Copper Rockfish

Copper Rockfish, Sebastes caurinus

The Copper Rockfish, Sebastes caurinus, whose common Spanish name is rocote cobrizo, 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 Copper Rockfish have narrow bodies with a depth that is 34 – 38% of standard length. They have a high spiny dorsal fin and sharp snout. They are highly variable in color ranging from cream to yellowish-brown to a reddish dark brown to almost black. They are dark above their lateral line, which is broken up with white patches. They have a stripe that runs diagonally from their eye toward the edge of their gill cover and another from their upper jaw. Fish taken from the more northern part of their range have a darker coloration. Their head is relatively short with a small terminal mouth and large eyes. Their anal fin has 3 spines and 5 to 7 rays; their caudal fin is slightly rounded; their dorsal fin has 13 spines and 11 to 14 rays; their pectoral fins have 16 to 18 rays; and they have 26 to 33 gill rakers. Their body is covered with prominent scales.

The Copper Rockfish are bottom dwellers found in heavy rock structures from very shallow coastal waters to depths up to 1,340 feet. They are solitary individuals or are found in small groups mixed in with as many as eight or nine different species of Rockfish. They reach a maximum length of 66 cm (26 inches), with males being larger than females. Reproduction is oviparous with each female releasing between 16,000 and 640,000 pelagic eggs annually. They have a lifespan of up to fifty years.

In Mexican waters the Copper Rockfish have a limited distribution being found from San Quintin northward along the northwestwest coast of Baja.

The Copper Rockfish is easily confused with the Gopher Rockfish, Sebastes carnatus (more heavily blotched on back and sides; lateral line not continuously broken up by color spots; light blotches on upper back).

The Copper Rockfish are a strong component of the West Coast commercial fishery taken predominately by hook and line. They are marketed fresh, frozen, and live. They are an important component of the recreational catch in the northern part of their range. Overall populations of the Copper Rockfish have declined by approximately 20% in the last 50 years.

f348-copper-rockfish-6Copper Rockfish, Sebastes caurinus. juvenile. Fish caught from coastal waters off Redondo Beach, California, August 2016. Length: 12.1 cm (4.8 inches). Catch and photo courtesy of Ben Cantrell, Peoria, IL. Identification courtesy of Milton Love, University of California, Santa Barbara, Goleta, CA.

Copper Rockfish (1)

Copper Rockfish, Sebastes caurinus. Both fish caught from coastal waters off Ejido Eréndira, Baja California, February 2015. Catch, photos and identifications courtesy of Chris Wheaton, Loreto, Baja California Sur. Identifications reconfirmed by Milton Love, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA.

Copper Rockfish (3)

Copper Rockfish, Sebastes caurinus. Both fish caught from coastal waters off Sitka, Alaska, September 2015. Catch, photos and identifications courtesy of Chris Wheaton, Loreto, Baja California Sur. Identifications reconfirmed by Milton Love, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA.

f348-copper-rockfish-5Copper RockfishSebastes caurinus. Fish caught from coastal waters off Santa Cruz, California, May 2016. Length: 28 cm (11 inches). Catch, photo and identification courtesy of Andrew Hansen, Santa Cruz, California.