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Marine sport fish identification key

Billfish | Flatfish | Rockfish | Salmon and trout species | Sharks, rays, and skates | Surfperch species | Tunas and mackerel | Miscellaneous marine species | "Baitfish" guide

This guide is intended to provide identification of the marine fish species that are most likely to be caught by recreational anglers in the ocean off of Oregon. this guide is designed primarily for the ocean boat fishery, and shore based anglers will find that the rankings as to frequency of catch are not necessarily consistent with what is encountered in the shore based fishery. Although this guide has attempted to cover any possible species based on the history of the fishery, other species do occasionally show up in the catch, and questionable species should be examined further using a more comprehensive guide for positive identification.

The guide is arranged loosely similar to a dichotomous key. On this starting page shortcuts have been provided to major groupings of fish species that are easily recognized.

In order for a dichotomous key to function properly, you MUST review the characteristics at each step in the key. At each step you MUST look at all of the choices (i.e. 5.a. and 5.b.) and choose the description that is most appropriate. At the end of each description, you will be either directed to go to another step (i.e. "go to 3") or given the name of a species. Compare this to the species you are identifying and if needed cross reference this in a field guide. Keep in mind that if you skip a step, you are likely to end up with the incorrect species.

For each species, a notation is made as to the maximum expected size, and the species is assigned a ranking as to the frequency it is likely to show up in the ocean recreational boat fishery off Oregon (refer to the glossary for clarification on those rankings). For many of the species, a picture is available. For those species with a photo, clicking on the name of the species will open a new window with the picture. Keep in mind that different computers and their monitors may display colors quite differently.

Click on a species group header to go to that page:



Salmon and trout species. Have adipose fin (clipped in many hatchery fish).

Silver in overall appearance in ocean phase. Single short, soft rayed dorsal fin.


Tuna and mackerel

Series of finlets ahead of tail on both dorsal and ventral surfaces.

Tail wrist very narrow. Body "bullet" shaped.



Variety of colors and sizes. Strong spines in first dorsal fin.
Large scales.

Spines on head. Large mouth. "Bass-like" in overall appearance.



Extremely elongate and pointed rigid upper jaw.



Both eyes on one side of the head. Have distinct rayed fins.


Surf perch

Compressed laterally, spinous first dorsal fin, small mouths.


Sharks, rays, and skates

Generally very rough skin. Several gill slits.

Fins without distinct fin rays.

Rays and skates very compressed on dorsal surface

Pacific Hake Other species not included above
Skate Pomfret

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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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