Widow Rockfish

Widow Rockfish, Sebastes entomelas

The Widow Rockfish, Sebastes entomelas, whose common Spanish name is rocote viuda, 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 Widow Rockfish have wide bodies with a depth that is 32 to 36% of standard length. They lack the head spines found in the majority of other Rockfish. They have a brassy gray-brown coloration. Their fins vary in color from the transparent pelvic fins to the very dark caudal fin. Their caudal fin has dark membranes. Large adults have a white blotch mid-body halfway between the caudal fin and the head. Their head is short and blunt with modest-sized eyes and a relatively small terminal mouth. Their anal fin has 3 spines and 7 to 10 rays; their caudal fin is lunate; their dorsal fin has 12 or 13 spines and 14 to 16 rays; and, their pectoral fins have 17 to 19 rays. They have 33 to 39 gill rakers. Their body is covered with scales.

The Widow Rockfish are a schooling species found in both mid-water and bottom environments usually over high-relief at depths up to 2,625 feet. They reach a maximum length of 62 cm (24 inches), with females being larger than males. They are known to school with Blue, Squarespot, and Speckled Rockfish. They feed on other fish and invertebrates including amphipods, crabs, jellyfish, krill and shrimp. Reproduction is oviparous with each female releasing between 95,000 and 1.1 million pelagic eggs. They have a lifespan of up to sixty years, however, very little is known about their behavioral patterns.

In Mexican waters the Widow Rockfish has a very limited distribution being found from Ensenada northward along the extreme northwest coast of Baja.

 The Widow Rockfish is most likely confused with the Speckled Rockfish, Sebastes ovalis (oval body; pointed snout; small dark spots covering body) and the Squarespot Rockfish, Sebastes hopkinsi (yellow-brown or tan coloration).

The Widow Rockfish are an important commercial species in the Pacific Northwest with fish taken by mid-water trawls. They currently suffer from overfishing with stocks significantly depleted. They are caught with some regularity by recreational fishermen. They are a quality food fish if prepared fresh, however, frozen fish have a short shelf life.

Widow Rockfish (1)

Widow Rockfish, Sebastes entomelas. Fish provided by the commercial fishermen of the greater San Diego area, San Diego, California, October 2014. Length: 34 cm (13 inches). Identification courtesy of Milton Love, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA.

Widow Rockfish, Sebastes entomelas. Fish caught in coastal waters off Sitka, AK, August 2017. Length: 36 cm (14 inches). Catch courtesy of Tom Handzus. Photo courtesy of Chris Wheaton, Fullerton, CA. Identification courtesy of Milton Love, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA.