Ocean Perch
Whole fish [Longjaw Rockfish, Pacific Ocean Perch; Sebastes alutus]

This Pacific rockfish, easily recognized by the nubby protrusion on it's lower lip (no, it isn't a cold sore) is found from the northern tip of Japan all the way around and down to San Diego, California but is most populous along the south coast and islands of Alaska and around the Kamchatka Peninsula. This fish can live for about 100 years and can grow to 21 inches and 4.6 pounds, but the photo specimen was 16-1/4 inches and weighed 1 pounds 15 ounces.

This fish can occasionally be found in Asian fish markets in Southern California. As with all rockfish it is wild caught and this fish is currently considered overfished. IUCN Red List status is "Not Evaluated".   Photo © cg1.

More on Rockfish.

Pacific Ocean Perch is an excellent eating fish (when fresh) with near white, moderately flavored flesh that is tender but holds together well with any cooking method. It separates into large flakes and it's easy to eliminate all bones.

Cleaning:   No particular problems cleaning this fish. The scales are fairly large and easy to scrape off without a lot of flying around. There are a few that stick hard on the lateral line and would need to be pulled off with long nose pliers only if you intend to leave the skin on.

Use your filleting knife, sharp edge out, to cut from the vent to the fins, then your kitchen shears to cut from the fins up to the chin. You will have to use your kitchen shears to cut the esophagus and the bottom end of the gill arches.

Fillet:   Ocean Perch is rather easy to fillet, with easy to follow fin rays and bones.

  1. The head is large and wide and I prefer to remove it before filleting. When you make the cut around the collar tilt the knife steeply under the collar to get as much flesh as possible. Go behind the pectoral fins and in front of the bottom (pelvic) fins (cut them from the fillet later). There is one rib you will need to cut below the pectoral fins. Cut the spine with kitchen shears going in from the underside of the fish.
  2. Make the cuts on either side of the anal fin and the top cut down to the backbone. Free the fillet from the tail forward to the body cavity, use your kitchen shears to cut the rib cage away from the spine so you can deal with the ribs on the fillet.
  3. Pull the ribs up and a little forward with long nose pliers using your fingers to hold the flesh in place. They pull out a little harder than some other fish, but I still think this is the best plan. Once you've pulled the ribs from the fillet you'll find a row of substantial spines down the centerline from the front for the full length of the body cavity. Use your long nose pliers to pull these out forward and a little down..

Skin:   The skin is strong, thick and gelatinous, but doesn't have a strong or unpleasant taste. Unfortunately it shrinks very severely when heated and it'll curl your fillets into a tight roll. Fortunately it's a very easy fish to skin using the long knife and cutting board method. Keep the knife edge tilted a little more toward the skin than with a fish with a more tender skin.

Yield:   A 1 pound 15 ounce fish yielded fillets weighing 15-1/8 ounces skin-on fillet (49%), 13 ounces skin-off (42%), which is very good for a large head fish like this. A smaller fish will yield a bit less, a larger fish a bit more.

Stock:   The head, bones and fins make a moderate flavored stock suitable for soup. The skins would probably also be usable as they don't have a strong taste. Use plenty of water and bring it to a boil in an open pot. As it nears boiling use a skimmer to remove the heavy foam. Once it's boiling set it to a low simmer for 1/2 hour.

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