Yelloweye Rockfish

Yelloweye Rockfish, Sebastes ruberrimus

The Yelloweye Rockfish, Sebastes ruberrimus, whose common Spanish name is rocote ojo amarillo, 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 Yelloweye Rockfish have heavy bodies with a depth that is 36 to 40% of standard length. They are covered with spines. They vary in coloration from a uniform dark red to red, red-orange or orange. Their eyes are bright yellow. Some have light blotches on their upper backs and dorsal fins. Their head is mid-length with a mid-length snout, relatively small eyes, and a mid-sized terminal mouth. The heads of large fish are covered with spines. Their anal fin has 3 spines and 5 to 8 rays; their caudal fin is rounded; their dorsal fin has 13 spines and 13 to 16 rays; their pectoral fins have 16 to 20 rays; and they have 24 to 31 gill rakers. Their body is covered with scales.

The Yelloweye Rockfish are bottom dwellers found resting for long periods on the bottom near shelter over rock structures at depths between 40 and 1,800 feet. They are solitary and highly territorial individuals that are normally found mixed in with Bocaccios, Cowcods, and Greenspotted Rockfish. They are one of the largest Rockfish and reach 1.03 meters (3 feet 5 inches) in length and 39 pounds 4 ounces (the current IGFA world record) in weight, with females being larger than males. They feed on crabs, shrimp, and small fish including other rockfish, flatfish, herrings, and sandlances.Reproduction is oviparous with each female releasing between 1.2 and 2.7 million pelagic eggs. They have a lifespan of up to one hundred eighteen years, however, very little is known about their behavioral patterns.

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

The Yelloweye Rockfish is easily confused with the Canary Rockfish, Sebastes pinniger (lateral line reaching into the head; white edged anal fin), the Sunset Rockfish, Sebastes crocotulus (body with mottling) and the Vermilion Rockfish, Sebastes miniatus (body with mottling).

The Yelloweye Rockfish are a strong component of the commercial fishery in the Pacific Northwest with fish caught primarily by hook and line. They are also caught with some regularity by recreational fishermen. They are considered an excellent food fish. The long term viability of this species has been recently addressed by the Canadian Government where they are now considered an “overfished” and “threatened” species with new regulations being implemented.

Yelloweye Rockfish, Sebastes ruberrimus. Fish caught from coastal waters off off Sitka, Alaska, August 2013. Photo courtesy of Chris Wheaton, Loreto, Baja California Sur.