Canary Rockfish

Canary Rockfish, Sebastes pinniger

The Canary Rockfish, Sebastes pinniger, whose common Spanish name is rocote canario, is a member of the Rockfish and Scorpionfish or Scorpaenidae Family, known collectively as escorpiónes, lapons or rocotes in Mexico. Globally, there are 124 species in the genus Sebastes, 49 of which are found in Mexican waters, all in the Pacific.

The Canary Rockfish have heavy, compact, and fusiform bodies with a depth that is 33 to 37% of standard length. They are covered with spines. Adults are orange in color with a white or gray background, three bright orange diagonal stripes across the head, and a dark spot on the rear portion of the first dorsal fin. Their lateral line is light gray and extends from the gill covers to the base of the caudal fin. Their fins are orange. Juveniles are long and have disproportionately large heads with dark saddles on a pale body. Their head is mid-length with a short snout, large elevated eyes, and a small terminal mouth. Their anal fin is pointed and has three spines and seven rays; their caudal fin is concave; their dorsal fin has 13 spines and 13 to 15 rays; and their pectoral fins have 16 to 18 rays. They have 40 to 45 gill rakers and their body is covered with scales.

The Canary Rockfish aggregate around rock structures in areas with a high current flow close to the bottom at depths up to 2,800 feet. They reach a maximum length of 76 cm (30 inches). They are normally found mixed in with Bocaccio, with Silvergray, Vermilion, and Widow Rockfish, and with Yellowtail. They are known to be migratory with movements in excess of 400 miles having been documented. They feed on krill and small fish. In turn they are preyed upon by larger fish, sea birds, and marine mammals. Reproduction is oviparous with each female releasing between 260,000 and 1.9 million pelagic eggs. They have a lifespan of up to 84 years, however, very little is known about their behavioral patterns.

In Mexican waters the Canary Rockfish have a limited distribution being found from 60 miles south of Ensenada northward along the northwest coast of Baja.

The Canary Rockfish is most likely confused with the Vermilion Rockfish, Sebastes miniatus (deeper red in color; broken lateral line; fins with black margins).

The Canary Rockfish are considered an excellent food fish and have historically been an important commercial fish along the central and northwest coasts of North America. They are caught commercially via trawl nets and by hook and line. They are caught with good frequency by recreational anglers. A significant decline in their populations has been documented over the last 30 years.

f681-canary-rockfish-1Canary Rockfish, Sebastes pinniger. Fish caught from coastal waters off Santa Cruz, California, July 2016. Length: 25 cm (10 inches). Catch, photo, and identification courtesy of Andrew Hansen, Santa Cruz, CA.