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Species index
Species Index
Emerald Diving
Explore the coastal and inland waters of
Washington and BC
Black Rockfish
Sebastes melanops
Typical Size: 16-24” length
ID:
Black and grey above lateral line, silver-gray sides. No masking on head. Lateral line is lighter in color.  “Rounded” anal fin.
Comments:  Large schools of this aggressive rockfish  still frequent the Cape Flattery area.  Although this rockfish is usually pelagic, I sometimes find individually resting on the bottom.  This species has been fished out of most areas in Puget Sound, but I have recently noted an influx of small black rockfish throughout the Sound.


Deacon Rockfish
Sebastes diaconus
Typical Size: 16-22” length
ID:
Dark blue-gray above and below the lateral line.  Pronounced dark gray masking on the head. “Squared” anal fin.
Comments:  Formerly recognized as a blue rockfish, Sebastes mystinus, the PNW variety has recently been split off and is now recognized as the deacon rockfish.  This is a schooling and pelagic species that  I only note  in the Cape Flattery area around rocky reef areas and kelp beds, often schooling with black rockfish.

Brown Rockfish
Sebastes auriculatus
Typical Size: 16-22” length
ID:
Orange masking on head. Light brown body with dark brown blotches. Lateral line is void of dark blotches and is light brown in color.
Comments: Brown rockfish are benthic and are a common companion when diving Puget Sound.  I have noted this species in great abundance at the reef at KVI Tower.  I note this species much less frequently in the San Juan Islands and Cape Flattery area.

Canary Rockfish
Sebastes pinniger
Typical Size: 16-22” length
ID:
Bright orange with white lateral line. White leading edges on pelvic fins.  Distinctive pink masking on head. Black spot on rear of the main dorsal.
Comments:  I note this species when diving the Cape Flattery area - and rarely anywhere else.  Canary rockfish are very inquisitive - I often have several canaries approach me as long as I stay "quiet".   This species is protected and should never be targeted.
China Rockfish
Sebastes nebulosus
Typical Size: 16-22” length
ID: Distinctive black and yellow speckled markings with a broad yellow angled band extending from the main dorsal to the tail.
Comments:  China rockfish are benthic and very territorial.  This species often confronts me when I approach with a raised dorsal angled in my direction.  When I get too close, it darts for nearby cover.  I often note Chinas diving the Cape Flattery area, and occasionally in the San Juans  Islands.
Puget Sound Rockfish
Sebastes emphaeus
Typical Size: 6-8” length
ID: Metallic copper-red body with dotted white lateral line.  Often has dark blotches or bars.
Comments:  I find these small rockfish in small schools along walls and on rocky reefs.  This species is common throughout all Washington waters, but not overly abundant.  

Copper Rockfish
Sebastes caurinus
Typical Size: 16-24” length
ID: White body with brown and yellow markings.  Latter half of the lateral line is white.
Comments:  Copper rockfish appear to be one of the most widely distributed rockfish in Washington waters.  These benthic fish are territorial and can be found guarding the same rock or area from year to year.  Edmonds Underwater Park is a great place to observe this remarkable fish.

Quillback Rockfish
Sebastes maliger
Typical Size: 16-24” length
ID: Yellow and brown markings on head and back, dark brown-blue tail.  Very large dorsal spines.  Lateral line is not distinguished.
Comments:  Quillback rockfish are named for their very long dorsal spines.  The fish in this picture is displaying a defensive posture leaning towards the camera with its doral spines fully extended.  Quillback rockfish are common throughout all Washington waters.  Reportedly can live upto at least 95 years.

Rosy Rockfish
Sebastes rosaceus
Typical Size: 14-18” length
ID: Bright orange with pink masking and distinctive white spots along the back.
Comments:  Rosy rockfish are very rarely encountered by divers as they are predominately an offshore species.  They are benthic and highly territorial - I have been visiting the same pair of rosy rockfish by the same rock at a site in the Cape Flattery area for more than five years.   Rosies are an exceedingly rare find and should never be targeted by spearhunters.

Tiger Rockfish
Sebastes nigrocinctus
Typical Size: 18-26” length
ID:
Distinctive cream body with  brown or black vertical stripes.  Red on pectoral and anal fins, and around mouth.
Comments:  Tiger rockfish are one of the larger rockfish encountered by sport divers.  I often encounter tigers in the Cape Flattery area and occasionally in the San Juan Islands.  Tiger rockfish are benthic and extremely territorial.  They can also live up to at last 116 years.

Vermilion Rockfish
Sebastes miniatus
Typical Size: 14-22” length
ID:
Deep red with “silvery pink” blotches on the side and white lateral line.
Comments:  The red vermilion rockfish is simply a striking fish.  I occasionaly note small schools of  vermilion rockfish at Four Mile Barges, Flagpole Point, and Possession Point.  For a while, a couple of vermilion rockfish were patrolling the deeper sections of the reef at KVI tower.  Vermilion rockfish are often curious and will approach a "quite" diver.

Yellowtail Rockfish - Juvenile
Sebastes ruberrimus
Typical Size: 6-10” length
ID:
Brownish-red body with two distinctive horizontal white stripes and white edges along fins .
Comments:  I do note the shy juvenile version of the yelloweye rockfish on deeper rocky reefs throughout north and central Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands.  These elusive fish tend to retreat into deep cracks and crvises in the reef when approached and tend to mirgrate to deeper water as they get older.

