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Bottomfish Identification: Rockfish

Vermilion Rockfish
Sebastes miniatus

Occasionally caught off the Washington coast by commercial harvesters using otter-trawls and longline gear.  Rarely caught by recreational harvesters in Puget Sound.  Recreational harvest within Puget Sound has been closed.  See the Sportfishing Regulation Pamphlet.

Description: The body of the vermilion rockfish is moderately deep and compressed. The head is somewhat curved with a lower jaw that is slightly projecting.  Vermilion have a large mouth and a scaly lower jaw.  Underwater the adult color ranges from brown, to dark yellow, lemon yellow, red, orange or black-red, usually with some gray or black mottling on the sides.  They also exhibit prominent white markings, particularly along the lateral line and across the head behind the eyes and at the base of the third and fourth dorsal spine. These markings are usually not present after death.  They have three obscure orange stripes radiating from the eyes.  On fish shorter than 12 inches, the mottling is much more apparent and the fins are often edged with black. Underwater vermilion rockfish are often confused with canary rockfish and can be distinguished by their more intense red coloration and by an anal fin whose trailing edge is vertically truncated (it is diagonal in canary rockfish).  Yelloweye and canary rockfishes are similar in appearance to the vermilion, but the bottom of the yelloweye and canary's lower jaws are scaleless and feel smooth to the touch. Vermilion rockfish have scales on the bottom of the lower jaw, which makes it rough to the touch.

Maximum Size: To 76 cm (30 in) in length, and 6.8 kg (15 lbs) in weight.

Maximum Age: At least 60 years old.

Range/Habitat: Vermilion rockfish range from Zaikof Bay, Montague Island, Prince William Sound, Alaska, to San Benito Islands, Baja California.  Adults are found at water depths from 6 to 436 m (20-1,440 ft) and are most common between 50 and 150 m (165-495 ft).  Sub-adult and adult vermillion rockfish aggregate on high relief rocky bottoms.


  • 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