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Bottomfish Identification: Rockfish

Black Rockfish
Sebastes melanops

Commonly caught by recreational harvesters off the Washington coast.  Recreational harvest within Puget Sound has been closed, with the exception of restricted fishing in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  See the Sportfishing Regulation Pamphlet.

Description: Black rockfish are mottled grey and black with a black spot on the back of the spiny dorsal fin.  This spot disappears as the fish grows.  As adults they may have dark stripes visible on the head extending from the eye across the gill cover.  The dark color on the back is often lighter on the sides and fades to nearly white on the belly.  They are distinguished from other species by black mottling on the dorsal fin and a large mouth extending past the eye.  This species has 8 weak head spines and lacks a symphyseal knob on the lower jaw.

Maximum Size: To 69 cm (27.6 in) in length, and 5 kg (11 lbs) in weight.

Maximum Age: 50 years old.

Range/Habitat: Black rockfish range from the Amchitka and Kodiak islands, Alaska, to Huntington Beach in Southern California.  They have been found at water depths up to 366 m (1,200 ft), but are most commonly found in waters shallower than 55 m (180 ft).  This species is known to form large schools in and around kelp and artificial structures.


  • Love, M. S., M. Yoklavich, and L. Thorsteinson, 2002. The rockfishes of the northeast Pacific. University of California Press.

Photos: V. Okimura