The Oregon Seal Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife  
 »ODFW Home    » Fish Division   » Marine Resources   » Marine Sport Fish ID   » Miscellaneous Species
About Us Fishing Hunting Viewing License/Regs Conservation Living With Wildlife Education
Commercial and recreational marine fisheries

Marine sport fish identification key - Miscellaneous species

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

Key to miscellaneous marine species

1.a.  Body shape eel-like (extremely elongate) - go to 36  

1.b.  Body shape not eel-like - go to 2

2.a.  Body shape laterally compressed and "disc-like" - go to 3

2.b.  Body shape elongate and not "disc-like" - go to 5

3.a.  No pelvic fins or pelvic fins fused into a knob - go to 39  

3.b.  Pelvic fins present - go to 4

4.a.  All fins bright red.  Body color bluish with white spots.  Lateral line arches high over the pectoral fin - Opah (Lampris guttatus) (137 cm / 54") - rare species

4.b.  Silvery-black body and fins.  Fins usually black tipped.  Very blunt snout. Lateral line makes a very gradual arch over the pectoral fin - Pacific Pomfret (Brama japonica) (61 cm / 24 in) - rare species

5.a.  Body elongate with large prominent head - go to 6

5.b.  Body elongate, but head not prominent - go to 12

6.a.  Tail "whip-like" or lunate - go to 7

6.b.  Tail rounded - go to 8

7.a.  Tail "whip-like".  Teeth "rabbit-like".  Large green eyes.  Large lateral line pores.  Spine in front of first dorsal fin - Spotted Ratfish (Hydrolagus colliei) (96 cm / 38 in) - unusual species

7.b.  Tail lunate.  Snout blunt.  Body green with darker spots.  High dorsal fin starts at head and extends the length of the body - Dolphin (Coryphaena hippurus) (2.1 m / 6.5 ft) - rare species (photo courtesy of Hawaii Dept. of Economic Development)

8.a.  No scales on body - go to 9

8.b.  Some scales on body - go to 10

9.a.  Unpaired cirrus (flap) on midline of snout.  No enlarged preopercular spines - Cabezon (Scorpaenichthys marmoratus) (99 cm / 39 in) - common species

9.b.  Enlarged preopercular spine that is antler-like in shape.  No cirrus on midline of snout - Pacific Staghorn Sculpin (Leptocottus armatus) (46 cm / 18 in) - unusual species

10.a.  Single row of very enlarged scales along lateral line.  Enlarged preopercular spine - Buffalo Sculpin (Enophrys bison) (37 / 14.5 in) - unusual species

10.b.  Two separate sets of several rows of scales.  No distinctly enlarged preopercular spines - go to 11

11.a.  Two separate bands of scales.  Upper band is 4-5 scale rows wide - Red Irish Lord (Hemilepidotus hemilepidotus) (51 cm / 20 in) - uncommon species

11.b.  Two separate bands of scales.  Upper band is 6-8 scale rows wide - Brown Irish Lord (Hemilepidotus spinosus) (29 cm / 11 in) - unusual species

12.a.  Rows of enlarged bony scutes on back, side, and belly.  Heterocercal tail.   Subterminal mouth.  Barbels in front of mouth - go to 13

12.b.  No bony scutes on back.  Tail not heterocercal.  Mouth terminal.  May have single barbel below mouth - go to 14

13.a.  Barbels closer to mouth than end of snout, 30 or fewer scutes in mid-line row - Green Sturgeon (Acipenser medirostris) (2.1 m / 7 ft) - rare species

13.b.  Barbels closer to end of snout than mouth, 38 or more scutes in mid-line row - White Sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus) (6.1 m / 20 ft) - rare species

14.a.  Two distinct anal fins - go to 15

14.b.  One anal fin - go to 17

15.a.  No chin barbel or minute if present.  Lower jaw projects slightly - Walleye Pollock (Theragra chalcoramma) (91 cm / 36 in) - rare species

