Blackgill rockfish (Sebastes melanostomus)

Blackgill Rockfish
Blackgill rockfish
Category: Fish
Related species groups: Rockfish

Occasionally caught off the Washington coast by commercial harvesters using otter-trawls and longline gear. Once a commonly caught species off the coast of California.

Description and Range

Physical description

Blackgill Rockfish are a heavy-bodied, spiny rockfish species. When viewed under water, adult Blackgill Rockfish are pink to red, with brown and white blotches on their backs. After capture, adults are dark red or dark pink with or without dark saddles. Juveniles are reddish-brown with brown saddles while under water. After capture they are reddish with distinct brown saddles, a dark blotch on the gill cover, and a dark spot at the base of the pectoral fin. Distinguishing traits for the Blackgill Rockfish include the presence of black skin in the fold above the upper jaw, as well as black pigmentation in the mouth and on the rear edge of the gill cover.

Similar species to the Blackgill include the Darkblotched Rockfish and Shortraker Rockfish. Blackgill Rockfish can usually be differentiated from these species by the dark pigmentation behind the gill cover, but this trait may be absent in some specimens. Darkblotched Rockfish have a shorter snout and five dark saddles on the back that barely dip below the lateral line, while saddles on Blackgills may extend to the belly. Shortraker Rockfish have reddish saddles, as opposed to the brownish or white saddles on Blackgill Rockfish.

Blackgill Rockfish can grow up to 61 cm (24 in) in length, and weigh up to 3.4 kg (7.4 lb). The maximum age is at least 90 years old.

Geographic range

Blackgill Rockfish range from central Vancouver Island, B.C. to Cedros Island, Baja, California. Blackgill rockfish seem to be relatively uncommon from Oregon northward. As adults, they inhabit high relief rock outcrops. They are found at water depths ranging from 87 to 768 m (288-2,520 ft).