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Marine Sport Fish Identification Key - Rockfish

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Key to Rockfish Species

1.a. General coloration black, gray, brown, olive, or similar shades. May have red or orange highlights on fins and underside - go to 2

1.b. Most or all of body of fish is orange, red, or similar color - go to 10

2.a. Body color gray, black, or blue black. May have significant mottling in white or gray shades and belly is primarily lighter tones - go to 3

2.b. Body color in dark tones other than black or blue black, or other colors significant - go to 4

3.a. Maxillary extends only to midpoint of eye. No spotting in dorsal fin. Protrusion in orbital bone in the anterior dorsal quarter - Blue Rockfish (Sebastes mystinus) (60 cm / 24 in) - common species

3.b. Maxillary extends to rear of eye. Spotting in dorsal fin. Flattening in the orbital bone in the anterior dorsal quarter - Black Rockfish (Sebastes melanops) (53 cm / 21 in) - primary species

3.c. Silver-gray on upper body white and pink below. Lower jaw extends well beyond upper jaw - Silvergray Rockfish (Sebastes brevispinis) (71 cm / 28 in) - unusual species - most likely to be confused with the Bocaccio Rockfish

4.a. Body color uniform olive to brown (lighter belly) some mottling may occur, but no substantial markings - go to 5

4.b. Significant markings or color variation occurring over large part of body - go to 7

5.a. Dark patch on gill cover. Coloration usually mottled. Underside may be pinkish - Brown Rockfish (Sebastes auriculatus) (55 cm / 21.5 in) - unusual species

5.b. No dark patch on gill cover. Coloration generally uniform although may have series of lighter patches on dorsal surface - go to 6

6.a. Fin membranes generally yellowish. Often pale areas along dorsal surface - Yellowtail Rockfish (Sebastes flavidus) (66 cm / 26 in) - primary species

6.b. Fin membranes dark - Widow Rockfish (Sebastes entomelas) (61 cm / 21 in) - common species

6.c. Dark green or olive in color. Gill rakers very stubby - Grass Rockfish(Sebastes rastrelliger) (56 cm / 22 in) - unusual species

7.a. Base body color black or dark gray - go to 8

7.b. Base body color reddish brown to olive - go to 9

8.a. Swath of bright yellow extending from third dorsal fin ray to lateral line and out to tail. Dorsal fin membranes not deeply incised - China Rockfish (Sebastes nebulosus) (43 cm / 17 in) - common species

8.b. Significant yellow or orange markings towards anterior of body. Spinous dorsal fin membranes deeply incised - Quillback Rockfish(Sebastes maliger) (61 cm / 24 in) - common species

9.a. Body reddish brown to olive with significant light patchiness over body. Usually a large pale streak in the posterior half of the lateral line - Copper Rockfish(Sebastes caurinus) (57 cm / 22.5 in) - common species

9.b. Body brownish to olive with flesh colored pale areas - Gopher Rockfish(Sebastes carnatus) (39 cm / 15.5 in) - unusual species

10.a. Distinct dark vertical bars on a lighter background present - go to 11

10.b. No distinct dark vertical bars - go to 12

11.a. Black or dark red bars on a red or pink body - Tiger Rockfish (Sebastes nigrocinctus) (61 cm / 24 in) - uncommon species

11.b. Red bars (4) on a white or pink body - Redbanded Rockfish (Sebastes babcocki) (64 cm / 25 in) - unusualspecies

12.a. Several small white iridescent patches on dorsal surface - go to 13

12.b. No white iridescent patches on dorsal surface - go to 14

13.a. Faint dusky area on gill cover. Iridescent patches bordered by pink - Rosethorn Rockfish(Sebastes helvomaculatus) (41 cm / 16 in) - uncommon species

13.b. Back mottled in purple. Usually has purple stripes radiating from eye. Iridescent patches bordered by purple - Rosy Rockfish (Sebastes rosaceus) (36 cm / 14 in) - uncommon species

13.c. Round green spots on back. No streaks in tail - Greenspotted Rockfish (Sebastes chlorostictus) (50 cm / 20 in) - unusual species

14.a. Obvious green streaks in tail and broken green stripes along body - Greenstriped Rockfish (Sebastes elongatus) (38 cm / 15 in) - uncommon species

14.b. No obvious green streaks in tail - go to 15

15.a. Lower jaw extends well beyond upper jaw - go to 16

15.b. Lower jaw is not significantly longer than upper jaw - go to 18

16.a. Maxillary extends to back of eye or further. Head between snout and base of dorsal fin slightly concave. Body color highly variable from brown to bright orange - Bocaccio(Sebastes paucispinis) (91 cm / 36 in) - uncommon species - most likely to be confused with the Silvergray Rockfish

16.b. Maxillary does not extend to back of eye - go to 17

17.a. Lateral line in a gray zone bordered by red - Redstripe Rockfish (Sebastes proriger) (114 cm / 45 in) - uncommon species

17.b. Lateral line in a clear pink zone. Tail dusky colored - Chilipepper Rockfish(Sebastes goodei) (51 cm / 20 in) - unusual species

18.a. Tail rounded. Fins tipped with black. Iris yellow. Lateral line may be in a white zone. Paired rough ridges on top of head - Yelloweye Rockfish(Sebastes ruberrimus) (91 cm / 36 in) - common species

18.b. Tail forked - go to 19

19.a. Body color orange mottled with gray. Lateral line in a clear gray zone - Canary Rockfish (Sebastes pinniger) (76 cm / 30 in) - common species

19.b. Lateral line not in a gray zone - go to 20

20.a. Has distinct knob on end of lower jaw. Dark saddles at base of dorsal fin - Pacific Ocean Perch (Sebastes alutus) (51 cm / 20 in) - rare species

20.b. No distinct knob at end of lower jaw - go to 21

21.a. Body color deep orange to red and usually mottled appearance. No rough ridges on top of head. Underside of jaw has rough patch of scales - Vermilion Rockfish (Sebastes miniatus) (76 cm / 30 in) - common species

21.b. Pink along lateral line. Inside of mouth has yellow and black blotches - Yellowmouth Rockfish(Sebastes reedi) (58 cm / 23 in) - unusual species

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Eric Schindler
Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife
2040 SE Marine Science Drive
Newport, Oregon 97365
(541) 867-4741


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