15.b.  Chin barbel present - go to 16

16.a.  Large chin barbel.  Usually has spots on body.  First anal fin begins under the second dorsal fin - Pacific Cod (Gadus macrocephalus) (114 cm / 45 in) - unusual species

16.b.  Small chin barbel.  No spots on body.  First anal fin begins slightly ahead of second dorsal fin - Pacific Tomcod (Microgadus proximus) (30 cm / 12 in) - uncommon species

17.a.  Adipose fin present - go to 18

17.b.  No adipose fin - go to 22

18.a.  Mouth small (maxillary does not reach to eye).  No enlarged teeth - Surf Smelt (Hypomesus pretiosus) (25 cm / 10 in) - rare species (see also Baitfish ID Guide)

18.b.  Mouth large (maxillary extends to at least middle of eye) - go to 19

19.a.  Gill cover has obvious arched striations.  Tail often has speckles - Eulachon (Thaleichthys pacificus) (25 cm / 10 in) - rare species (see also Baitfish ID Guide)

19.b.  No arched striations on gill cover.  No spots on tail - go to 20

20.a.  Large canine teeth on roof of mouth - Whitebait Smelt (Allosmerus elongatus) (18 cm / 7 in) - rare species (see also Baitfish ID Guide)

20.b.  No canine teeth on roof of mouth - go to 21

21.a.  Teeth on tongue.  Large pectoral fin (usually reaches to start of pelvic fin) - Longfin Smelt (Spirinchus thaleichthys) (15 cm / 6 in) - rare species (see also Baitfish ID Guide)

21.b.  Teeth on tongue.  Pectoral fin does not approach the start of pelvic fin - Night Smelt (Spirinchus starksi) (23 cm / 9 in) - rare species (see also Baitfish ID Guide)

22.a.  Two dorsal fins - go to 30

22.b.  Single dorsal fin - go to 23

23.a.  Short single dorsal fin - go to 24

23.b.  Long single dorsal fin, may be notched - go to 28

24.a.  Series of 5-6 finlets behind dorsal and anal fins - Pacific Saury (Cololabis saira) (36 cm / 14 in) - rare species

24.b.  No finlets present - go to 25

25.a.  Projecting snout and very long lower jaw - Northern Anchovy (Engraulis mordax) (23 cm / 9 in) - uncommon species (see also Baitfish ID Guide)

25.b.  Snout does not project.  Maxillary does not extend past the eye - go to 26

26.a.  Row of dark spots above mid-line of body - go to 27

26.b.  No row of dark spots - Pacific Herring (Clupea pallasii) (46 cm / 18 in) - uncommon species (see also Baitfish ID Guide)

27.a.  Sharp scutes on belly.  No striations on gill cover - American Shad (Alosa sapidissima) (76 cm / 30 in) - uncommon species (see also Baitfish ID Guide)

27.b.  Weak scutes on belly.  Striations on gill cover - Pacific Sardine (Sardinops sagax) (41 cm / 16 in) - uncommon species (see also Baitfish ID Guide)

28.a.  Mouth small, maxillary does not extend to eye.  Teeth small - go to 29

28.b.  Mouth large, maxillary extends to eye.  go to 38

29.a.  Body dark with large reddish spots.  Large fleshy cirrus above eyes.  Flesh is blue in color - Rock Greenling (Hexagrammos lagocephalus) (61 cm / 24 in) - uncommon species

29.b.  Body tan to dark gray with small orange/reddish spots (female) or larger turquoise spots (male).  No large fleshy cirrus above eyes.  Flesh not usually blue - Kelp Greenling (Hexagrammos decagrammus) (53 cm / 21 in) - common species

29.c.  Body color variable, but body and head covered with small white spots - Whitespotted Greenling (Hexagrammos stelleri) (48 cm / 19 in) - rare species

30.a.  Small mouth, maxillary less than halfway to eye.  No lateral line.  Green or blue-green above, silver side stripe, and silver below - go to 31

