California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Nearshore Finfish Profiles

Select any species below to view an abbreviated life history of the species.

Black Rockfish

Black Rockfish; Photo by Steve Lonhart of Simon/NOAA

Abbreviated Life History of Black Rockfish (Sebastes melanops)

Black rockfish are a major component of nearshore commercial and recreational fisheries, with increasing importance from the San Francisco area northward.

Distribution, Stock Structure and Migration

Black rockfish range from Amchitka Island, Alaska to Huntington Beach in southern California, but are uncommon south of Point Sur. They frequently occur in loose schools ten to twenty feet above shallow (to 120ft) rocky reefs, but individuals may also be observed resting on rocky bottoms, or schooling midwater over deeper (to 240ft) reefs to 1200ft.

Records for black rockfish show or describe a range of movement/migratory patterns from residential (no movement) to transient (movement to 345 mi.).

Age and Growth

This species may attain a maximum length of 27.6 in. in California, although individuals over 25 in. are rarely observed today. Average size observed in commercial and recreational fisheries now is 14 to 15 in. in northern California and 11 to 13 in. in central California. .

Black rockfish have a relatively fast growth rate. First-year growth is usually 3.5 to 4.0 inches. Most individuals become available to the fishery by the time they have reached 3 to 4 years of age and are approximately 10 to 11.5 inches.

Reproduction, Fecundity and Seasonality

In California, age at first maturity for males is 3 yr, or 9.8 in. TL. For females, age at first maturity is 5 yr or, 11.8 inches. At 6 yr, or about 14 in., half of all males are sexually mature. At 6 to 7 yr, or about 16 in., half of all females are sexually mature.

As with all members of the genus Sebastes, fertilization and development of embryos is internal. Black rockfish mating generally occurs between July and August.

Females store the sperm internally until their eggs mature in December or January, at which time the eggs are fertilized. The larvae develop within thirty days, at which time the black eyespots become visible to the naked eye. The eyed larvae are spawned from late January to May, peaking in February off California.

Larvae are planktonic for three to six months where they are dispersed by currents, advection, and upwelling. They begin to reappear as young-of-the-year fish in shallow, nearshore waters by May, but the major recruitment event usually occurs from July to August.

Natural Mortality

Mortality estimates have been calculated for black rockfish along the Pacific coast. The instantaneous rate of natural mortality has been found to vary between 0.2 and 0.4 for unsexed fish along the Pacific coast.

Predator/Prey Relationships

As larvae, black rockfish feed on nauplii, invertebrate eggs and copepods. As adults, they remain primarily planktivorous, feeding on small fishes (including juvenile blue and other rockfishes) as well as crustaceans, polycheates, cephalopods, chaetognaths and jellyfish.

Competition

Black rockfish co-occur with blue and olive rockfishes in the water column and with black-and-yellow rockfish near and on the bottom.

Black rockfish are commonly associated with other nearshore fish species, particularly other rockfishes. No other schooling rockfish was closely associated statistically with black rockfish, but three benthic species, gopher, China, and brown rockfishes, showed an affinity to the same habitat and depth range as black rockfish.

Critical Habitat

Larval black rockfish are pelagic. Young-of-the-year (approximately 1.5 in.) settle nearshore, generally in the shallower portions of the kelp beds (15 to 40 ft) where they frequent the sand-rock interface, seagrass beds, kelp canopy, midwater column and high-relief rock. They have also been found on artificial reefs, and in bays, estuaries and tide pools.

Adults inhabit the midwater and pelagic areas over high-relief rocky reefs. They are found in and around kelp beds, boulder fields and artificial reefs.

Status of Stocks

An assessment of the black rockfish fishery in 2007 indicates the stock is at 70% of the virgin biomass. California Recreational Fishery Survey showed that, in Humboldt and Del Norte Counties (northern California), black rockfish comprised approximately 85 percent of the annually nearshore rockfish complex. South of the northern California, black rockfish gradually decreases in the recreational catch and are infrequently observed south of Point Sur (central California).

Information on this page was originally presented in the Nearshore Fishery Management Plan (these profiles updated July, 2010).

Black Rockfish

Black & Yellow Rockfish

Black and Yellow Rockfish; Photo by Steve Lonhart of Simon/NOAA

Abbreviated Life History of Black and Yellow Rockfish (Sebastes chrysomelas)

Chrysomelas, which is Latin for black and yellow, describes the coloration of this species. They are black or dark brown with yellow blotches. Gopher rockfish (Sebastes carnatus) resemble them very closely, but gophers are brown or dark brown with large pink or whitish blotches. Both species are deep bodied with large head spines.

Distribution, Stock Structure and Migration

Black-and-yellow rockfish are distributed from Cape Blanco, Oregon to Isla San Natividad, central Baja California, but they are less common south of San Diego, California. They are demersal (bottom dwelling), usually in water less than 60 ft, although they have also been found at depths up to 120 ft. They are a residential species that inhabit kelp beds and rocky reefs. After establishing residence, the adults are highly territorial and travel no more than 2 km from their home range.

Age and Growth

Whole otoliths have been used to age this species to a maximum of 30 yr. Based on a calculated age-length relationship, an 8-in. TL black-and-yellow rockfish is approximately 3-4 yr old, and a 10-in. fish is approximately 6 yr old, and a 12-in. fish is 10-11 yr old. The maximum-recorded total length of this species is 15.3 inches.

Reproduction, Fecundity and Seasonality

In central and northern California waters, males and females reach first maturity at 3 yr old, possibly as old as 4 yr for males and 6 yr for females. Corresponding total lengths range from 5.1 to 9.4 in. TL for males, and 5.3 to 9.6 in. TL for females. Fifty percent of the male population will reach maturity at 3 yr old, between 5.1 and 6.5 in. TL, while half of the female population will reach first maturity between 5.3 and 6.3 in. TL, at 3 or 4 yr old.

Spawning occurs off California from February through the end of July, with peak spawning in February and March. Female black-and-yellows may be carrying fertilized eggs anytime between October and the end of February. In central California, June is the primary month of first appearance of young-of-the-year in kelp bed areas, and they are usually first observed in the kelp canopy.

Natural Mortality

Estimates of natural mortality are not available for black-and-yellow rockfish.

Predator/Prey relationships

Adult black-and-yellows are nocturnal feeders, ambushing their prey between dawn and dusk. Predators of the adults include sharks, dolphins, and seals, while juveniles are prey of birds, porpoises, and fishes, including rockfishes, lingcod, cabezon, and salmon.

Competition

Black-and-yellow rockfish probably compete for food and space with gopher rockfish. When both species are present, the more aggressive black-and-yellows exclude gophers from shallower depths.

Critical Habitat

Larvae and young juveniles are pelagic, but the juveniles will eventually become demersal and settle on nearshore rocky areas or in kelp forests. Among the nearshore rockfishes, this species and grass rockfish have the most shallow depth distributions.

Status of Stocks

No formal stock assessments have been made for this species.

Information on this page was originally presented in the Nearshore Fishery Management Plan (these profiles updated July, 2010).

Black and Yellow Rockfish

Blue Rockfish

Blue Rockfish; Photo by Steve Lonhart of Simon/NOAA

Abbreviated Life History of Blue Rockfish (Sebastes mystinus)

Mystinus is derived from the Greek word for “priest” in reference to the species dark color. Blue rockfish were known as peche pretre (priest fish) to nineteenth-century Portuguese fishermen in Monterey (central California), while Puget Sound fishermen of the period called them black bass. The blue rockfish is a medium-sized, midwater rockfish important in both the recreational and commercial catches in California, and it is the most abundant rockfish in central California kelp beds.

Distribution, Stock Structure and Migration

Blue rockfish range from the Sitka Straight, Alaska to Punta Banda, Baja California, and from surface waters to a maximum depth of 1800 feet. They are less common south of the northern Channel Islands and north of Eureka, California.

