Spinyeye Rockfish

Spinyeye Rockfish, Sebastes spinorbis

The Spinyeye Rockfish, Sebastes spinorbis, whose common Spanish name is rocote ojo espoinoso, 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 Spinyeye Rockfish have robust oblong-shaped narrow bodies with a depth that is 34 to 38% of standard length. They are pink-red in color with orange overtones. They have six large whitish blotches on their upper sides; some have green blotches or wavy vermiculations above their lateral line and on their gill cover. Their head is large, compressed, and bluntly pointed. They have large eyes, five pairs of spines over their eyes, and spines on and under the lower edge of their eyes. Their anal fin has 3 long stout spines, the second being the longest, and 5 or 6 rays; their caudal fin is slightly concave; their dorsal fin has 13 strong spines, with the fourth being the longest, and 13 rays; and their large pectoral fins have 15 or 16 rays. They have 29 to 33 gill rakers and their body is covered with small rough scales.

The Spinyeye Rockfish are found within rocky outcrops at depths between 430 and 660 feet. They reach a maximum length of 34 cm (13 inches). They are non-migratory sedentary bottom dwellers that reside in the same area throughout their life. They have a lifespan of at least forty-five years. They are virtually unknown and very little information is available about their behavioral patterns.

In Mexican waters the documented range of the Spinyeye Rockfish is limited to Bahia de Los Angeles, with the fish pictured below documenting a significant range extension into the lower Sea of Cortez.  Chris Wheaton reports catching another one off the Golden Reef, 22 miles east of Puertecitos, Baja California, extending the range northward.

The Spinyeye Rockfish is virtually identical to Buccaneer or Gulf Rockfish, Sebastes exsul (31 – 37 gill rakers, reduced spines around the eye) and some scientific individuals believe that they are one and the same species.

The Spinyeye Rockfish are caught on rare occasions as a by-catch by deep water bottom probing commercial fishermen. They are exceedingly rare and of limited interest to most.

Spinyeye Rockfish, Sebastes spinorbis. Fish caught from coastal waters off Loreto, Baja California Sur, April 2015. Length: 15.2 cm (6.0 inches). Catch and photo courtesy of Chris Wheaton, Fullerton, CA. Identification courtesy of Milton Love, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA.