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Bottomfish Identification: Flatfish

Dover Sole
Microstomus pacificus

Commonly caught off the Washington coast by commercial harvesters using otter-trawls and occasionally by longline gear.  They are rarely caught by recreational harvesters within Puget Sound.

Description: A right-eyed elongate flatfish with very small scales.  The eyed side is brown or grayish brown and it may be mottled with darker spots. The fins are blackish toward the edges. The blind side is smudgy off-white to dark brownish gray. This species has a lateral line that is nearly straight with a short, unconnected branch near the top of the head, which can be difficult to see. The Dover sole lacks an accessory dorsal branch and has a rounded caudal fin. The mouth is very small with flat, incisor-like teeth mostly on the blind side. It has a maxillary that extends below the anterior of the lower eye. Dover sole have large, bulging eyes with an upper eye that is posterior to the lower.  The space between the eyes is convex.  This species lacks an anal spine. It’s soft, flabby body is slippery, because of large amounts of slime.

Maximum Size: To 76 cm (30 in) in length, and 4.5 kg (10 lbs) in weight. 

Maximum Age: 58 years old.

Range/Habitat: Dover sole range from the Bering Sea and eastern Aleutian Islands to San Cristobal Bay, Baja California. They are typically found on mud or sand bottoms from 9 to 1,372 m (29-4,501 ft).


  • Kramer, D. E., & Josey, T. (1995). Guide to Northeast Pacific flatfishes: families Bothidae, Cynoglossidae and Pleuronectidae. Sea Grant.
  • Love, M. 1996. Probably more than you want to know about the fishes of the Pacific coast. Really Big Press, Santa Barbara, California, 381 pp.