It is believed that the last exceptionally strong year class of blue rockfish in central California occurred in 1993 and 1998. The late 1970s showed all time low recruitment, with 2006 among the three lowest recruitment years estimated.

No information is available regarding genetically discernable substocks of blue rockfish. However, genetic preliminary evidence has suggested two species of blue rockfish may exist in California.

Movement and migration studies of blue rockfish have determined them to be residential. Most authors report movement of less than 6 miles. In addition, tagging studies of adult blue rockfish indicate they rarely migrate laterally along the coast. While studies show adult blue rockfish populations are more or less discreet at each fishing port, it is not known how much larval drift occurs between fishing areas.

Age and Growth

Blue rockfish, sex unspecified, have been aged to a maximum of 44 yr using scales or otoliths. Rockfishes in general are considered to be slow-growing fishes. However, blue rockfish are among the faster growing rockfishes. First year growth may vary from 3.0 to 4.5 in., and after 2 yr blues may reach 6 inches. Anglers may catch an occasional 2- or 3-yr old blue rockfish, but most do not recruit to the sport and commercial fisheries until 4 to 7 yr of age when they range from 8 to 10 inches. Females grow at a slightly faster rate than males.

Reproduction, Fecundity and Seasonality

Age at first maturity for males has been found to vary between 3 yr (7.5 in. TL) and 4 yr (9.0 in. TL). For females, age at first maturity has been found to vary between 2 yr and 5 yr (10 in. TL). Age at 50% maturity for males has been found to vary between 3 yr and 7 yr (10.2 in. TL). For females, age at 50% maturity has varied from 4 yr to 6 yr (11.4 in. TL).

Studies in central California have shown that in males the gonads increase in size from May to July, but in females the eggs begin maturing from July to October. Mating takes place in October, but the embryos do not begin to develop until December when the eggs are fertilized by the stored sperm. Embryos develop within the female and hatch immediately upon being released into water; larval release usually peaks in mid-January.

Blue rockfish are thought to spawn once a year. Larvae are planktonic for four to five months, where they may be carried many miles by ocean currents. Young-of-the-year blue rockfish begin to appear in the kelp canopy and shallow rocky areas by late April or early May when they are about 1.2 to 1.4 in. in length.

Predator/Prey Relationships

Feeding habits vary considerably depending upon life history stage, depth, and locality. As larvae, blue rockfish are planktivorous and are known to feed on nauplii and invertebrate eggs as well as copepods. As adults they remain primarily planktivorous and are considered to be omnivorous/zooplanktivorous. They feed on jellyfish, tunicates, thaliaceans, algae, small crustaceans, and small fish.

Adults are subject to predation by other rockfish, lingcod, sharks, dolphins, seals, sea lions, and possibly river otters. Juveniles fall prey to other rockfishes, lingcod, cabezon, salmon, marine birds and porpoises.

Competition

Blue rockfish are commonly associated with other nearshore fish species, particularly other rockfishes. In a broad area along the entire Monterey Peninsula extending out to 240 feet deep, blue rockfish were the predominant species and were in close association with olive, yellowtail, and blacks.

Critical Habitat

Larval blue rockfish are pelagic. In the spring, YOY begin to appear in the kelp canopy, shallow rocky areas and nearshore sand-rock interface. Adults inhabit the midwater and pelagic areas around high-relief rocky reefs, within and around the kelp canopy and around artificial reefs. They are common in kelp beds, where food is plentiful and protection from predators is provided. In the kelp beds, they form both loose and compact aggregations.

Status of Stocks

In 2007, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife completed a stock assessment for blue rockfish in California waters, north of Point Conception. The assessment indicated the blue rockfish population is at 29.9% of the virgin biomass. They are one of the most important recreational species in California for anglers fishing from skiffs and Commercial Passenger Fishing Vessels, and is usually the most frequently caught rockfish north of Point Conception. This species truly has been the bread and butter of the nearshore recreational angler in central California.

Information on this page was originally presented in the Nearshore Fishery Management Plan (these profiles updated July, 2010).

Blue Rockfish

Brown Rockfish

Brown Rockfish; Photo by Steve Lonhart of Simon/NOAA

Abbreviated Life History of Brown Rockfish (Sebastes auriculatus)

Auriculatus means “eared” in Latin. It is thought to refer to the dark brown patch on the gill plate. Bolina is an early name and still widely used today.

Distribution, Stock Structure and Migration

Brown rockfish can be found from Prince Willian Bay, Alaska to Hipolito Bay, central Baja California. They live in shallow waters and bays, and have been found as deep as 420 ft, although they are primarily found in waters less than 175 ft. Sub-adult and adult brown rockfish are residential, although they migrate into deeper water in the winter. Brown rockfish have a home range and tagging studies generally show no movement or movements of less than 2 km, although one tagging study showed a brown rockfish moving more than 50 km.

Age and Growth

Brown rockfish live less than 34yr, which is a relatively short life span compared to other members of the genus. The maximum size for an adult is 22 inches. There does not appear to be sexual dimorphism between male and female brown rockfish in relation to length, weight, or age.

Reproduction, Fecundity and Seasonality

Male and female brown rockfish mature from 3 to 10 yr of age, measuring 7.5 in. and 15 in., respectively. Half of the population is mature at 4 yr of age, measuring about 10 inches. As with all members of the genus Sebastes, brown rockfish are viviparous. Larvae are released from the female into the pelagic environment in December and January, and may also be released in May and June. They live in the upper zooplankton layer for a month and then metamorphose into pelagic juveniles. The pelagic juveniles spend three to six months in the water column as plankton and micronekton. As they grow older, they settle in shallow water nearshore and then migrate to deeper water. Young-of-the-year fish commonly migrate into bays and estuaries for use as nursery habitat. The use of the bay as a nursery is an uncommon practice for rockfish species. They may remain in the bay around rocks, piers and other structures in areas of higher salinity for one to two years before returning to the open coast. San Francisco Bay appears to be an important habitat for juvenile brown rockfish.

Predator/Prey Relationships

As brown rockfish grow, they feed on increasingly larger prey. As juveniles they feed on small crustaceans, amphipods, and copepods, but at approximately five inches shift to crabs and small fish. Birds, dolphins, seals, sharks, lingcod, cabezon, and salmon have been observed to feed on juvenile and adult brown rockfish.

Critical Habitat

Brown rockfish are typically found associated with sand-rock interfaces and rocky bottoms of artificial and natural reefs over a fairly wide depth range, and in eelgrass beds. In shallow waters, they are associated with rocky areas and kelp beds, while in deeper waters they stay near the rocky bottom. Sub-adults migrate into both high and low relief reefs and are strongly residential to their home sites.

Status of Stocks

Brown rockfish have long been an important component of the marine recreational fishery and the nearshore commercial fishery in California, especially north of Point Conception. While there have been studies of local abundance in certain coastal areas and within bays, the population size and structure of this species has not been comprehensively assessed.

The brown rockfish has been identified as a species vulnerable to severe localized depletions in other areas; in Washington state, the Puget Sound stock of brown rockfish was recommended for listing as a threatened species in 1999.

Information on this page was originally presented in the Nearshore Fishery Management Plan (these profiles updated July, 2010).

Brown Rockfish

Cabezon

Cabezon; Photo by Steve Lonhart of Simon/NOAA

Abbreviated Life History of Cabezon (Scorpaenichthys marmoratus)

The cabezon is the largest member of the cottid family. In Spanish cabezon means big-headed or stubborn, and, proportionally, the massive head is definitely the largest feature of this fish. The specific name marmoratus refers to the marbled or mottled appearance of the body, which can be reddish, greenish, or bronze.

Distribution, Stock Structure and Migration

Populations range along the eastern Pacific coast from Point Abreojos, Baja California to Sitka, Alaska. Cabezon normally occur nearshore and their depth range extends from the intertidal to 250 ft. As fish get older and larger they tend to migrate into deeper water. In shallower water they migrate in and out with the tide to feed.

Age and Growth

Cabezon have been aged to a maximum age of 17 yr for males and 16 yr for females. Total lengths corresponding to these ages were 25.5 in. and 28.5 in., respectively. The largest recorded size is 39 in. in length and over 25 pounds.

Reproduction, Fecundity and Seasonality

Limited information available on age at sexual maturity suggests in central California males begin to mature in their third year and all are mature by their fourth year. The smallest mature male cabezon observed measured from 13.3 to 13.5 in. TL, and the smallest mature female cabezon observed measured 17.5 in. TL. Some females begin to mature in their fourth year between 15 and 20 in. in length, and by the sixth year all females are sexually mature. In California, spawning commences in late October, peaks in January and continues until March. Females are oviparous, meaning they lay or spawn eggs. Females spawn their eggs on intertidal and subtidal, algae-free rocky surfaces, primarily in crevices and under rocks. Masses of the pale green or reddish eggs are up to18 in. in diameter and up to two to four inches thick. Males fertilize the eggs after spawning by the female, and the male guards the nest during the 2-3 week period that the eggs mature. Fish are very protective of the nests for the two to three weeks it takes the eggs to develop and hatch. Larvae are approximately 0.1 to 0.2 in. long at hatching and begin to settle out of the plankton at 0.6 to 0.9 inches.

Predator/Prey Relationships

Cabezon can be aptly described as "sit and wait" predators. Their mottled coloration lets them blend in with their surroundings as they sit motionless to wait for their next meal. With large, robust pectoral fins set low on the body and a powerful tail, they quickly lunge after unwary prey, engulfing it in their large mouth.

Adult fish eat crabs, small lobsters, mollusks (abalone, squid, octopi), small fish (including rockfishes), and fish eggs. Juveniles are taken by rockfishes and larger cabezon, as well as by lingcod and other sculpins.

Competition

Based on co-occurrence with adult and juvenile cabezon, demersal fishes associated with kelp beds and reef structure likely to compete with cabezon for food and space would include lingcod, greenlings, and rockfish species such as grass, gopher, black-and-yellow, China, quillback, copper, and vermilion.

Critical Habitat

Fish frequent subtidal habitats in or around rocky reef areas and under kelp beds. Usually solitary, juveniles and adults both are common on any rocky bottom area with dense algal growth. They are often in the vicinity of kelp beds, jetties, isolated rocky reefs or pinnacles, and in shallow tide pools. Most of their time is spent sitting in holes, on reefs, in pools, or on kelp blades beneath the canopy, but not actively swimming.

Status of Stocks

The third full assessment of the population status of cabezon was completed in 2009 for the population off the west coast of the United States. The first assessment was for a state-wide California cabezon stock in the year 2003 (Cope et al. 2004). The second assessment (Cope and Punt 2006) considered two sub-stocks (the northern California sub-stock and the southern California sub-stock), demarcated at Point Conception, CA. The current assessment retains the two California sub-stocks, also evaluating the population as a coast-wide California stock, and extends the assessment to a third sub-stock for cabezon in the waters off of Oregon. Cabezon were lightly exploited until the 1940s in California, particularly in northern California. Catches began to increase in southern California in the 1960s. Commercial catch has become a major source of removals in the last 15 years because of the developing live-fish fishery in California.

The lastest stock assessment indicates the Northern California Sub-stock was calculated to be at 45% of its virgin biomass. The Southern California Sub-stock was calculated to be at 60% of its virgin biomass.

Information on this page was originally presented in the Nearshore Fishery Management Plan (these profiles updated July, 2010).

Cabezon

Calico Rockfish

Calico Rockfish; CDFW Staff Photo

Abbreviated Life History of Calico Rockfish (Sebastes dalli)

Dalli refers to the Smithsonian zoologist Willian H. Dall. Adults are easily distinguishable from all other rockfish by their reddish brown bars slanting obliquely on the brown or yellowish green body.

Distribution, Stock Structure and Migration

Calico rockfish range from San Francisco, California to Sebastian Viscaino Bay, Baja California. They have been caught at depths extending from the intertidal zone to 850 ft.

Age and Growth

The calico rockfish is a small, colorful rockfish species that does not exceed 10 in. in length or 2 pounds in weight. Calico rockfish have been aged to a maximum of 11-12 yr.

Reproduction, Fecundity and Seasonality

Male calico rockfish first become sexually mature at age seven. Female calico rockfish become sexually mature at age nine. Spawning occurs in southern California between January and May, with peak spawning occurring in February. Fertilized eggs are present in November and December. The larval stage lasts from less than four weeks to two months.

Predator/Prey Relationships

Juvenile calico rockfish feed on zooplankton such as copepods, barnacle cyprids, and larval fish. Adults feed on larger crustaceans such as euphausiids, fishes, and cephalopods. Larger rockfish species, lingcod, cabezon, and salmon prey upon adult calico rockfish. Sea birds and dolphins have also been known to feed on calico rockfish.

Competition

Calico rockfish probably compete with other foraging rockfish species and other finfishes with similar food habits.

Critical Habitat

Juvenile calico rockfish are found in areas of soft sand-silt sediment, and on artificial reefs. Adult calico rockfish inhabit rocky shelf areas where there is a mud-rock or sand-mud interface with fine sediments. They are associated with areas of high and low relief, including artificial reefs.

Status of Stocks

There are currently no estimates of abundance for calico rockfish in California. Because of the relatively small size of adult calico rockfish, they are not usually targeted by either sport or commercial fishermen, but are caught incidentally when other finfish species are targeted. Calico rockfish frequently appear as a bycatch in prawn trawls in southern California, and are caught by sport anglers on commercial passenger fishing vessels and private boats when they are fishing for other, larger benthic species.

Information on this page was originally presented in the Nearshore Fishery Management Plan (these profiles updated July, 2010).

Calico Rockfish

China Rockfish

China Rockfish; Photo by Steve Lonhart of Simon/NOAA

Abbreviated Life History of China Rockfish (Sebastes nebulosus)

The China rockfish is an attractive rockfish, almost entirely black except for a yellow, or yellow-white stripe that runs from the anterior portion of the dorsal fin, along the lateral line, to the tail. It also has yellowish-white speckles all over its body.

Distribution, Stock Structure and Migration

China rockfish occur from Kachemak Bay, northern Gulf of Alaska to Redondo Beach and San Nicolas Island in southern California, but they are most abundant from southeastern Alaska to Sonoma County, California. They are found at depths up to 420 ft, but are most common between 30 and 300 ft. The juveniles are pelagic but the adults are sedentary, associated with rocky reefs or cobble. Adults are solitary, territorial, and residential, traveling less than a meter from their home range of 33 square feet. They are generally found resting on the bottom or hiding in crevices.

Age and Growth

China rockfish live to at least 79 years. Based on a calculated age-length relationship, a 10-in. TL China rockfish is approximately 6-7 yr old and a 12-in. TL fish is approximately 9-10 yr old. A maximum length of 18 inches has been recorded for this species.

Reproduction, Fecundity and Seasonality

Males and females mature at about the same size and age. Off central and northern California, male China rockfish reach reproductive maturity at a total length of 10.2 inches TL and three years of age, while the females reach maturity at 11.0 inches TL and four years of age. Fifty percent of the population of males and females will reach first maturity at 10.6 inches TL and four years of age, and 11.0 inches TL and at four years of age, respectively. All are mature by 12 inches or six years.

Spawning occurs off central and northern California between January and June, with peak spawning in January. Larvae are released later in Alaska, from April to August, peaking in May. Individual China rockfish spawn once a year. Larvae settle out of the plankton between one to two months after release.

Predator/Prey Relationships

Like grass and kelp rockfish larvae, China rockfish larvae are planktivores. Juveniles eat crustaceans, while the adults eat crustaceans as well as ophiuroids, mollusks, and small fishes. Juveniles are prey of birds, porpoises, and fishes, including rockfishes, lingcod, cabezon, and salmon. Predators of adult China rockfish include sharks, dolphins, seals, lingcod, and possibly river otters.

