Protecting British Columbia's Rockfish (Brochure)

To order a printed copy of this brochure, please email  pacdfocommunication@pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca.

Brochure also available in Chinese and Vietnamese.

Rockfish Need Our Help

Photo: Juvenile rockfishBC Rockfish come in all shapes, sizes and colours. These spiky, spiny, striped and speckled creatures are favourites with anglers and naturalists alike.

Unfortunately, recent monitoring and research programs have indicated that inshore rockfish stocks, especially in the Strait of Georgia, are at low levels. Rockfish live long lives and take some time before they reproduce. That is why rebuilding of these stocks is expected to take a long time and must be carefully managed.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada is consulting with all fishing sectors to develop suitable conservation measures for these species. This will mean reducing harvest rates, improving surveys for the collection of inshore rockfish catch data, and placing observers on commercial fishing boats. Conservation measures will also include fishing restrictions in some areas in each fishery. Watch for changes that affect your fishery.

This guide is intended to help recreational fishers identify some of BC's inshore rockfish and to raise awareness about the special attention required to keep these stocks healthy. For more information on these and other recreational fish, as well as up to date closures and fishery notices, please check the website at www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca.

Rockfish Fast Facts

  • In BC there are 34 species of rockfishes, each differing in appearance, habitat and life span.
  • Rockfish are slow growing and do not reproduce until they are quite mature – some may be as old as 15 to 20 years before they reproduce!
  • Maximum ages attained for some species can be as high as 115 years.
  • Because of their slow growth, rockfish can not be harvested at the rates fast-growing stocks such as Photo: Quillback Rockfishsalmon can withstand.

Quillback Rockfish

These fish are often found near rocky reefs, in inlets and in shallow rock piles. A quillbacks is easily identified by their high dorsal fin with deep notches between the spine, large mouth and compressed body. Colouring is brown and yellow with orange-brown speckling on the lower back. The fins are dark, except for a yellow streak through the spiny dorsal fin. Average length is 35 cm; life span is up to 95 years. Photo: Yelloweye Rockfish

Yelloweye Rockfish

In keeping with their name, these fish sport bright yellow eyes. They are more commonly known as Red Snapper, and are one of the largest rockfish. Adult colouring is yellow-orange washed with pink tones and juveniles are a darker red-orange with two horizontal white stripes along their sides. Fins are pink with black on the tips and include a large spiny dorsal fin with irregular notches and a rounded tail. Average length is 50 cm; life span is up to at least 118 years.

China Rockfish

Also known as Yellowstripe rockfish due to its colour markings, China rockfish are a favoured spectacle for divers. These recognizable fish have mostly bluish-black bodies, mottled with yellow and some white. A broad yellow stripe runs along their sides. They have thick head spines and dark fins. These fish are a solitary, territorial species that inhabit rocky reefs in shallow waters along the open coast. Maximum length is 45 cm; life span to at least 79 years. Photo: Copper Rockfish

Copper Rockfish

These fish are striking in their variable colours, which may include dark or olive brown tones washed with copper-pink and occasionally splashed with yellow. Two yellow bands radiate backwards from eyes, and the fins are copper-black. They are shallow water dwellers often found near kelp beds. Length is up to 55 cm; life span up to 50 years. Photo: Tiger Rockfish

Tiger Rockfish

A solitary, secretive rockfish that is typically found near rocky crevices and caves. Striped like a tiger, these fish feature shades of pink, grey or rose, with five black or red bars running vertically across the body, and two black or red bars radiating backwards from eyes. Bony ridges on the head may also distinguish them from other species. In younger individuals, tips of the ventral and anal fins are darkened. Average length is 30 cm; life span up to 80 years.

Keep What You Catch

Unlike salmon, rockfishes rarely survive after being caught and released. Decompression effects on fish caught from depths as shallow as ten metres can be fatal. Because of this catch mortality, all rockfish should be retained, regardless of size. Keep what you catch and avoid rockfish if you attain the daily limit. If you do not want to keep rockfish we suggest you move your fishing spot rather than continue to release them.