Redbanded Rockfish
Whole Red Banded Rockfish [Red Bandit, Sebastes babcocki]

This Pacific rockfish 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. It can grow to 25 inches and almost 10 pounds, but the photo specimen was 17 inches and 3 pounds. It is sold in Asian groceries in Southern California labeled "Red Bandit". Colors may be lighter than on the photo specimen. A slow growing fish of moderate population, it's mainly an incidental catch and unlikely to be found in markets far from the Pacific Coast.   Photo © cg1

More on Rockfish.

Redbanded Rockfish is an excellent eating fish (when fresh) with 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 ends of the gill arches, and a few other spots, mainly because this is a large fish.

Fillet:   Redbanded Rockfish 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 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 forward with long nose pliers using your fingers to hold the flesh in place. 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 straight forward.

Skin:   The skin shrinks severely when heated (as does the membrane lining the body cavity) but it's a very easy fish to skin using the long knife and cutting board technique. While skin must be removed from fillets so it will not destroy them, you can bake a moderate size fish whole, but do make a few diagonal slashes half way through the flesh so the skin won't tear it up and make it look really ugly. Those cuts will open up wide, but that just lets the sauce in.

Yield:   A 3 pound ounce fish yielded fillets weighing 1 pound 3 ounces of skin-off fillet (39%), which is not bad for a large head fish like this. A smaller fish will yield a bit less, a larger fish a bit more. There's a couple more ounces of flesh with the head and fins but you'd need to do a short simmer to recover it.

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