Starry Rockfish

Starry Rockfish, Sebastes constellatus

The Starry Rockfish, Sebastes constellatus, whose common Spanish name is rocote estrellado, 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 Starry Rockfish have robust oblong-shaped narrow bodies with a depth that is 27 to 31% of standard length. They have an orange-red coloration that is darker dorsally especially in mature adults. They have five or six large white blotches on their upper sides and are sprinkled profusely with small white spots. Their head is more rounded than any of the other Rockfish with white blotches. All their fins are a uniform color, which is identical to the orange-red of the body. Their anal fin has 3 spines and 5 to 7 rays; their caudal fin is rounded; their dorsal fin has 13 or 14 spines and 12 to 14 rays; and their pectoral fins have 16 to 18 rays. They have 25 to 30 gill rakers and their body is covered with scales.

The Starry Rockfish are non-migratory sedentary bottom dwellers that reside in the same area throughout their lifespan. They are found within boulder fields, high-relief rocks, and over cobblestone bottoms at depths between 80 and 900 feet. They reach a maximum length of 46 cm (18 inches) with females being slightly larger than males. They feed on fish, krill, octopi, and a variety of other small marine organisms. Females each produce up to 225,000 eggs annually. They have lifespans of up to thirty-two years.

In Mexican waters the Starry Rockfish are found from Magdalena Bay northward along the central and northwest coasts of Baja. I have a fish in my possession that documents a southern range extension for this species to 23.42oN and 110.23oW, well south of Magdalena Bay on the southwestern coast of Baja.

The Starry Rockfish is the easiest Rockfish to identify due to the numerous small while dots covering its body, thus it cannot be confused with any other species.

 The Starry Rockfish are considered an important recreational game fish in central and southern California coastal waters. They are also caught by commercial fishermen with gill nets and by hook and line. They are sold fresh in several Southern California ethnic markets.

Starry Rockfish (1)

Starry Rockfish, Sebastes constellatus. Fish courtesy of the commercial fishermen of the greater San Diego area, San Diego, CA, December 2014. Length: 23 cm (9.0 inches).

Starry Rockfish, Sebastes constellatus. Fish courtesy of the commercial fishermen of the greater Los Cabos area, Baja California Sur, June 2008. Length: 39 cm (15 inches). This collection documents a significant range extension for this species.