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Bottomfish Identification: Rockfish

Copper Rockfish
Sebastes caurinus

Commonly caught by recreational harvesters off the northern Washington coast and occasionally by recreational harvesters in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  Recreational harvest within Puget Sound has been closed.  See the Sportfishing Regulation Pamphlet.

Description: The body shape of the copper rockfish is moderately deep and compressed with a large head.  The mouth is large with the lower jaw projecting slightly.  Copper rockfish are variable in color from olive brown to copper to orange, with pink or yellow blotches.  The rear two thirds of the lateral line are light pink to white and the belly is white. Several copper orange, brown or yellowish bars radiate back from the eyes. Dorsal fins are dark copper brown to black with some white. Underwater they can resemble quillback rockfish.  The copper rockfish has a characteristic light-colored horizontal band along the lateral line, which is noticeable underwater. Hybridization between brown, copper and quillback rockfish is present in Puget Sound, sometimes making species identification difficult. 

Maximum Size: To 66 cm (26.4 in) in length. Males grow larger than females.

Maximum Age: At least 50 years old.

Range/Habitat: They range from northern Gulf of Alaska to Isla San Benito, central Baja California.  Coppers are found from subtidal waters to 183 m (600 ft) in depth.  Adults are found primarily in boulder fields and over high-relief rocks either in schools or as single individuals.


  • Kramer, D. E., and V.M.  O'Connell, 1995. Guide to northeast Pacific rockfishes: genera Sebastes and Sebastolobus. Alaska Sea Grant College Program, University of Alaska.
  • 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.

Photos: S. Axtell and V. Okimura