Rockfish / Scorpionfish Family
Idiot Fish [Pacific Rockfish, family Scorpaenidae, family Sebastidae]

Some biologists lump all these fish under Scorpaenidae (Scorpionfishes) and some assign a number of genera to Sebastidae, a family not recognized at all by the first group. They are mostly venomous (poisoned spines) ranging from extremely to not much. Fortunately those off the Pacific coast of California fall in the "not much" range.

Popularly, rockfish are called names like "Sculpin" and "Rock Cod" but none are members of those families. They are popular eating fish ranging from the Aleutian Islands of Alaska to the tip of Baja California, Mexico, though each species has a more limited range.

More on Varieties of Fish (very large page).


Acadian Redfish   -   [Sebastes fasciatus] Whole Acadian Redfish 01e

This fish is native to shallow waters in the North Atlantic. It is most common from Maine, USA north around Nova Scotia, but lesser populations are found as far south as Virginia, and off southern Greenland and around Iceland. It grows to about 12 inches long, and was not previously considered a prime commercial catch. There is now some effort to market it, as the Cod and Haddock fisheries decline. It is IUCN Red Listed EN (Endangered). It was seriously overfished, but with regulation in place, stocks have largely recovered.   Photo by U.S. Government = Public Domain.

Bococcio Rockfish   -   [Sebastes paucispinis]
Whole Bococcio Rockfish 03e

This rockfish is found from along the Aleutian Islands of Alaska down to at least the Mexican border. It can grow to nearly 36 inches and 21 pounds, but the photo specimen was 21 inches and 4 pounds, a little larger than average market size. This is a prized eating fish but it's IUCN Red Listed as CE (Critically Endangered) and the catch is restricted in California. Commercially Bococcio fillets are often mixed in with fillets of other rockfish.   Details and Cooking.

Mexican Rockfish   -   [Sebastes macdonaldi]
Whole Mexican Rockfish 03e

This rockfish is found from Santa Barbara, California, down to the tip of Baja California, Mexico, and in the Gulf of Mexico. It can grow to 26 inches and 6 pounds, but the photo specimen was 17 inches and 1 pound 14-3/4 ounces. This excellent eating fish and popular game fish is IUCN Red listed NE (Not Evaluated) and not considered endangered.   Details and Cooking.

California Scorpionfish   -   [Sculpin, Scorpaena guttata]
Whole California Scorpionfish 11e

Commonly called "Sculpin" (which it is not), this fish is found from the central coast of California to the central cost of Baja California and the northern half of the Gulf of California, a rather short range as fish go. It can grow to 17 inches but the photo specimen was 14 inches and weighed just under 2 pounds 2 ounces.   Details and Cooking.

Canary Rockfish   -   [Orange Rockfish, Rockcod, Sebastes pinniger]
Whole Canary Rockfish 07e

One of the many varieties of deep water rockfish caught all along the Pacific coast, Canary Rockfish is found from Baja California to the Gulf of Alaska. They can grow to 29 inches and 10 pounds, but the photo specimen was 23 inches and 5 pounds 12-1/8 ounces. This fish is sometimes more orange than the one in the photo, and sometimes more yellow.   Details and Cooking.

Idiot Fish   -   [Shortspine Thornyhead, Sebastolobus alascanus]
Whole Idiot Fish 11e

A variety of Scorpion Fish particularly adapted to the deep "oxygen minimum" layer of the ocean where most fish can not thrive. It has a huge head, both long and wide, housing very large gills. It lives in the North Pacific, some as far south as the Mexican border but mostly Northern California, Washington State, Canada and Russia, but as far south as northern Japan. This fish can grow to 31 inches and 20 pounds but the photo specimen was 21 inches and 4-3/4 pounds, towards the large end of market size.

Living under very sub-optimal conditions the Idiot Fish grows slowly and has a slow propagation rate. The U.S. fishery is tightly regulated under Federal fisheries programs to avoid overfishing, consequently it's not found far from the Pacific coast. Of course it's strange spiny appearance is sort of off-putting for many people anyway, which is just as it should be because there will be more for me. Outside the U.S. Pacific coast regulation may be deficient and the IUCN Red List status is EN (Endangered).   Details and Cooking.

Ocean Perch

The fish in this subcategory are commonly called "Ocean Perch", but this name is not valid, these fish are all Rockfish in family Sebastidae and are not related to actual Perch. Strangely, the Acadian Redfish, while closely related to the Atlantic Ocean Perch and Beaked Redfish, and sharing part of their range, is not called "Ocean Perch".


Ocean Perch - Pacific   -   [Longjaw Rockfish, Pacific Ocean Perch; Sebastes alutus]
Whole Pacific Ocean Perch 04e

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".   Details and Cooking.

