Stripetail Rockfish

Stripetail Rockfish, Sebastes saxicola

The Stripetail Rockfish, Sebastes saxicola, whose common Spanish name is rocote cola listada, 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 Stripetail Rockfish have small and very thin bodies with a depth that is 34 to 38% of standard length. They range in color from yellow-pink to reddish-pink or red with subtle darker saddles across the top of their back and transition to silvery white ventrally. Their fins are dusky, with their second dorsal fin and their caudal fin having one and two prominent stripes, respectively. Their head is long and features a long snout, disproportionately large eyes, and a mid-sized terminal mouth. They are somewhat unique in that their anus is located midway between their anal and pelvic fins. Their anal fin has 3 spines and 5 to 8 rays; their caudal fin is square; their dorsal fin has 13 spines and 11 to 14 rays; and, their pectoral fins have 15 to 19 rays.  They have 29 to 40 gill rakers and their body is covered with scales.

The Stripetail Rockfish are solitary bottom dwellers found within rock structure at depths between 80 and 1800 feet. They reach a maximum length of 41 cm (16 inches), with females being larger than males. They feed on zooplankton, copepods, and krill. Reproduction is oviparous with each female releasing up to 230,000 pelagic eggs. They are a favorite prey of salmon. They have a lifespan of up to thirty-eight years, however, very little is known about their behavioral patterns.

In Mexican waters the Stripetail Rockfish have a limited distribution being found from Guerrero Negro northward along the central and northwest coast of Baja.

The Stripetail Rockfish is most likely confused with the Halfbanded Rockfish, Sebastes semicinctus (unique diamond-shaped mark under rear portion of spiny dorsal fin), the Sharpchin Rockfish, Sebastes zacentrus (lacks strong caudal fin striping), and the Splitnose Rockfish, Sebastes diploproa (lacks caudal fin striping; dentigerous knob on both sides of snout).

The Stripetail Rockfish are not of interest to either commercial or recreational anglers due to their small stature. They are retained by commercial fishermen as a by-catch from trawls and utilized in the pet food industry. They are caught on occasion by recreational anglers but typically discarded.

Stripetail Rockfish, Sebastes saxicola. Fish caught from coastal waters off  Point Loma, California, April 2008. Length 12.0 cm (4.7 inches). Catch courtesy of Eddie Kisfaludy, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA. Fish identification courtesy of H.J. Walker, Jr., Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA.

Stripetail Rockfish, Sebastes saxicola. Fish caught from coastal waters off Palos Verdes, California, July 2016. Length: 13 cm (5.1 inches). Catch, photo and identification courtesy of Eli (obsessiveangling.wordpress.com).