Competition

China rockfish are likely to compete with other demersal species like kelp greenling, cabezon, lingcod, and other rockfishes such as grass, quillback, copper, and vermilion, all of which also inhabit rocky areas.

Critical Habitat

Larvae and early juveniles are pelagic but larger juveniles and adults settle on rocky reefs or cobble substrate, most commonly in depths between 30 and 300 feet. Once they settle, individuals may stay on the same reef for years.

Fishery and Status of Stocks

Their bright colors have made China rockfish a very popular commercial species for many years. They are a high commodity for the live fish fishery, where they are taken by hook-and-line, longline, and trap. No formal stock assessment has been completed for this species. China rockfish is currently managed as part of the Nearshore Rockfish group.

Information on this page was originally presented in the Nearshore Fishery Management Plan (these profiles updated July, 2010).

China Rockfish

Copper Rockfish

Copper Rockfish; Photo by Steve Lonhart of Simon/NOAA

Abbreviated Life History of Copper Rockfish (Sebastes caurinus)

The copper rockfish is a highly variable species in terms of coloration, and due to this characteristic has been known by several names, depending to some degree upon locality. At one time, copper were thought to be three distinct species. A light-colored stripe along the rear two-thirds of the lateral line is a constant character. They are deep-bodied and have prominent spines. Common colors include olive or dark brown, and coppery-pink, although the red variation is common off California.

Distribution, Stock Structure and Migration

The copper rockfish is broadly distributed geographically, known from the northern Gulf of Alaska to off central Baja California. It also has a broad bathymetric distribution, occurring from the shallow subtidal to 620 feet, but are most common around 90 feet.

Tagging studies indicate that copper rockfish, for the most part, show little movement once they have settled to the bottom. Movement of up to one mile has been noted, but the majority of tagged and recaptured copper rockfish are from the locality where they were originally taken. High site fidelity makes this species susceptible to local depletion.

Adults are associated with boulder fields and high-relief rocks, and they are found in small aggregations or as solitary individuals. However, off some oil platforms in southern California, copper rockfish have been observed in aggregations of 50–100 individuals.

Age and Growth

Copper rockfish have been aged to 50 years. One study off Monterey, California, shows females grow larger than males. The maximum recorded length for copper rockfish is 26.4 inches.

Reproduction, Fecundity and Seasonality

Off central and northern California, males and females mature at the same length. Fifty percent mature at 12.5 inches or four years. All are mature at 15.6 inches or seven years.

As will all rockfishes, coppers are viviparous and highly fecund. Female coppers release between 16,000 and 640,000 eggs per season. Mating occurs in the fall, and in California, larvae are released in a single batch during winter months (January thru April) with a peak in February. Larval duration is one to two months. Copper rockfish lack an extensive pelagic juvenile stage. Young-of-the-year copper rockfish recruit into the nearshore environment at about 1.8 to 2.0 inches during April and May off central California. Juveniles descend to the bottom over sand or low rock within a few months.

Natural Mortality

Calculations of natural mortality have been made from populations in Puget Sound, Washington, and was calculated to be 0.1127 using tag/recapture method on fish 5 to 34 year old.

Predator/Prey Relationships

Copper rockfish feed on a wide variety of prey items. Juvenile copper rockfish feed primarily on planktonic crustaceans like copepods. Larger crustaceans form a major part of their diet as they grow; these include Cancer sp. crabs, kelp crabs, and shrimps. Squid of the genus Loligo and octopi are also important food items. Adult coppers usually feed close to the bottom. Fishes, including young-of-the-year rockfishes, cusk-eels, eelpouts, and sculpins, are important prey for larger individuals. As juveniles and adults, copper rockfish are preyed upon by a variety of fishes including other rockfishes, lingcod, cabezon and salmon as well as several species of birds and mammals.

Competition

Due to their co-occurrence with other larger benthic fish species such as cabezon, lingcod, greenlings, and rockfishes such as vermilion, brown, and China, it is likely that some degree of competition for food and space may occur.

Critical Habitat

Newly recruited copper rockfish initially associate with surface-forming kelps. After several months, and at about 2.0 inches, the juveniles settle to the bottom on rocky reefs as well as sandy areas and are referred to as benthic juveniles. Adults are commonly found in kelp bed areas but also frequent deeper rocky reefs. As adults, this species is considered to be epibenthic, normally occurring slightly above the substrate, which is often high-relief rocky shelf and rock-sand interface.

Copper rockfish are an important component of the nearshore rocky reef system and are frequently encountered by scuba divers in this environment. Submersible observations of the biotic community off the Big Sur coast, Monterey County, revealed copper rockfish between depths of 72 to 322 feet. The majority of sightings were of individual (solitary) fish occurring over rocky reef or boulder fields and most frequently in areas of high relief. Occasionally an individual was observed over sand.

Fishery and Status of Stocks

Copper rockfish is important for the commercial live-fish fishery, mainly because of their abundance and hardiness. Copper rockfish are an important component of the recreational catch in both skiff and commercial passenger fishing vessel fisheries, especially off central and northern California. Due to its relatively large size, copper rockfish are considered one of the premium species in the recreational catch and a prime target for the sport diver. Their solitary nature, high habitat specificity, and size they can enter the fishery (as juveniles), make the copper rockfish a candidate for local depletion.

There has been no formal stock assessment of this species in California. However, there is compelling evidence that copper rockfish populations have severely declined in many areas, and large individuals are noticeably less common than in past decades. There is considerable evidence that the copper rockfish population in Puget Sound has been overfished. Copper rockfish are managed as a component of the Nearshore Rockfish category.

Information on this page was originally presented in the Nearshore Fishery Management Plan (these profiles updated July, 2010).

Copper Rockfish

Gopher Rockfish

Gopher Rockfish; Photo by Steve Lonhart of Simon/NOAA

Abbreviated Life History of Gopher Rockfish (Sebastes carnatus)

Carnatus, a Latin word for “flesh-colored” describes the coloring of gopher rockfish, which is reddish-brown to olive-brown with large pink to whitish blotches.

Distribution, Stock Structure and Migration

Gopher rockfish range from Cape Blanco, Oregon to San Roque, central Baja California, but they are most common from Sonoma County to Santa Monica Bay, California. Larvae and young juveniles are pelagic, but as the juveniles mature, they will settle on rocky reefs or into the kelp canopy. Adults are residential, demersal, and exhibit territorial behavior over their home ranges of up to 30-36 square feet. This nearshore species is associated with kelp beds and rocky reefs, from the intertidal to about 265 ft, most commonly in depths between 30 and 120 ft. The gopher rockfish is similar to black-and-yellow rockfish but genetic analyses on the two morphs have yielded varied results. The two morphs are distinguishable by color and inhabit different depth ranges, however, they are nearly identical in other ecological and morphological characters, and cannot be distinguished genetically.

Age and Growth

The gopher rockfish is a relatively small rockfish species; the largest recorded size is 17 inches. Maximum age estimates from northern and central California range from 24 to 35 years. Based on a calculated age-length relationship, an 8-in total length (TL) gopher rockfish is approximately 3–4 year old, a 10-in TL fish is approximately 5–6 year old, and a 12-in fish is approximately 9–10 year old.

Reproduction, Fecundity and Seasonality

Gopher rockfish produce one brood per season. Off central California, spawning takes place between January and July, with peak spawning between February and March. Fecundity is about 425,000 eggs in a 10-in fish.

In southern California waters, both males and females reach first maturity at 3 years, 5.3 in TL. Off central and northern California, half of the population of males, as well as females, will reach maturity at 4 years, 6.7 in TL, and by 10 years, 9 in TL, the entire population of males will have reached reproductive maturity. Larval release occurs from January to May, peaking in March. Fecundity off southern California is less productive, at 175,000 eggs. It may take up to 90 days, at a range of 0.08 to 1.6 in TL, before the larvae settle out of the plankton. Newly settled gophers resemble black-and-yellow, copper, and kelp rockfishes.

