Speckled Rockfish

Speckled Rockfish, Sebastes ovalis

The Speckled Rockfish, Sebastes ovalis, whose common Spanish name is rocote manchado, 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 Speckled Rockfish have oval elongated narrow bodies with a width that is 28 to 32% of standard length. They have an overall light tan coloration with small dark brown and black spotting on their back and sides. The tip of their jaw is black and the membranes on their anal and pelvic fins are also black. Their head is sharply pointed and features large eyes and a small terminal mouth. Their anal fin has a strong posterior slant with 3 spines (the second being stout and longer than the third) and 7 or 8 rays; their caudal fin is slightly forked; their dorsal fin has 13 spines and 13 to 16 rays; their pectoral fins have 17 to 19 rays; and they have 29 to 34 gill rakers. Their body is covered with scales.

The Speckled Rockfish reside in a wide variety of habitats including large boulder fields, high-relief areas, and cobblestone bottoms at depths between 100 and 1,200 feet. They reach a maximum length of 56 cm (22 inches), with females being larger than males. They are found in mixed schools of other Rockfish including Bocaccio, Pygmy, Squarespot and Widow Rockfish. They consume mid-water feeders including copepods, krill, and other zooplankton. In the Pacific Northwest they are preyed upon by King Salmon. Females release between 61,000 and 160,000 eggs per annum. They have a lifespan of at least thirty-seven years, however, very little is known about their behavioral patterns.

In Mexican waters the Speckled Rockfish have a limited distribution being only found from Cedros Island northward along the central and northwest coasts of Baja.

The Speckled Rockfish is very straightforward to identify and cannot be confused with any other species due to its body shape, coloration, and sharp snout.

The Speckled Rockfish are an important component of the West Coast commercial fishery with fish taken via hook and line and gill nets then marketed fresh. They are also caught fairly frequently by recreational anglers. They are considered a quality food fish.

Speckled Rockfish (1)

Speckled Rockfish, Sebastes ovalis. Fish provided by the commercial fishermen of the greater San Diego area, San Diego, California, October 2014. Length: 30 cm (12 inches). Identification courtesy of Milton Love, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA.

Speckled Rockfish, Sebastes ovalis. Fish caught from coastal waters off San Diego, California, October 2015. Length: 33 cm (13 inches). Catch by Richard Yoder, Dockside Fish, San Diego. Tentative identification courtesy of Milton Love, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA.

Speckled Rockfish, Sebastes ovalis. Fish caught from coastal waters off Long Beach, California, October 2015. Catch, photo and identification courtesy of Chris Wheaton, Loreto, Baja California Sur. Identification reconfirmed by Milton Love, University of California Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA.