Abbreviated Life History of Treefish
(Sebastes serriceps)

Treefish; Photo by Steve Lonhart of Simon/NOAA

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.


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).