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COMMON CATCHES FROM A PIER
Fish anatomylabeled sketch

The near shore waters of Puget Sound contain an abundance of fishes and a wide variety of species. Included below are some of the more commonly caught fishes, grouped by family. Each fish is listed by its common name and scientific name, maximum length, and (in parenthesis) the average length in Puget Sound. Identifying characteristics are noted for each fish. The drawing at the right describes the general anatomy of a fish.

5 GILL SHARKS

SPINY DOGFISH
SPINY DOGFISH
(Squalus acanthias)
SIZE: to 4’3” (24 ½”)
COLOR: grey to brown above, near white below.
LOOK FOR: 2 dorsal fins, each preceded by a spine

SKATES

BIG SKATE
BIG SKATE
(Raja binoculata)
SIZE: to 8” (NA)
COLOR: olive brown to black above, white below.
LOOK FOR: 1 large ‘eye’ on each wing (pectoral fin).

HERRINGS

PACIFIC HERRING
PACIFIC HERRING
(Clupea harengus pallasi)
SIZE: to 10” (NA)
COLOR: silver, with blue-green tint above.
LOOK FOR: deeply forked tail; lacks adipose fin.

SALMON

COHO SALMON
COHO SALMON
(Oncorhynchus kisutch)
SIZE: 27” at maturity.
COLOR: bright, silver overall, blue-green tint above.
LOOK FOR: black spots above lateral line and on upper lob of tail; gum-line clear; tail squared; adipose fin present.
 
CHINOOK SALMON
CHINOOK SALMON
(Oncorhynchus tshawytscha)
SIZE: 36” at maturity.
COLOR: silvery overall, blue-black color above.
LOOK FOR: conspicuous black spots from head to both lobes of tail; gum-line black; tail forked; adipose fin present. Note: immature Chinook known as Blackmouth.

SMELTS

SURF SMELT
SURF SMELT
(Hypomesus pretiosus pretiosus)
SIZE: to 8” (NA)
COLOR: silvery, with a dark stripe along the latrine.
LOOK FOR: small adipose fin; dark stripe along lateral line.

SURFPERCHES

SHINER PERCH
SHINER PERCH
(Cymatogaster aggregate)
SIZE: to 6” (4”)
COLOR: silvery, with irregular horizontal black stripes and 3 vertical yellow bars on sides.
LOOK FOR: yellow and black color patterns on sides.
 
STRIPED SEAPERCH
STRIPED SEAPERCH
(Embiotoca lateralis)
SIZE: to 15” (11 ½”)
COLOR: bright body with alternating blue and red stripes on sides.
LOOK FOR: bright color pattern.
 

PILE PERCH

PILE PERCH
(Rhacochilus vacca)
SIZE: to 17” (11 ½”)
COLOR: dusky to silvery grey.
LOOK FOR: distinct dorsal fin; and dark spot on lower portion of gill cover.

ROCKFISHES

BROWN ROCKFISH
BROWN ROCKFISH
(Sebastes auriculatus)
SIZE: to 20” (13”)
COLOR: brown; mottled, and with brown bars.
LOOK FOR: brown color and dark spot on upper gill cover.
 

COPPER ROCKFISH

COPPER ROCKFISH
(Sebastes caurinus)
SIZE: to 21” (14”)
COLOR: varies from copper to brown with green tint or yellow cast.
LOOK FOR: 2 yellowish bars radiating from eyes; clear area in last 2/3 of lateral line.
 

QUILLBACK ROCKFISH

QUILLBACK ROCKFISH
(Sebastes maliger)
SIZE: to 24” (14 ½”)
COLOR: head and throat light brown with yellow tint, fins and body darker.
LOOK FOR: high dorsal fin; freckling on throat may be present.

SABLEFISHES

SABLEFISH (Blackcod)

SABLEFISH (Blackcod)
(Anoplopoma fimbria)
SIZE: to 40” (17”)
COLOR: slate grey with green or blue tint on sides.
LOOK FOR: slender, elongated body with 2 dorsal fins, and 1 anal fin.

GREENLINGS

KELP GREENLING

KELP GREENLING (Male)
KELP GREENLING (Female)
(Hexagrammos decagrammus)
SIZE: to 21” (13”)
COLOR: MALE- brownish with green or blue tint and blue spots.
FEMALE- grey to brown with yellow tint and yellow to reddish brown spots.
LOOK FOR: 1 long, continuous dorsal fin; small cirrus (fringed, fleshy flap) above each eye; and several lateral lines.
 

SCULPINS

PACIFIC STAGHORN SCULPIN

PACIFIC STAGHORN SCULPIN
(Leptocottus armatus)
SIZE: to 18” (9 ½”)
COLOR: light brown to dark olive green above, off-white below.
LOOK FOR: antler-like spines on gill covers; black spot on first dorsal; and scaleless body.

LEFTEYE FLOUNDERS

PACIFIC SANDDAB

PACIFIC SANDDAB
(Citharichthys sordidus)
SIZE: to 18” (10 ½”)
COLOR: eyed side- brown to tan with dark mottling; blind side- off-white.
LOOK FOR: left-eyed fish; color and pigment pattern.

RIGHTEYED FLOUNDERS

ROCK SOLE
ROCK SOLE
(Lepidopsetta bilineata)
SIZE: to 23” (12”)
COLOR: varies; eyed side- dark brown to grey, mottled with yellow or dark brown; blind side- off-white.
LOOK FOR: right-eyed; lateral line arches abruptly above pectoral fin.
 

ENGLISH SOLE

ENGLISH SOLE
(Parophrys vetulus)
SIZE: to 22” (12”)
COLOR: eyed side- dark brown to grey, mottled with yellow or dark brown; blind side- off-white.
LOOK FOR: smooth scaled, slender fish, tapering sharply at each end; branched lateral line near head.
 

STARRY FLOUNDER

STARRY FLOUNDER
(Platichthys stellatus)
SIZE: to 36” (14 ½”)
COLOR: eyed side- dark brown, with olive green cast; blind side- off-white.
LOOK FOR: striking, alternating orange and dark bars on fins; large, individual rough scales.
 

SAND SOLE

SAND SOLE
(Psettichthys melanostictus)
SIZE: to 24” (12 ½”)
COLOR: varies; light to darker brown or grey with fine speckling over eyed side; blind side- off-white.
LOOK FOR: first 8 dorsal rays, elongated and separate; speckling on eyed side.

CRABS

DUNGENESS CRAB

DUNGENESS CRAB
(Cancer magister)
SIZE: to 8” (6 ½”)
COLOR: brown to tan, reddish tint.
LOOK FOR: white tipped claws.
 

RED ROCK CRAB

RED ROCK CRAB
(Cancer productus)
SIZE: to 6 ½” (5 ½”)
COLOR: brick red.
LOOK FOR: black tipped claws.
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RECREATIONAL SQUID FISHING
Market SquidFrom late May until February, adult squid can be found in almost all waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound. Check the Squidfishing site to find out how to catch, clean and most importantly EAT these tasty shellfish.

KNOW THE REGULATIONS AND RULES
Before fishing or gathering unclassified invertebrates for bait, be sure and check the latest Fishing in Washington regulations pamphlet for open seasons, size, gear and species restrictions. Licenses and guides are also availalble at most sporting goods stores. It is your responsibility to obtain and observe all current regulations.

FISH CONSUMPTION ADVISORIES
The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) maintains a website of Washington State waterbodies with contaminant advisories. Make sure the fish you catch are safe to consume.

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Species Drawings courtesy of: Susan E. Smith and Catherine Rucker.