Natural Mortality

There have not been any studies to observe patterns of gopher rockfish age structure to estimate natural mortality, which strongly influences estimates of productivity and abundance. The 2005 stock assessment used the value of 0.20 in the baseline model, based on Hoenig (1983).

Predator/Prey Relationships

Gopher rockfish larvae are diurnal planktivores. Juveniles are also diurnal and eat crustaceans. Their predators include fishes, such as rockfishes, lingcod, cabezon, and salmon, as well as birds and porpoises. Adult gopher rockfish are nocturnal predators that ambush their prey. Some of their prey items include crustaceans (particularly Cancer sp. crabs, caridean shrimp, anomurans), fish (including juvenile rockfish), and mollusks. Their predators include sharks, dolphins, and seals.

Competition

The territorial gopher rockfish excludes kelp rockfish from bottom territories and black-and-yellow rockfish from the deeper portions of its vertical distribution. Also, based on co-occurrence, gopher rockfish probably competes for food and space with cabezon, lingcod, greenlings, and other rockfish such as China, quillback, and copper.

Critical Habitat

Small juveniles inhabit the kelp canopy. Larger juveniles and adults are demersal and prefer shallow rocky substrate and kelp beds, as well as sandy areas near reefs, usually between 30 and 120 foot depths.

Fishery and Status of Stocks

This species is a valuable component of recreational and commercial fisheries in California. The portion of the stock north of Point Conception was assessed in 2005. Gopher rockfish did not appear to be below target levels and the stock appeared to be healthy. Currently, the gopher rockfish is managed as part of the Nearshore Rockfish category, but has had a set harvest limit since 2006.

Information on this page was originally presented in the Nearshore Fishery Management Plan (these profiles updated July, 2010).

Gopher Rockfish

Grass Rockfish

Grass Rockfish; Photo by Steve Lonhart of Simon/NOAA

Abbreviated Life History of Grass Rockfish (Sebastes rastrelliger)

Grass rockfish are heavy-bodied, stubby, spiny fishes. The coloring is dark green to olive green with black or gray mottling. They somewhat resemble kelp rockfish except that kelp rockfish are usually brown or gray-brown and kelp have long gill rakers, whereas grass rockfish have short gill rakers. There is also a rare light-colored variation in pigmentation that is yellowish-orange.

Distribution, Stock Structure and Migration

Grass rockfish are found from Yaquina Bay, Oregon to Bahia Playa Maria, central Baja California, although they are most common from northern California south. This is a shallow water species, commonly found from the intertidal to 20 ft, but they have also been found to depths of 150 ft. As juveniles they are pelagic, but as they mature and become adults, they associate with kelp beds and reefs. Juveniles and subadults can be found in tide pools. This species is considered residential, moving less than a meter from its home range.

Age and Growth

Grass rockfish have been aged to a maximum of 23 years, and males and females grow at about the same rate and reach a similar maximum size . Based on a calculated age-length relationship, an 11.5-in. TL grass rockfish is approximately 5 yr old, a 16-in. TL fish is approximately 10 yr old, and an 18-in. TL fish is approximately 14 yr old. Maximum length recorded for this species is 22 inches.

Reproduction, Fecundity and Seasonality

Male and female grass rockfish reach first maturity at different lengths and ages. In southern California, a few fish mature at 8.6 inches (2 years), 50 percent are mature at 9.4 inches (4 years), and all are mature at 11 inches (5 years). The smallest mature female off central California was 11.7 inches and the largest immature fish was 13.0 inches. The smallest mature male was 14.4 inches and the largest immature male was 17.3 inches. Females produce between 80,000 and 760,000 eggs per season and release all larvae at the same time.

In southern California waters, spawning takes place between January and March with peak spawning in January. Limited sampling in central California shows that peak spawning occurs in January as well. When first released, the larvae are between 0.17 and 0.18 in. SL and after 2 months, they settle out of the plankton at about 1.1 inches. Young-of-the-year first appear in shallow waters between spring and summer.

Predator/Prey Relationships

Larval grass rockfish are diurnal feeders, but as adults they are nocturnal feeders. Juveniles and adults prey upon crustaceans, but the adults also eat other fish (such as juvenile surfperches and midshipmen). Predators of juveniles include birds, porpoises, and fishes, including rockfishes, lingcod, cabezon, and salmon. The adults are prey of sharks, dolphins, and seals.

Competition

Grass rockfish, commonly occurring in kelp beds and reef structures, may compete for space and food with other demersal fishes common to these habitats such as cabezon, lingcod, greenlings, and other rockfish such as gopher, black-and-yellow, China, quillback, copper, and vermilion. Among rockfishes, they share a fairly narrow depth distribution primarily with the black-and-yellow rockfish. Research using mitochondrial DNA suggest that grass rockfish may be most closely related to calico and brown rockfishes.

Critical Habitat

Grass rockfish are a shallow water species, most commonly found from the intertidal to 20 ft, but usually only the juveniles are found in tide pools. Among rockfishes, they have one of the shallowest and relatively narrow depth ranges. They are found in vegetated areas, particularly kelp beds, and around reef structures where the adults may be found hiding in crevices.

Fishery and Status of Stocks

In the twentieth century and until 1990, grass rockfish were rarely landed in the commercial fishery. They became sought-after because of their proximity to shore and their hardiness once the live-fish fishery boomed in the early 1990s. Grass rockfish are taken in substantial numbers by finfish traps and commercial hook-and-line, particularly in central California. They also make up a substantial portion of the shore-based recreational fishery, where they are taken by both divers and anglers.

No formal stock assessment has been completed for this species. Currently, grass rockfish are managed as part of the Nearshore Rockfish category.

Information on this page was originally presented in the Nearshore Fishery Management Plan (these profiles updated July, 2010).

Grass Rockfish

Kelp Greenling

Kelp Greenling; Photo by Steve Lonhart of Simon/NOAA

Abbreviated Life History of Kelp Greenling (Hexagrammos decagrammus)

The kelp greenling is one of the most conspicuous fishes in rocky nearshore habitats, occurring often in and around kelp beds. The kelp greenling is in the family Hexagrammidae, and shares a taxonomic relationship with lingcod. The male and female look so different that they were first described as separate species. The body color is variable in both sexes, ranging from light gray to brown. Males have large irregular blue patches anteriorly. Females are uniformly covered with smaller reddish-brown to golden spots and have yellowish-orange fins.

Distribution, Stock Structure and Migration

Populations range from La Jolla, California to the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. They are rare in southern California though. Kelp greenlings are not known to migrate; adults are often territorial, particularly during spawning season.

Age and Growth

Kelp greenlings grow faster than most nearshore fishes during their first three years. They have been aged to a maximum of 12 years. Total lengths corresponding to the male and female ages were 15 inches and 17.4 inches, respectively. The largest recorded size is 21 inches.

Reproduction, Fecundity and Seasonality

Approximately one-third of all male kelp greenling are sexually mature at age two, while half of all males are mature by age four, at an average total length of 11.6 inches. About one-half to two-thirds of all females kelp greenling are sexually mature at age four, at an average total length of 11.6 inches. In general, 50 percent of all kelp greenling are mature at 5 years (9.5 inches).

Predator/Prey Relationships

Kelp greenling larvae prey on a wide variety of planktonic organisms, including fish larvae and eggs. For most of the year, juveniles and adults consume a variety of prey that is consistently available in the habitat, including crabs, shrimp, snails, chiton, abalones, octopi, fish, fish eggs, and algae. There are brief periods when organisms such as juvenile fishes or herring spawn become exceptionally abundant, and kelp greenling shift their food habits to take advantage of these opportunities. The primary predators of adult greenling are lingcod and harbor seals.

Competition

Based on co-occurrence with adult and juvenile kelp greenling, demersal fishes associated with kelp beds and reef structure likely to compete with kelp greenling for food and space would include lingcod, cabezon, and rockfish species such as grass, kelp, gopher, black-and-yellow, and China.

