Marine Management News Fish Identification Quiz
This fish begins life during the March through July spawning period off California along with one to two million of its siblings. Exactly how it spends the first year of its life is a bit of a mystery, although young fish have been observed hanging around vertical walls and oil platforms at depths as shallow as 36 ft. It is generally a bottom dweller, preferring to live a solitary life around rocky crags, caves, and overhangs, although small groups have been observed. Adults are most commonly found at depths between 150 and 1,200 ft.
This species' range extends from the Aleutian Islands of western Alaska in the north, to Ensenada (northern Baja California), Mexico in the south. However, it is not frequently seen in southern California. Adults feed primarily on other rockfishes, herring, sand lance, crab, and shrimp.
This fish has one of the slowest growth rates of all rockfishes off the California coast. It matures late in life, at around 22 years of age (18 in. long), and lives to at least 118 years old. This species reaches a maximum size of around 36 inches in length.
Because they are residential in nature (they don't migrate or travel much) and have been highly prized over the years by both commercial and sport fishermen, this species of fish is very vulnerable to overfishing. In fact, the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC), which manages this and other groundfish species off the California coast, has designated it an "overfished" species. California sport fishermen have not been able to legally keep this fish since 2003, and regulations enacted by the PFMC restrict the type of gear used by commercial fishermen to reduce the amount of this species taken in bycatch. Federal rebuilding analyses estimate that it will take nearly 100 years for this fish to shed its "overfished" designation.
Sport anglers who catch this fish are encouraged to pull anchor and go elsewhere to fish, to reduce incidental catch and to allow the population to rebuild. Anglers fishing in northern California, where this species is most abundant, need to be especially careful about identifying and releasing this species.
This fish is a yelloweye rockfish, Sebastes ruberrimus. The bag limit for yelloweye rockfish is currently zero fish - they may not be retained.