacon, and Yellowtail rockfish.


  • 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.
  • Frable, Benjamin, D. W. Wagman, Taylor Frierson, Andres Aguilar & B. L. Sidlauskas. 2015. A new species of Sebastes (Scorpaeniformes: Sebastidae) from the northeastern Pacific, with a redescription of the Blue rockfish, S. mystinus (Jordan and Gilbert, 1881).  (Link:

Photos: J. Nichols and V. Okimura