Critical Habitat

Kelp greenling range in depth from the intertidal to approximately 500 ft deep but are more common at depths of 150 ft or less. Juveniles and adults both frequent subtidal habitats in or around rocky reef areas, in kelp beds, and any area with dense algal growth. They have also been documented on sandy bottom.

Fishery and Status of Stocks

Kelp greenling is very popular in the live fish fishery, making up nearly 45% of the live-fish business at some markets. There are no estimates of abundance for kelp greenling in California.

Information on this page was originally presented in the Nearshore Fishery Management Plan (these profiles updated July, 2010).

Kelp Greenling

Kelp Rockfish

Kelp Rockfish; Photo by Steve Lonhart of Simon/NOAA

Abbreviated Life History of Kelp Rockfish (Sebastes atrovirens)

Atrovirens means black and green in Latin, referring to the coloring of kelp rockfish, which varies in hue from tan to kelp-colored, nearly white to mottled brown, green to black-brown, and even reddish. The red variety was described as a separate species early on. They have a distinct up-turned profile.

Distribution, Stock Structure and Migration

Kelp rockfish live in kelp beds and on rocky reefs, ranging from Timber Cove, northern California to Punta San Pablo, central Baja California. They are most abundant between central California and northern Baja. This species is known to occur at depths up to 190 ft but are most common between 15 and 80 ft, in association with giant kelp. Out of all the rockfish, this species is the most dependent on kelp. Juveniles are occasionally intertidal. Adults are solitary but have been known to form aggregations of 20-50 individuals around oil platforms in the Santa Barbara Channel. Kelp rockfish are residential species, making only rare seasonal migrations in response to storms and changes in kelp density. Within a season, individuals occupy a home range with a radius of about 10 feet.

Age and Growth

Kelp rockfish have been aged to a maximum of 25 years, but few reach the age of 20 years. Males and females grow at about the same rate or females only slightly faster. Both sexes reach similar maximum lengths. Based on a calculated age-length relationship, an 8-inch TL kelp rockfish is approximately 4-5 years old, a 10-inch fish is approximately 10 years old, and 12-inch fish are rare. The largest recorded length for this species is 16.8 inches.

Reproduction, Fecundity and Seasonality

Two central California studies yielded somewhat different estimates of size at maturity. One study shows some females are mature at 6 inches and 3 years, 50 percent are mature at about 7 inches and 3.5 years, and all are mature by 9 inches and 6 years. The other study found the smallest mature female was 8.7 inches and 5 years and the largest immature female was 12.8 inches and 7 years.

Off central California, spawning takes place between February and June, with peak spawning in May. Off southern California, spawning occurs between March and June. Females produce between 10,000 and 275,000 eggs. Females are viviparous and the planktonic larvae are 0.16 to 0.17 inches SL at release. Kelp rockfish settle out of the water column as large larvae, not as pelagic juveniles. The settle into the kelp canopy after 1 to 2 months. As juveniles, they first appear in the kelp beds between April and August. Recruitment to the nearshore area in central California generally occurs during June and July.

Predator/Prey Relationships

Juvenile and adult kelp rockfish are considered searchers with respect to their prey, although adults are also known to ambush their prey. Prominent prey items for adults and juveniles include crustaceans, such as shrimp and amphipods, and small fish, particularly juvenile blue rockfish. The juveniles are prey of birds, pinnipeds, porpoises, lingcod, cabezon, salmon, and other rockfish. Predators of adult kelp rockfish include sharks, dolphins, and seals.

Competition

Blue, gopher, black-and-yellow, and olive rockfishes commonly are found in the same habitat with kelp rockfish. The kelp rockfish is excluded from bottom areas of kelp beds by the territorial gopher and black-and-yellow rockfishes.

Critical Habitat

Kelp rockfish occur in rocky reef and artificial reef areas like oil platforms, but most commonly in kelp beds from the canopy to the bottom. They spend their days drifting motionless within kelp blades, sometimes upside down or resting on them. They are more active at night, leaving the kelp beds to search for prey.

Fishery and Status of Stocks

Kelp rockfish were rarely landed in commercial fisheries until the early 1990s with the rise of the nearshore live-fish fishery. Kelp rockfish are taken in small numbers by commercial hook-and-line and traps for this market. Currently, this species is commonly taken in sport fisheries, such as spear fishing. Their restricted habitat and limited movements make them highly exploitable. Therefore, local depressions probably occur in areas where diving, skiff fishing, or commercial fishing is concentrated. Local abundances have been studied for the kelp rockfish. However there has been no comprehensive stock assessment throughout their range.

Information on this page was originally presented in the Nearshore Fishery Management Plan (these profiles updated July, 2010).

Kelp Rockfish

Monkeyface Prickleback

Monkeyface Prickleback; Photo by Chad King of Simon/NOAA

Abbreviated Life History of Monkeyface Prickleback (Cebidichthys violaceus)

The monkeyface prickleback is not a true eel, and in the late 1980s it was reclassified to the prickleback family. The coloration is a uniform light brown to black with two characteristic dark stripes below the eye. The coloration of both sexes is similar.

Distribution, Stock Structure and Migration

Populations range along the eastern Pacific coast from San Quintin Bay, Baja California to southern Oregon. They normally occur nearshore and their depth range extends from the intertidal to 80 ft. They are considered to be a residential species and exhibit only small movements from under rocks to foraging sites.

Age and Growth

Monkeyface pricklebacks have relatively slower growth rates than most fishes. They have been aged to a maximum of 18 years. The largest recorded size is 30 in. in TL.

Reproduction, Fecundity and Seasonality

Information available on age at sexual maturity suggests that in California both sexes begin to mature in their third or fourth year at a total length range of 11.0 to 14.2 in., while 50% maturity occurs at approximately 15.4 in. at five yr of age. Fertilized eggs are present in females and spawning activity occurs from January to May, while the peak spawning period is February to April. Females are oviparous, meaning they lay or spawn eggs. Females spawn their eggs on subtidal, rocky surfaces. Nest guarding behavior has been observed, but it is unclear if males, females or both sexes guard eggs.

Predator/Prey Relationships

The diet of monkeyface pricklebacks varies from carnivorous to omnivorous to herbivorous, depending on life history stage and time of year. As early juveniles, prey items are predominantly zooplankton. Adults prefer annual red and green algal species. Predators of monkeyface pricklebacks include piscivorous birds such as great egrets and red-breasted mergansers, and fishes such as cabezon and grass rockfish.

Competition

Other crevice dwelling fishes such as the black prickleback, high cockscomb and gunnels, such as the rockweed gunnel, may compete with the monkeyface prickleback for space and resources.

Critical Habitat

Typical habitat for monkeyface pricklebacks includes rocky areas with ample crevices, including high and low intertidal tide pools, jetties and breakwaters, and relatively shallow subtidal areas, particularly kelp beds. Juveniles are particularly adapted for the high intertidal area, and this species has air-breathing capabilities.

Status of Stocks

No information is available on the status of stocks of monkeyface pricklebacks.

Information on this page was originally presented in the Nearshore Fishery Management Plan (these profiles updated July, 2010).

Monkeyface Prickleback

Olive Rockfish

Olive Rockfish; Photo by Steve Lonhart of Simon/NOAA

Abbreviated Life History of Olive Rockfish (Sebastes serranoides)

Serranoides is a combination of Latin and Greek that means "resembling a bass." Fishermen in southern California refer to this fish as “jonny bass”. Olive rockfish are one of several nearshore Sebastes associated primarily with the midwater region of kelp forest of the California coast. They are streamlined fish with almost no head spines. Their body color is dark brown or dark green-brown on the back and light brown or green-brown on the sides.

Distribution, Stock Structure and Migration

Olive rockfish occur from southern Oregon to Islas San Benitos (central Baja California) from surface waters to 570 ft. They are common from about Cape Mendocino to Santa Barbara and around the northern Channel Islands from surface waters to about 570 ft.

