Brown Rockfish, Sebastes auriculatus
The Brown Rockfish, Sebastes auriculatus, whose common Spanish name is rocote moreno, 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 Brown Rockfish have deep wide bodies with a depth that is 33 – 37% of standard length. They are medium to heavy bodied fish with a spiny head. They have a tan to reddish-brown coloration with numerous dark markings, including a dark mark on the back upper corner of their gill cover. Their eyes often have a red or orange cast. They have two orange or orange-brown lines radiating backwards from each upper jaw and eye. Their head is of average length with small beady eyes set high on the head and a small terminal mouth. Their anal fin has 3 spines and 5 to 8 rays; their caudal fin is slightly indented to concave; their dorsal fin has 13 spines and 12 to 15 rays; their pectoral fins have 15 to 19 rays; and they have 21 to 30 gill rakers. Their body is covered with scales.
The Brown Rockfish are found very close to the bottom within heavy structures from shallow coastal waters to depths up to 960 feet. They are a solitary species but are sometimes found in small schools mixed in with Calico, Canary, Copper, and Vermilion Rockfish. They reach a maximum length of 56 cm (22 inches) and weight of 4 pounds 0 ounces (the current IGFA world record), with females being larger than males. They consume small invertebrates and small fish. Reproduction is oviparous with each female releasing between 55,000 and 339,000 pelagic eggs annually. They have a lifespan of up to thirty four years.
In Mexican waters the Brown Rockfish have a limited distribution in Mexican waters being found from Magdalena Bay northward along the central and northwest coasts of Baja.
The Brown Rockfish can be confused with the Calico Rockfish, Sebastes dallii, the Grass Rockfish, Sebastes rastrelliger and the Kelp Rockfish, Sebastes atrovirens, but all lack the dark spot on the rear of the gill cover.
The Brown Rockfish are a modest component of the West Coast commercial fishery taken predominately by bottom trawls or by hook and line. They are sold primarily by live fisheries. They are also an important component of the recreational catch in the Pacific Northwest.
Brown Rockfish, Sebastes auriculatus. Both fish caught from coastal waters off Ejido Eréndira, Baja California, February 2015. Second fish weighed in at 3 pounds 9 ounces. Catch, photos and identifications courtesy of Chris Wheaton, Fullerton, CA.
Brown Rockfish, Sebastes auriculatus. Fish caught from coastal waters off Santa Cruz, California, May 2016. Length: 30 cm (12 inches). Catch, photo and identification courtesy of Andrew Hansen, Santa Cruz, CA.