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Download a printable identification guide

Bottomfish Identification: Rockfish

This identification guide is intended to provide information and key characteristics for common rockfish species in Washington’s marine waters.  To access species information click on the common or scientific name listed in the left hand column.  For each species, information is available on expected sizes, typical distribution, and published ages. 

A one page printable rockfish identification guide is available here.

Below are the definitions of characteristics helpful in identifying rockfish:

  • Caudal fin: the tail fin.
  • Dorsal: on the top side of the fish, or body element.
  • Gill rakers: bony, toothlike projections from the front edge of the gill arch, opposite the gill filaments; often used as water filters to trap food items between the gill arches.
  • Interorbital: between the eyes.
  • Lateral line: a row of porelike openings on head and body; usually applied to the series of pores or pored scales along the side of the fish’s body.
  • Pectoral fin: one of a pair of fins on each side of a fish that is attached to the shoulder girdle, behind the head.
  • Ray: supporting bony elements of the fins.
  • Spine: a bony projection, usually on the head. Also a single, hard, unbranched ray in a fin, i.e., a spinous ray.
  • Suborbital: below the eyes.
  • Symphyseal knob: a fleshy protuberance at the convergence of the bony elements of the lower jaw.
  • Ventral: on the lower surface of the fish; on the belly.

For additional identification assistance, a dichotomous key for rockfish is available through the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Webpage at:

The NOAA-Alaska Fisheries Science Center also provides identification information about rockfish common off the Alaskan Coast at:

Enjoy learning about Washington’s rockfish!

Aurora Rockfish (Sebastes aurora) Redbanded Rockfish (Sebastes babcocki)
Black Rockfish (Sebastes melanops) Redstripe Rockfish (Sebastes proriger)
Blackgill Rockfish (Sebastes melanostomus) Rosethorn Rockfish (Sebastes helvomaculatus)
Blue Rockfish (Sebastes mystinus) Rougheye Rockfish (Sebastes aleutianus)
Bocaccio Rockfish (Sebastes paucispinis) Sharpchin Rockfish (Sebastes zacentrus)
Brown Rockfish (Sebastes auriculatus) Shortbelly Rockfish (Sebastes jordani)
Canary Rockfish (Sebastes pinniger) Shortraker Rockfish (Sebastes borealis)
China Rockfish (Sebastes nebulosus) Shortspine Thornyhead (Sebastolobus alascanus)
Copper Rockfish (Sebastes caurinus) Silvergray Rockfish (Sebastes brevispinis)
Darkblotched Rockfish (Sebastes crameri) Splitnose Rockfish (Sebastes diploproa)
Deacon Rockfish (Sebastes diaconus) Tiger Rockfish (Sebastes nigrocinctus)
Greenstriped Rockfish (Sebastes elongatus) Vermillion Rockfish (Sebastes miniatus)
Hybrid Rockfish Widow Rockfish (Sebastes entomelas)
Longspine Thornyhead (Sebastolobus altivelis) Yelloweye Rockfish (Sebastes ruberrimus)
Pacific Ocean perch (Sebastes alutus) Yellowmouth Rockfish (Sebastes reedi)
Puget Sound Rockfish (Sebastes emphaeus) Yellowtail Rockfish (Sebastes flavidus)
Quillback Rockfish (Sebastes maliger)