Tagging studies have found that olive rockfish move relatively little, ranging from less than one mile. This species has been variously described as transient or residential.

Age and Growth

Ageing of otoliths has shown that olive rockfish live at least 25 yr. Females grow larger, and, beginning at maturation, tend to be longer at a given age. The maximum reported length of olive rockfish is 24 inches. This is one of the fastest-growing nearshore rockfishes. Based on whole otoliths, a 10-in. TL fish is approximately 2-3 yr old, a 15-in. TL fish is approximately 10 yr old, and an 18-in. TL fish is approximately 10 yr old.

Reproduction, Fecundity and Seasonality

Throughout California, males mature at a somewhat smaller size and a slightly greater age than females, however the difference is not large. First maturity for males ranges from 10.6 (no age given) to 12.6 in. (4 yr). First maturity for females ranges from 11.2 (no age given ) to 12.6 in. (4 yr). Fifty percent maturity for males occurs between 12.6 and 13.0 in. (both 5 yr), while 50% maturity for females occurs between 13.4 (4 yr) and 13.8 in. (5 yr).

Mating occurs in the fall and females release larvae once a year in the winter from December through March, peaking in January. Larvae are planktonic for 3 to 6 months, then from April to September, young-of-the-year olive rockfish, around 1.2 to 1.6 inches long, settle out of the plankton.

Predator/Prey Relationships

Juvenile olives feed on crustaceans, juvenile fishes, polychaetes, octopi and squid. Juvenile olives become more active at night, but it is not clear whether adult olives are nocturnal: they do feed commonly on octopi, which are more available at night. Adult olive rockfish feed on fish (especially juvenile rockfishes), small crustaceans, polychaetes, cephalopods and tunicates. Adults are preyed upon by sharks, dolphins, and pinnipeds such as seals and sea lions. Juveniles fall prey to other rockfishes, lingcod, cabezon, salmon, albacore, birds, and porpoise.

Competition

Olive rockfish are known to compete with the kelp bass (Paralabrax clathratus) for food and shelter in southern and central California where their ranges overlap. Though olive rockfish have been associated with surfperches and bocaccio, and are frequently observed among schooling blue rockfish, no information on competition among them was found.

Critical Habitat

As with all rockfishes, the larval stage of olive rockfish is planktonic. When young-of-the-year olive rockfish settle out of the plankton they are most commonly found in and around kelp beds, oil platforms, surfgrass and other structures at depths as shallow as 10 ft. Sub-adult and adult olives live over high-relief reefs, as well as around the midwaters of oil platforms. In shallow waters, they are found throughout the water column in and around kelp beds, and are known to rest on the bottom as well.

The movement patterns of olive rockfish may be limited by the presence or absence of kelp beds. It has been shown that the abundance of olive rockfish decreases as beds of Macrocystis are removed.

Status of Stocks

There has been no stock assessment of this species. However, there is clear evidence from sport fish catch records that olive rockfish have declined in abundance south of Point Conception.

Information on this page was originally presented in the Nearshore Fishery Management Plan (these profiles updated July, 2010).

Olive Rockfish

Quillback Rockfish

Quillback Rockfish; CDFW Staff Photo

Abbreviated Life History of Quillback Rockfish (Sebastes maliger)

Maliger is formed from the latin words malus and gero meaning “mast” and “bear.” Hence, “I bear a mast” referring to the high dorsal fin. Quillback rockfish are relatively small, and are of "stout" morphology; a characteristic common among nearshore Sebastes found in close association with the bottom. They are usually orange-brown to black in color with a yellow or orange pale area between the eye and pectoral fin.

Distribution, Stock Structure and Migration

Quillback rockfish can be found from the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska to the Anacapa Passage, California. They are considered common between southeast Alaska and northern California. They can be found in shallow to moderate depths but have been observed at depths of 900 ft.

Like other Sebastes of shallow, benthic habitat, individual quillback rockfish are not known to range far. Tagging studies in central California and Washington have shown quillback to be residential (no movement other than diurnal) or to show movement of less than 6 miles.

Age and Growth

In California, quillback rockfish have been aged to 15 yr, but are known to live longer: They have been aged to 95 yr in Canada. Quillback can grow to 24 inches.

Reproduction, Fecundity and Seasonality

In California, size at first maturity as well as 50% maturity for males is 8.7 in. TL (4 yr.), and for females is 10.2 in. TL (6 yr.) As with all Sebastes, quillback have internal fertilization and are viviparous. In California, mating takes place in the late winter/early spring, and parturition April through July; with a peak in May and June. After roughly one or two months in the plankton, they begin to settle near shore.

Predator/Prey Relationships

As planktonic larvae, quillback rockfish are known to consume nauplii invertebrate eggs and copepods. After they settle in the shallow, nearshore areas they remain zooplanktivorous and feed on crustaceans. As adults their habit is more benthic, and they are known to feed on a variety of prey such as crustaceans; small fish, including rockfishes and flatfishes; bivalves and fish eggs.

As juveniles, they are preyed upon by fishes, including larger rockfishes (such as yelloweye), lingcod, cabezon and salmon. Various marine birds and pinnipeds take juvenile quillback as well. Adults are also subject to predation by larger piscivorous fishes including some sharks, as well as pinnipeds, and possibly, river otters.

Competition

Though quillback rockfish occur with a host of other nearshore benthic species, no information on competition was found.

Critical Habitat

The larvae of quillback rockfish are planktonic. After about one to two months in the plankton, they begin to settle near shore. Young-of-the-year quillbacks are found among relatively shallow, low-relief rocky substrate and shallow, vegetated habitats such as kelp and eelgrass beds. Juveniles tend to inhabit the very nearshore benthos as well, and are found over both low and high rocky substrate. Adults are most often found in deeper water and are solitary reef-dwellers living in close association with the bottom. They are often seen perched on rocks or taking shelter in crevices and holes. Adults have also been noted to retreat to eelgrass beds at night. Quillback are also associated with the rock-sand interface, but are rarely seen in the open away from suitable cover.

Status of Stocks

No stock assessment has been done for this species. Quillback rockfish are a minor component of the nearshore recreational fishery with decreasing occurrence south of northern California. They are also a component of the nearshore commercial fishery.

Information on this page was originally presented in the Nearshore Fishery Management Plan (these profiles updated July, 2010).

Quillback Rockfish

Rock Greenling

Rock Greenling

Abbreviated Life History of Rock Greenling (Hexagrammos lagocephalus)

The rock greenling is in the family Hexagrammidae and is closely related to the kelp greenling, both taxonomically and morphologically. It is reddish-brown with darker mottling and often has large bright-red blotches on the sides. The inside of the mouth is bluish.

Distribution, Stock Structure and Migration

The rock greenling ranges from the Bering Sea to Point Conception, but also occurs in the western Pacific Ocean south to Japan. In California, this species is infrequently observed south of San Francisco. Little is known about their stock structure. Similar to kelp greenling, adults are territorial.

Age and Growth

No data are available from California. Rock greenlings have been aged to a maximum of 8 yr for males and 11 yr for females. Total lengths corresponding to these male and female ages were 11.9 in. TL and 22.4 in. TL, respectively.

Reproduction, Fecundity and Seasonality

No data are available from California. However, data from the western Pacific Ocean indicate that approximately one half of all male and female rock greenlings are sexually mature at age 3-4 and a length of 11.4 to 13.8 inches. In the Aleutian Islands, the spawning season extends from June through August. Females are oviparous, or egg-laying. Nest guarding by rock greenling has not been documented.

Competition

Based on co-occurrence with adult and juvenile rock greenling, demersal fishes associated with kelp beds and reef structure likely to compete with rock greenling for food and space would include lingcod, cabezon, kelp greenling, and rockfish species such as grass, China, quillback, copper, and vermilion.

Critical Habitat

Juveniles and adults frequent subtidal habitats in or around rocky reef areas and under kelp beds.

