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Pelagic Rockfish (Sea Bass)

Black Rockfish - Pelagic Rockfish (sea bass)Names: Black rockfish, sea bass, black snapper

Range: Central California to Alaska

Size: Usually 2 to 5 pounds up to 10 pounds

World Record: 10.5

Fishing Method: Mooching, jigging, and fly fishing

Range: Black rockfish range from California to Alaska. They are a pelagic rockfish, meaning they don’t restrict themselves to the bottom.  Additionally, some sea bass migrate fairly long distances.  One black rocker tagged at Tillamook Head, Oregon was later recovered in the waters off Cape Mendocino, California. Black rockfish tagged near Grays Harbor, WA have been recovered near the Columbia and three specimens tagged in the San Juan Islands in northern Puget Sound were recovered near Willipa Bay halfway down the Pacific coast of Washington.

Season: Some biologists believe that there may be two populations of black rockers – those that migrate extensively and those that stay put. Apparently black rockfish which are captured and tagged in areas with unstructured sandy bottom tend to range more widely than those that frequent inshore rocky reefs. Much remains to be discovered about the movement of these fish.

Black rockfish are live bearers and produce relatively small numbers of offspring by fish standards.  The eggs hatch inside the female after which the young emerge from the female.  Unlike mammals, there is no umbilical cord – the female provides a safe haven in which the eggs hatch.  Biologists also believe that the young gulp a nutritious fluid while still inside their mother.

Size: A slow growing fish, black rockers reach sexual maturity late – at age 9 to 13 in Alaska.  The average black rockfish taken in the sport and commercial fishery is 10 to 15 years old.  Biologists in Washington have found specimens as old as 42 and they believe they reach 50 years of age.

Names: Black rockfish enter the market under various names including sea bass, rockfish, and snapper.  Smaller specimens of one to three pounds are favored by Chinese chefs in whole fish dishes.  Though they don’t make up a large portion of the groundfish catch on the West Coast, black rockfish are a mainstay in sport and commercial catches.