Squarespot Rockfish

Squarespot Rockfish, Sebastes hopkinsi

The Squarespot Rockfish, Sebastes hopkinsi, whose common Spanish name is rocote a cuadros, 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.

Squarespot Rockfish have oval-shaped bodies with a depth that is 32 to 36% of standard length. They lack the head spines found in the majority of Rockfish. They have a yellow-brown to tan coloration with subtle saddles on their back and head. Some have a dark sideways V-shape marking on their gill cover behind each eye. This marking tends to fade post collection with the fish becoming uniform in color. A key to identification is a dark “mustache” line on their upper lip. Their fins are generally dark with the anal and pelvic fins being lighter and the caudal fin being darkest. Their head is of medium length with relatively small eyes and a small terminal mouth. Their anal fin has 3 spines and 6 to 8 rays; their caudal fin is slightly lunate; their dorsal fin has 12 to 13 spines and 13 to 17 rays; and, their pectoral fins have 16 to 18 rays. They have 35 to 43 gill rakers and their body is covered with scales.

The Squarespot Rockfish are a schooling species found from mid-water to the bottom over rock substrates at depths up between 60 and 1,000 feet. They are active during daylight hours and take cover at night. They reach a maximum length of 29 cm (11 inches), with females being larger than males. They are known to school with Pygmy, Speckled, and Widow Rockfish. They feed primarily on invertebrates including copepods, krill, and other zooplankton. Reproduction is oviparous with each female releasing between 9,000 and 39,000 pelagic eggs. They have a lifespan of up to nineteen years, however, very little is known about their behavioral patterns.

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

The Squarespot Rockfish is most likely confused with Bank Rockfish, Sebastes rufus (body covered with small black spots), the Speckled Rockfish, Sebastes ovalis (body covered with speckles), and the Widow Rockfish, Sebastes entomelas (lacks mustache on upper lip).

The Squarespot Rockfish is not an important commercial species. With the decline of the larger Rockfish populations they are now being taken more frequently by recreational anglers but are generally too small to be of interest and thus are typically discarded.

Squarespot Rockfish (1)

Squarespot Rockfish, Sebastes hopkinsi. Fish provided by the commercial fishermen of the greater San Diego area, San Diego, California, October 2014. Length: 29 cm (11 inches). Identification courtesy of Milton Love, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA.

Squarespot Rockfish, Sebastes hopkinsi. Fish caught from coastal waters off Ejido Eréndira, Baja California, February 2015. Length: 26 cm (10 inches). Photo courtesy of Chris Wheaton, Loreto, Baja California Sur.