Yelloweye Rockfish
Sebastes ruberrimus
Typical Size: 18-36” length
ID:
Bright orange body and yellow iris.  White lateral line on sub adults.  Juveniles are reddish-brown with two horizontal white stripe and a white edge on the dorsal fin.
Comments:  The largest of the rockfish in our area, yelloweye can live at least up to 118 years.  This species is benthic and highly territorial.  Adult yelloweyes usually patrol depths beyond recreational scuba limits, although I have seen several adults in the Cape Flattery area.  Yelloweye are endangered and should never be targeted.

Brown Rockfish
Puget Sound Rockfish
Canary Rockfish
China Rockfish
Copper Rockfish
Quillback Rockfish
Rosy Rockfish
Tiger Rockfish
Vermilion Rockfish
Yelloweye Rockfish
Yelloweye_Rockfish_Juvenile
Yellowtail Rockfish
Sebastes flavidus
Typical Size: 12-20” length
ID:
Yellow dorsal fin, pectoral fins, and caudal fin (tail).  Darker blotchy olive-green markings above the lateral line.
Comments:  I only occasionally note yellowtail rockfish outside the Cape Flattery area.  This species tends to be pelagic and schools with other rockfish - often times with blue and black rockfish.  I rarely note large specimens in our waters - most are in the 12-16" range.  Reportedly can live upto at least 60 years.

Yellowtail Rockfish
Mystery Rockfish
Sebastes  sp.
Typical Size: 14-18” length
ID: Simailar in anatomy to the blue rockfish, but with a brown and orange specked body color.
Comments: I found this fish at Neah Bay off Mushroom Rock in 2008.  Local rockfish experts are uncertain as to the exact species - it may be a dusky rockfish (which would be a significant range extension for this species) or a new found species of "blue-sided" rockfish, somewhat similar to the blue rockfish.  I found it schooling with black rockfish. 

Myestery (Dusky?) Rockfish
Black Rockfish
Blue_Rockfish
Click here for rockfish related terms and facts
Deacon Rockfish (albino)
Sebastes diaconus
Typical Size: 18" length
ID:
Albino version of the fish decribed above
Comments:  I had seen this fish at Hunt Rock near Port Hardy the year before, and finally got a pic of it in 2003.  This is a very unusual fish that sticks out like a sore thumb in a school of even a hundred rockfish.  I have seen other blue rockfish with some white coloration, but nowhere near to this extreme.

Blue Rockfish - Albino
Canary Rockfish Juvenile
Canary Rockfish - Juvenile
Sebastes pinniger
Typical Size: 4-8” length
ID:
White with orange mottling and  white lateral line. White leading edges on pelvic fins.  Distinctive black spot on rear of the main dorsal.
Comments:  I often find these little fish in the northern reaches on Vancouver Island, and often times (but not always) shallow.  Photographed in Lucan Channel in Browning Pass.  Like their older siblings, they seem to be einherently curious of a "quiet' diver.
Vermilion Rockfish - Juvenile
Vermilion Rockfish - Juvenile
Sebastes miniatus
Typical Size: 10-14” length
ID:
Deep red with bright silver blotches typically on the head.
Comments:  Although I see quite a few vermilion rockfish in Puget Sound, I rarely see juveniles.  This juvenile was photographed near kelp in Lucan Channel in Browning Pass, British Columbia.

Widow Rockfish - Juvenile
Widow Rockfish - Juvenile
Sebastes entomelas
Typical Size: 6-10” length
ID:
Golden-black mottled appearance with white belly.  Black membrane between the rays in the anal, pelvic, and pectoral fins.  Maxillary (upper jaw) does not reach beyond the middle eye.
Comments:  A rare find, these juveniles are commonly found lingering in the shallows off Browning Wall which is where this specimen was photographed.

Copper Rockfish Junvenile
Copper Rockfish - Juvenile
Sebastes caurinus
Typical Size: 8-12” length
ID: White body with brown and yellow markings.  Latter half of the lateral line is white.
Comments:  I rarely note juvenile copper rockfish in Puget Sound, however these wonderful fish are readily found in shallow kelp beds throughout British Columbia and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  Perhaps my observation is a statement regarding the health of Puget Sound.  Photographed in Eperanza Inlet, British Columbia.

Widow Rockfish
Widow Rockfish
Sebastes entomelas
Typical Size: 14-18” length
ID:
White belly, black membrane between rays on caudal, anal, and pelvic fins.  Maxillary does not extend past middle of eye.
Comments:  A very rare find in Washington water, the widow is much more common in British Columbia.  I have seen fantastic schools of hundreds of widow rockfish at Hunt Rock in the Port Hardy area.  This specimen was photographed at the Odgen Point breakwater - a wonderful dive site!

Bocaccio
Bocaccio
Sebastes paucispinis
Typical Size: 16-30” length
ID:
Sllep profile compraed to other rochfish.  Lower jaw protrudes well past upper jaw.
Comments:  It is extremely rare to see bocaccio in the PNW.  Most of the sighting I have heard of are in Barkley Sound, which is where this image was taken.  Once plentiful, this species has been all but wiped out due to overfishing.  Ocean warming is also suspected in adversely impacting hatchling survival rates.  Specimen photographed is about 16" long and is a juvenile.