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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 - go to 22

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) - un06/27/2022 12:08 PMer. 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 bars may be solid or broken- 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) - unusual species

11.c. Dark broken bars on pinkish to reddish body. Dorsal fin membranes will be deeply incised. Eyes small and set back from snout. Cowcod (Sebastes levis) (94 cm. / 37 in.) - rare off Oregon

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. Underside of jaw does not have a patch of scales. No streaks in tail - Greenspotted Rockfish (Sebastes chlorostictus) (50 cm / 20 in) - unusual species

13.d Wavy green bars on back. Underside of jaw will have a rough patch of scales - Greenblotched Rockfish (Sebastes rosenblatti) (48 cm / 19 in) -rare species - generally not North of California

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

22.a. Body has distinct large dark blotchy mottling, lower jaw does not extend forward of the upper jaw (no "under-bite"), and head slope gradual Blue Rockfish (Sebastes mystinus) (60 cm / 24 in) - common species (most prevalent along Southern Oregon Coast and California)

22.b. Body coloration has moderate speckling that is relatively evenly spaced, lower jaw extends forward beyond upper jaw and this combined with sharp slope of head give the appearance of an "underbite" Deacon Rockfish (Sebastes diaconus) (60 cm / 24 in) - common species (most prevalent along Central Oregon Coast and north into Washington)

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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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