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Bottomfish Identification: Flatfish

Rock Sole
Lepidopsetta bilineata

Occasionally caught off the Washington coast by commercial harvesters using otter-trawls.  They are commonly caught by recreational harvesters within Puget Sound.

Description: A right-eyed flatfish with a thick oval to round body shape with rough scales. The eyed side is gray to olive to dark brown or black and is mottled with lighter or darker shades, sometimes spotted with yellow or red. The blind side is light in color, but rarely white.  Dorsal and anal fins have dark blotches or bars on them and may be yellowish near the tail. The caudal fin is rounded or in the shape of a broad V. This species has a lateral line with a high arch and a flat top, and a short accessory dorsal branch.  Rock sole have a small mouth with fleshy lips and teeth that are more developed on the blind side.  The maxillary extends below the anterior edge of the lower eye. The eyes are small.  This species has a strong anal spine.  This flatfish is similar to butter sole, which has a low lateral line arch and a longer accessory dorsal branch, but the edged of the dorsal and anal fins are not bright yellow.

Maximum Size: To 61 cm (24 in) in length, and 1.8 kg (4 lbs) in weight.

Maximum Age: 26 years old.

Range/Habitat:  Rock sole are found in the Seas of Japan and Okhotsk, and from the Bering Strait south to Tanner Bank off southern California. They inhabit rocky, pebbly, or sandy bottoms from 0 to 576 m (1,900 ft). They tend to be most abundant between 36 and 73 m (118-240 ft).

Fun fish fact:  Rock sole are the only flatfish in Puget Sound that are known to spawn in very shallow water, even intertidally, and their eggs have been found on exposed beaches in some locations.


  • Kramer, D. E., & Josey, T. (1995). Guide to Northeast Pacific flatfishes: families Bothidae, Cynoglossidae and Pleuronectidae. Sea Grant.
  • Munk, K. M. (2001). Maximum ages of groundfishes in waters off Alaska and British Columbia and considerations of age determination. Alaska Fish. Res. Bull, 8(1), 12-21.

Photos: S. Axtell and V. Okimura