Ocean Perch - Atlantic   -   [Golden Redfish (fishbase); Rose Fish, Atlantic Redfish, Norway Haddock, Red Perch, Red Bream, Hemdurgan; Sebastes norvegicus; Sebastes marinus (in error)] Whole Golden Redfish 02e

This deep water fish is native to the far north of the North Atlantic. In the West Atlantic it ranges from Labrador, Canada, south to New Jersey, USA, then around southern Greenland and Iceland. In the East Atlantic, it ranges from Portugal north to Spitsbergen and Novaya Zemlya. It can grow to 39 inches and 33 pounds, but is commonly about 18 inches long. The main fishery region is between Iceland and Greenland. It is IUCN Red Listed NE (Not Evaluated), but it is considered severely overfished in that region, and it is uncertain if stocks can recover. This fish is most commonly sold as frozen fillets.   Photo by Tanzania (cropped and mirrored) distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike v3.0 Unported.

Beaked Redfish   -   [Ocean Perch, Deepwater Redfish, Atlantic Redfish, Norway Haddock, Red Perch, Golden Redfish, Hemdurgan; Sebastes mentella] Whole Beaked Redfish 01e

This deep water fish is native to the far north of the North Atlantic, from Baffin Bay, Canada, south to Nova Scotia, around southern Greenland and Iceland, east to Norway and north to Spitsbergen. It can grow to almost 23 inches long, and is fished mainly by Norway and Russia. IUCN Red Listed LC (Least Concern), but stocks have been depleted to the point Norway has banned taking this fish except as by-catch.   Photo by Dolores Garabana distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial v3.0 Unported Attribution Required.

Red Gurnard Perch   -   [Ocean Perch, Jock Stewart, Red Rock Perch; Helicolenus percoides syn. Sebastes percoides (invalid)] Whole Red Gunard Perch 01e

This fish is native to the continental shelf along southeastern Australia and around New Zealand. It can grow to 18-1/2 inches long and 3 pounds. It is fished commercially and sold mostly locally. IUCN Red Listed as NE (Not Evaluated). The head and dorsal fin spines on this fish are venomous.   Photo by Ian Skipworth, contributed to the Public Domain.


Redbanded Rockfish   -   [Red Bandit (Asian markets); Sebastes babcocki]
Whole Redbanded Rockfish 02e

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.   Details and Cooking.

Rougheye Rockfish   -   [Blacktip Rockcod; Sebastes aleutianus]
Whole Rougheye Rockfish

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 and off the coast of Washington state. It gets its name from a row of tiny spins found right under the eyes. This fish can live for over 140 years and can grow to 38 inches and 19 pounds, but the photo specimen was 19 inches and 3 pounds 4 ounces. It can occasionally be found in Asian groceries in Southern California. Fishing regulations for rockfish are quite strict, limiting supply, so they are unlikely to be found in markets far from the Pacific Coast.   Details and Cooking.

Speckled Rockfish   -   [Sebastes ovalis]
Whole Speckled Rockfish 03e

This rockfish is found in the east Pacific from San Francisco south to northern Baja California, Mexican, but is rare north of Santa Barbara. It can grow to nearly 22 inches and 2 pounds, but the photo specimen 12-1/2 inches and 14-3/4 ounces. This is a prized eating fish and is IUCN Red Listed as NE (Not Evaluated), as with other rockfish, the catch is regulated by the state of California. The photo specimen was purchased from a large Asian market in Los Angeles, labeled "Gother Cod", a misspelling of "Gopher Cod" (rockfish are often called "rock cod"), but it wasn't a Gopher Rockfish either, though of similar appearance.   Details and Cooking.

Silvergray Rockfish   -   [Sebastes brevispinis]
Whole Silvergray Rockfish 04e

This rockfish is found from along the Aleutian Islands of Alaska down to the tip of Baja California, Mexico, but is not common south of the Canadian border. It can grow to 28 inches and a little over 10 pounds, but the photo specimen, purchased from a large Asian market in Los Angeles, was 14-3/4 inches and weighed 1 pound 3-1/4 ounces. This is considered a very fine eating fish IUCN Red Listed as NE (Not Evaluated). As with all rockfish, the catch is regulated in California and probably in the northern states as well. This fish is often tossed in with other rockfish of similar color, and this fish was mixed with Speckled Rockfish described above, but neither one was "Gother cod" as labeled.   Details and Cooking.

Vermillion Rockfish   -   [Red Rock Cod, Sebastes miniatus]
Whole Vermillion Rockfish 17e

This rockfish is found from mid British Columbia, Canada south to mid Baja California, Mexico. It can grow to nearly 36 inches and 15 pounds, but the photo specimen was 17-1/2 inches and 3-1/2 pounds, about normal market size. It's a prized eating fish, but, as with other rockfish, the fishery is tightly regulated so it is available mainly along the Pacific coast of the U.S. and Canada.   Details and Cooking.

Yellowmouth Rockfish   -   [Red Rock Cod; Sebastes reedi]
Whole Yellow Mouth Rockfish

This Pacific rockfish is found all along the Aleutian Island chain down to northern California, living in deep water over rough bottoms. It can live to 100 years and can grow to 22 inches, but the photo specimen was 18-1/2 inches and 3 pounds 6 ounces. This fish is rather rare in the Asian markets here in Southern California. Fishing regulations for rockfish are quite strict, limiting supply, so they are unlikely to be found in markets far from the Pacific Coast.   Details and Cooking.

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