Bank Rockfish

Bank Rockfish, Sebastes rufus

The Bank Rockfish, Sebastes rufus, whose common Spanish name is rocote rojo, is a species in the Rockfishes and Scorpionfishes or Scorpaenidae Family, known collectively as escorpiónes or lapóns in Mexico. Globally, there are one hundred twenty four species in the genus Sebastes, forty nine of which are found in Mexican waters, all in the Pacific.

The Bank Rockfish have deep widely compressed oval bodies with a depth that is 37 to 41% of standard length. They have small head spines. They vary in coloration from various shades of brown, red, and white. Some have dark or light saddles and blotches on their sides with numerous small black spots on their body and fins. They have a prominent white, pink orange, or red stripe along their lateral line. There is typically a black margin of their spiny dorsal fin and many of their fin membranes are black. A dark sideways V-shape marking is found on their gill covers behind the eyes. Their head is relatively short with a mid-length snout, mid-sized eyes, and a mid-sized terminal mouth that has a protruding lower jaw. Their anal fin has 3 spines and 5 to 9 rays; their caudal fin is square; their dorsal fin has 13 spines and 13 to 16 rays; their pectoral fins have 17 to 19 rays; and they have 31 to 37 gill rakers. Their body is covered with scales.

The Bank Rockfish are found as solitary individuals or in small groups near shelter over rock structures at depths between 100 and 1,680 feet. They are normally found mixed in with Blackgill Rockfish, Cowcods, and Pinkrose Rockfish. They reach a maximum length of 55 cm (22 inches), with females being larger than males. They feed on krill and zooplankton. Reproduction is oviparous with each female releasing between 65,000 and 608,000 pelagic eggs. They are very slow growing and have a lifespan of up to eighty five years. The Bank fish is poorly studied and very little is known about their behavioral patterns.

In Mexican waters the Bank Rockfish has a limited range being from from Guerrero Negro northward along the central and northwest coasts of Baja.

The Bank Rockfish is most likely confused with the Bronzespotted Rockfish, Sebastes gilli (large spots), the Mexican Rockfish, Sebastes macdonaldi (dark red; elongated body), the Semaphore Rockfish, Sebastes melanosema (not oval), and the Speckled Rockfish, Sebastes ovalis (covered with fine black speckles).

The Bank Rockfish are one of the top ten commercial Rockfish taken in California waters. They are caught primarily via trawl and gill nets but are also caught with some regularity by deep water recreational fishermen. They are considered an excellent food fish. A decrease in the catch rates and a reduction in the length of commercial catches are indicative of the decrease in the long term viability of this species.

Bank Rockfish (1)

Bank Rockfish, Sebastes rufus. Fish provided by the commercial fishermen of the greater San Diego area, San Diego, California, August 2014. Length: 38 cm (15 inches). Identification courtesy of Milton Love, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA.