Honeycomb Rockfish, Sebastes umbosus
The Honeycomb Rockfish, Sebastes umbrosus, whose common Spanish name is rocote panal, 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 Honeycomb Rockfish have compact squat bodies with a width that is 35 to 39% of standard length. They are covered with spines. They have a tan, brown, or reddish brown coloration with four to six white blotches randomly spaced above their lateral line. Their scales are edged with dark brown or green below the lateral line giving them a honeycomb appearance after which they are named. Their back has brownish or greenish-brown patches or smudges. Their head is mid-length with a short snout, disproportionately large eyes, and a small terminal mouth. Their anal fin has 3 spines and 5 to 7 rays; their caudal fin is straight; their dorsal fin has 12 to 14 spines and 11 to 13 rays; their pectoral fins have 15 to 18 rays; and they have 31 to 38 gill rakers. Their body is covered with scales.
The Honeycomb Rockfish are bottom dwellers found as solitary individuals within boulders and cobblestone bottoms at depths between 60 and 890 feet. They are normally mixed in with Freckled, Greenspotted, Rosy, and Squarespot Rockfish. They reach a maximum length of 28 cm (11 inches). They feed on zooplankton including amphipods, copepods, crustacean larva, and krill. Reproduction is oviparous with each female releasing pelagic eggs. They have a lifespan of up to thirty-one years, however, very little is known about their behavioral patterns.
In Mexican waters the Honeycomb Rockfish have a limited distribution being found only from Alijos Rocks northward along the central and northwest coasts of Baja.
The Honeycomb Rockfish is easily confused with the Freckled Rockfish, Sebastes lentiginosus (prominent dentigerous knobs on upper jaw; lacks honeycombing on sides).
The Honeycomb Rockfish are a small component of the commercial fishery being sold in Asian markets in Southern California. They are caught with some regularity by recreational fishermen replacing the now depleted larger Rockfish but are typically discarded due to their small stature.
Honeycomb Rockfish, Sebastes umbosus. Fish caught from coastal waters off Ejido Eréndira, Baja California, February 2015. Catch, photo and identifications courtesy of Chris Wheaton, Loreto, Fullerton, CA.