(facts will concentrate on black rockfish only)


  • Scientific Name:                       Sebastes melanops


  • Habitat:  Schools of adults often aggregate over rocky bottoms or at the sea surface.  They spend most of their time amid the water column and are generally associated with rugged, rocky habitat, often above pinnacles and/or in high current locations.


  • Diet: These rockfish are opportunistic predators that typically feed in the water column on zooplankton, Dungeness crab larvae, and fish species, such as herring , sand lance , and other smaller rockfish. However, they may also feed on benthic species such as crustaceans and octopi.


  • Size: Adults may reach a maximum weight of 11 lbs and maximum length of 27.6 in, with females reaching larger sizes than males.


  • Range:  Black rockfish range from Amchitka Island in the Aleutian Islands to southern California. They are also rarely observed around the Pribilof Islands.



Nearshore Rockfish:

(year round)

Black Rockfish


(and rarely:)

blue rockfish, brown rockfish, gopher rockfish, black & yellow rockfish, china rockfish, grass rockfish


The Meat:

Flaky white. Like cod (hence the problematic slang for this species: “rock cod”).  Best served baked, broiled, pan fried. Mmmm…fish tacos!


Your rockfish will usually come filleted with skin on, or occasionally with skin off. Whole rockfish will sometimes be available. (please see “Deep Water Rockfishes”)


Nearshore rockfishes are targeted by small boat hook and line fishermen (guys with reels and rods, or baited rebar) in local waters or further north up the California coast. Sadly, there are not very many of these fishermen left. As far as I know, a fisherman wanting to fish for nearshore species has to actually buy two nearshore permits (so for every new guy starting out, two old guys have to quit). This was all done intentionally to phase out commercial nearshore rockfish fishing and frankly it's always struck me as odd. The type of fishermen we want to support are the little guys, right? The guys with a small amount of bycatch and minimally destructive gear types. Plus which, as long-lived as many rockfishes are, nearshore species are among the least long-lived. And, if the intense recreational fishing of these species has shown us anything, it's that they can withstand a high amount of fishing pressure. Take into account that the MLPA initiatives have closed fishing in many close to shore areas (where sport and small boat commercial fishing used to occur), while leaving deep offshore areas open to the ravages of drag (bottom trawl) fishing and you will understand why many small boat fishermen are so deeply frustrated with their fisheries managers.

Gear and fishery info:

The OEHHA report lists rockfish as a healthy choice.

Health concerns:

For an in-depth look at rockfishes get Milton Love's rockfish book: The Rockfishes of The North East Pacific

Fish Nerdism 101:

Go catch 'em yourself! The best local charter boat for rockfish is the Golden Eye 2000 out of Berkeley Marina.

Parting Shots

2010 - present

2010 - present