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Benthic: Typically found on or near the bottom.
Caudal fin: Tail fin.
Lateral line: A sensory organ used to sense movement, vibration, and possibly magnetic changes in the water. The laterial line is typically visible in most fish as an off-color line or rough-looking scales that run from behind the gills to the tail.
Pelagic: Typically found free swimming, not relegated to staying on or near the bottom.
Rockfish have air bladders which allow them to float motionless in the water column. I have watched rockfish use their air bladder to stealthily sneak up on unsuspecting shrimp with very little fin movement. This airbladder will often overinflate and protrude into the fish’s mouth when a fishermen reels a rockfish up from deep depths. Fish released in this condition cannot resubmerge and die. The airbladder should be popped with a needle if the fish has any chance for survival when released.
Rockfish have large mouths that allow them to quickly inhale their prey.
Most rockfish are territorial and will diligently defend their territory against perceived threats. I have watched tiger rockfish run of other fish that encroach on their den.
The first dorsal of many rockfish contains a mild poison. Although nowhere near fatal, it can leave an irritated puncture would.
Rockfish often extend their dorsal spines and lean towards an approaching threat. If this defensive posture fails to discourage an approaching threat, most rockfish will then head for nearby cover.
Many species of rockfish can grow close to or even over a hundred years old, such as the tiger, yelloweye, and quillback rockfish. Most rockfish grow very slow and don’t reproduce until they are at least 10 years old.
Because of their aggressive behavior, slow growth rate, and territorial nature, rockfish are overfished in many areas.
The yelloweye rockfish is an endangered species and the canary rockfish is a protected species.
Rockfish (especially black, vermilion, and canary rockfish) are often cautiously curious, and will often approach a “quite” diver when they are not the center of the diver’s attention.
The Neah Bay area is the last of Washington waters where large schools of black, blue, and yellowtail rockfish can be viewed by divers. Please do your part and not harvest the last to these amazing fish.
My underwater studies of rockfish striking artificial lures has been very interesting. Many times, rockfish will aggressively grab an artificial rubber lure when initially presented. However they quickly learn that the lure is not real and will inspect it, but not strike it. Even fish that race in from afar will only inspect the lure if other rockfish have already struck it.
Believe it or not, rockfish are aged accurately by analyzing the bones in their ears!