30.b.  Large mouth.  Lateral line present - go to 32

31.a.  Anal fin begins midway between the dorsal fins.  There are 10-12 scales between the two dorsal fins - Jacksmelt (Atherinopsis californiensus) (44 cm / 17.5 in) - rare species (see also Baitfish ID Guide)

31.b.  Anal fin begins midway through the first dorsal fin.  There are 5-8 scales between the two dorsal fins - Topsmelt (Atherinops affinis) (37 cm / 14.5 in) - rare species (see also Baitfish ID Guide)

32.a.  Tail deeply forked - go to 33

32.b.  Tail moderately forked or no distinct fork - go to 34

33.a.  Row of scutes along entire lateral line.  Lateral line has sharp rise at mid-body that arches over pectoral fin.  Dark spot at edge of gill cover - Jackmackerel (Trachurus symmetricus) (81 cm / 32 in) - uncommon species

33.b.  No scutes on lateral line.  Lateral line makes gradual rise over pectoral fin.  Tail and fins yellow.  Yellow side stripe that begins on snout and continues to tail - Yellowtail (Seriola lalandi) (1.5 m / 5 ft) - rare species

34.a.  Bass-like appearance.  Between 6 and 9 dark stripes along body.  Large scales - Striped Bass (Morone saxatilis) (122 cm / 48 in) - rare species

34.b.  No stripes along body.  Not "bass-like" - go to 35

35.a.  First and second dorsal fins widely separated.  Second dorsal fin and anal fin about the same size as the first dorsal fin - Sablefish (Anoplopoma fimbria) (102 cm / 40 in) - uncommon species

35.b.  First and second dorsal fins close together.  Second dorsal fin and anal fin are notched and much longer than first dorsal fin - Pacific Hake (Merluccius productus) (91 cm / 36 in) - uncommon species

36.a.  Large spots along sides.  Large canines in strong mouth.  No distinct caudal fin, tail ends in a point - Wolf Eel (Anarrhichthys ocellatus) (2 m / 6.5 ft) - unusual species

36.b.  Has caudal fin.  Any spotting along sides is minor - go to 37

37.a.  Soft rays in last half of dorsal fin.  Pectoral fin large - Monkeyface Prickleback (Cebidichthys violaceus) (76 cm / 30 in) - rare species

37.b.  Spinous rays through entire dorsal fin.  Pectoral fin tiny - Rock Prickleback (Xiphister mucosus) (58 cm / 23 in) - rare species

38.a. Teeth very large, sharp, and "fang-like".  Body elongate.  Scales tiny.  Maxillary extends to the rear of the eye - Lingcod (Ophiodon elongatus) (152 cm / 5 ft) - primary species

38.b.  Body "bass-like".  Scales large.  Teeth not "fang-like".  Lacks head spines as found in rockfish - Kelp Bass (Paralabrax clathratus) (56 cm / 22 in) - rare species

39.a. Dorsal and anal fin join body at caudal fin. Caudal fin rounded. No spines in dorsal fin - Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola ) (3.1 m / 10 ft) - rare species

39.b.  First dorsal fin comprised of three strong spines. Dorsal and anal fins are distinct from caudal fin - Finescale Triggerfish (Balistes polylepis ) (76 cm / 30 in) - rare species

Back to top


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


About Us | Fishing | Crabbing & Clamming | Big Game Hunting | Game Bird Hunting | Wildlife Viewing | License / Regs | Conservation | Living with Wildlife | Education | Workday Login

ODFW Home | Driving Directions | Employee Directory | Social Media | | File Formats | Employee Webmail | ODFW License Agents | Accessibility

4034 Fairview Industrial Drive SE   ::   Salem, OR 97302   ::    Main Phone (503) 947-6000 or (800) 720-ODFW [6339]

Do you have a question or comment for ODFW? Contact ODFW's Public Service Representative at:
Share your opinion or comments on a Fish and Wildlife Commission issue at:
Do you need this information in an alternative format or language? Contact 503-947-6000 or click here.

   © ODFW. All rights reserved. This page was last updated: 06/12/2021 9:36 AM