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Bottomfish Identification: Rockfish

Canary Rockfish
Sebastes pinniger

Caught incidentally in the commercial fishery off the Washington coast with otter-trawls, longline, and jig handline gear. THE PUGET SOUND AND GEORGIA BASIN POPULATIONS OF CANARY ROCKFISH ARE LISTED AS THREATENED UNDER THE ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT AND RECREATIONAL RETENTION IN ALL WASHINGTON WATERS IS PROHIBITED. For more information, see:

Description: Canary rockfish have an elongate, moderately deep and compressed body form. Adults are yellow orange, with gray mottling on the back and a grey or near white background.  They have three bright orange diagonal stripes across their head, including on either side of their eye.  The fins are yellow orange, and the anal fin is pointed with a rear edge that slants anteriorly.  The caudal fin is strongly indented.  In smaller individuals (less than 14 in), there is often a black spot near the back of the first dorsal fin.  The canary rockfish resembles the vermilion rockfish, however captured individuals can be distinguished based on the lack of scales on the lower jaw of the canary. The underside of the lower jaw of the canary rockfish feels smooth when rubbed from back to front. Canary and vermillion are easily confused under water. The vermillion has fins edged in black, the rear edge of the anal fin is rounded and vertical, and the caudal fin is slightly indented with rounded tips.

Maximum Size: To 76 cm (30 in) in length.

Maximum Age: At least 84 years old.

Range/Habitat: Canary rockfish are found from the Gulf of Alaska south of Shelikof Strait, Alaska, to Cape Colnett, Baja California. Young fish tend to be found in shallower water depths than adults.  Adults are most common at water depths from 80-200 m (254-660 ft), but have been found at depths of up to 838 m (2,765 ft).  This species is typically associated with pinnacles and high relief rocks often in areas with high current, though they are occasionally encountered over open mud flats.


  • Love, M. S., M. Yoklavich, and L. Thorsteinson, 2002. The rockfishes of the northeast Pacific. University of California Press.
  • Miller, D. J., and R.N. Lea, 1976. Guide to the coastal marine fishes of California. ANR Publications.

Addtional Information:

NOAA Fisheries Canary Rockfish (Sebastes pinniger) webpage

Photos: S. Axtell and V. Okimura