Kelp greenling (Hexagrammos decagrammus)

Male kelp greenling with dark coloration and white spots
Male and female kelp greenling (S. Axtell, V. Okimura and J. Nichols)
Category: Fish
Related species groups: Greenling

Commonly caught by recreational harvesters within Puget Sound.

State record

WeightAnglerLocationDate Caught
4.42 lbs Danita Rixen Sucia Island, San Juan County September 19, 1999

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Description and Range

Physical description

A female kelp greenling is freckled all over with small, reddish brown to golden spots on a gray to brownish background. The fins are mostly yellowish orange. Males tend to be gray to brownish olive, with irregular blue spots on the front half to two-thirds of their bodies. These spots are surrounded by a ring of small, reddish brown spots. The inside of the mouth is yellowish in both sexes. There is often an ocellus (an eyelike, pigmented spot) at the end of the soft dorsal fin, just in front of the tail. They have five lateral lines and two fleshy cirri, one above the eye and one small one midway between the eye and the dorsal fin. The anal fin usually has one weak spine.

Kelp greenling can grow up to 53 cm (21 in) in length, and 2.1 kg (4.6 lbs) in weight. Maximum age is 18 years old (Northern SE Alaska) and 25 years old (Oregon).

Geographic range

Kelp greenling range from the Aleutian Islands, Alaska to La Jolla, California. They are rare in southern California, but common northward. They are found in rocky inshore areas and are common in kelp beds and on sand bottoms at depths up to 46 m (150 ft).