Black Rockfish (Sebastes melanops)

A member of the Scorpaenidae family, the black rockfish is widely distributed in the eastern Pacific. It is an excellent food fish.


The body of the black rockfish is oval or egg shaped and compressed. The head has a steep upper profile that is almost straight; the mouth is large and the lower jaw projects slightly. The eyes are moderately large. The color is brown to black on the back, paler on the sides, and dirty white below.

There are black spots on the dorsal fin. This species is easily confused with the blue rockfish; however, the anal fin of the black rockfish is rounded, whereas the anal fin of the blue rockfish is slanted or straight. The black rockfish has spots on the dorsal fin, and the blue rockfish does not.


This species can attain a length of 25 inches and a weight of 11 pounds. The largest recorded weighed 10.5 pounds.

Life history/Behavior

Like all members of its family, the black rockfish is ovoviviparous, with egg fertilization and development taking place in the body of the mother. When embryonic development is complete, the female releases the eggs; the exposure to seawater activates the embryo, and it escapes from the egg case. The young hatch in the spring and form large schools off the bottom in estuaries and tide pools in the summer.

Adults may be abundant in the summer in shallow water near kelp-lined shores, but they occupy deeper water in the fall and the winter. They may school over rocky reefs from the bottom to the surface and are caught at varied depths, from near the surface to 1,200 feet.


The diet of black rockfish includes squid, crabs’ eggs, and fish. They are occasionally observed feeding on sand lance on the surface. Salmon anglers sometimes catch this fish on trolled herring.

Other Names

black snapper, black bass, gray rockfish, red snapper, sea bass, black rock cod.


Black rock-fish occur from Paradise Cove, California, to Amchitka Island, Alaska.


This wide-ranging fish can live on the surface or on the bottom to 1,200 feet near rocky reefs or in open water over deep banks or dropoffs. Offshore and deep-water individuals are larger than nearshore specimens.