Status of Stocks

There are no estimates of abundance for rock greenling in California.

Information on this page was originally presented in the Nearshore Fishery Management Plan (these profiles updated July, 2010).

Scorpionfish

Scorpionfish; CDFW Staff Photo

Abbreviated Life History of California Scorpionfish (Scorpaena guttata)

California scorpionfish (scorpionfish) are easily distinguished from most other California fishes. They are a relatively heavy-bodied species, with strong head and fin spines, ranging in color from red to brown, often with purple blotches and always covered with dark spots. Scorpionfish are a nocturnal species. The sharp spines on the dorsal, anal and pelvic fins are poisonous.

Distribution, Stock Structure and Migration

Scorpionfish are found from Santa Cruz, California south along the Pacific coast of Baja California and into the Gulf of California. Preferring warmer water, this species is common as far north as Santa Barbara. Scorpionfish live from tide pools to depths of about 620 ft. A transient species, scorpionfish tagging studies have shown individuals to travel as far as 350 km. Some of these movements are related to annual spawning migrations, which are sometimes extensive.

Age and Growth

California scorpionfish grow to 17 in. and some live to at least 21 yr. After 4 yr of age, females grow faster than males and reach a larger size.

Reproduction, Fecundity and Seasonality

Although a few scorpionfish mature at 6 in. (1 yr), over 50 percent are mature by 7 in. (2 yr) and all reproduce by 9 in. (4 yr). They have separate sexes and females generally outnumber males. Spawning occurs from April to September, peaking in June and July. Scorpionfish are oviparous, have external fertilization, and females produce eggs imbedded in the gelatinous walls of hollow, pear-shaped "egg-balloons". The egg masses float near the surface and the eggs hatch within 5 days. California scorpionfish make extensive spawning migrations in late spring and early summer, when most adults move to 12 to 360 foot depths, forming large spawning aggregations on or near the bottom. During spawning, these aggregations rise up off the bottom, sometimes approaching the surface. Spawning occurs in the same areas year after year.

Predator/Prey Relationships

Scorpionfish are a carnivorous, ambush predator. Small crabs are probably the most important food of the scorpionfish. They are primarily nocturnal and feed at night. Octopi prey on small individuals.

Competition

No information on competitors of adult or juvenile scorpionfish is available.

Critical Habitat

Very young scorpionfish live in shallow water, hidden away in habitats with dense algae and bottom-encrusting organisms. Juveniles and adults are most abundant on hard bottom (such as rocky reefs, sewer pipes and wrecks).

Status of Stocks

In 2005, the southern California scorpionfish stock was assessed and accepted for management purposes in California. This was the first assessment of the California scorpionfish stock in southern California waters.

Assessment results indicated that scorpionfish biomass declined before 1980 and has since increased (healthy state) mainly due to changes in recruitment.

Information on this page was originally presented in the Nearshore Fishery Management Plan (these profiles updated July, 2010).

Scorpionfish

Sheephead

Sheephead; Photo by Steve Lonhart of Simon/NOAA

Abbreviated Life History of California Sheephead (Semicossyphus pulcher)

The California sheephead (sheephead) along with two other common southern California species, the rock wrasse (Halichoeres semicinctus), and the senorita (Oxyjulis californica) are members of the mostly tropical, worldwide wrasse family Labridae. The sheephead is easily distinguished from the others by its color pattern, greater body depth, and large size. Juvenile sheephead (less than 4 in. long) are orange with at least two white, horizontal stripes on the side and several black spots in the dorsal and anal fins. Adult males have a black head and tail, separated by a reddish middle section, while the females are uniformly pink or reddish. The males also have a prominent, fleshy bump on their foreheads.

Distribution, Stock Structure and Migration

California sheephead range from Monterey Bay, California, south into the Gulf of California. This species is not common north of Point Conception. Sheephead are found intertidally to about 280 ft. They are considered a resident, solitary species and no systematic movements have been described.

Age and Growth

Male sheephead have been aged at around 50 yr, and can achieve a length of 36 in. and a weight exceeding 40 pounds. Females have been aged to 30 years.

Reproduction, Fecundity and Seasonality

Sheephead are protogynous hermaphrodites, beginning life as females with older, larger females developing into secondary males. Female sexual maturity may occur in 3 to 6 yr and fishes may remain female for as long as 15 yr. The timing of the transformation to males involves the population sex ratio as well as the size of available males. Sheephead are sometimes seen in large schools, perhaps associated with spawning aggregations. Batch spawning occurs between July and September. Larval drift ranges from 34-78 days. Settlement size remains between 0.5 and 0.6 inches.

Predator/Prey Relationships

Sheephead feed by crushing their prey items with their enlarged jaw teeth. They have a broad diet, which includes crabs, barnacles, mollusks, and sea urchins. Because of its large adult size, sheephead have few known predators. Giant sea bass, moray eels, and harbor seals have been documented as predators of sheephead.

Competition

Smaller sheephead may compete with garibaldi, Hypsypops rubicundus, when they forage for food.

Critical Habitat

Sheephead inhabit nearshore rocky reefs, kelp beds, and surfgrass beds. They seem to prefer areas of high and low relief, but have also been observed foraging over sandy bottom habitat. Sheephead are resident on many artificial reefs in southern California. At night they often utilize rock crevices and holes to sleep.

Status of Stocks

In 2004, the first stock assessment was completed under the Marine Life Management Act Nearshore Fishery Management Plan. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife sponsored a stock assessment for California sheephead in southern California waters. This assessment moves the fishery to a "data moderate" status, and provides a more reliable scientific basis for further discussion. Aspects of biology and social structure are significantly different for sheephead than for the rockfishes, lingcod and cabezon that have already been assessed by the Pacific Fishery Management Council. These differences present a challenge in considering which configuration of conservation and management measures will provide long-term sustainability.

Since the assessment, CDFW has contracted scientists, fishermen and academia to conduct research to help better quantify some of the uncertainties in the assessment and to determine if there have been changes in size and age in maturity and sex-change.

Information on this page was originally presented in the Nearshore Fishery Management Plan (these profiles updated July, 2010).

Sheephead

Treefish

Treefish; Photo by Steve Lonhart of Simon/NOAA

Abbreviated Life History of Treefish (Sebastes serriceps)

Serriceps means “saw head” in latin, referring to the large head spines. Treefish are a nearshore rockfish species that inhabit shallow, rocky habitats. They are striking in appearance with a yellowish ground color and five to six vertical black bars on the side.

Distribution, Stock Structure and Migration

Treefish range extends from San Francisco, California to Isla Cedros, Baja California. The depth range they inhabit is shallow to 150 ft. Treefish are a residential species with a limited home range; they do not exhibit migrational activity.

Age and Growth

The maximum size for treefish is 16 in. TL and can live up to 25 years.

Reproduction, Fecundity and Seasonality

No data are available for size at maturity for this species. Treefish are thought to spawn once annually in late winter.

Predator/Prey Relationships

Treefish are ambush predators that feed nocturnally on benthic invertebrates, including mollusks and crustaceans, and small fish. Juveniles are fed upon by rockfishes, lingcod, cabezon, salmon, birds, porpoises, and least terns. Adults are preyed upon by sharks, dolphins, and seals.

Competition

Treefish are solitary and highly territorial. They may compete with other treefish and nearshore rockfish species such as gopher, grass, and black-and-yellow rockfishes for food and shelter habitat.

Critical Habitat

Juvenile treefish are found in drifting mats of kelp, in areas of high rocky relief, and on artificial reefs. Adult treefish are found on shallow rocky reefs, frequently in caves and crevices. They are also found in similar habitats on artificial reefs in southern California.

Status of Stocks

There are no estimates of abundance for treefish in California. In southern California, treefish are an important species in both the nearshore recreational fishery and in the commercial live fish fishery.

Information on this page was originally presented in the Nearshore Fishery Management Plan (these profiles updated July, 2010).

Treefish