Black Rockfish are an important sport fishery in Oregon. In 2017, 1.8 million individual black rockfish were caught in Oregon, weighing about 1,960 metric tons.

Photo courtesy of California Dept. of Fish and Game

Over 25 different rockfish species are caught by sport and commercial fishers in Oregon. Black Rockfish are sometimes called: black or sea bass, and black snapper.

Body characteristics

Black rockfish have a mottled dark gray-black body, often with dark strips. Belly color is lighter, and dorsal fins have black spots. Notice the dorsal fin. The spines are poisonous and can cause pain or infection. Fortunately the toxin is not extremely toxic.  

The bass-shaped body measures up to 27.6 inches in length. Adults typically weigh up to 11 pounds.


Black Rockfish inhabit rocky reefs around 180 feet deep or less in large schools with other rockfish species. Rockfish often congregate around jetties and other estuary structures.

What’s on the menu?

Rockfish are opportunistic predatory fish that eat squid, octopus, krill, crab larvae, crustaceans, and other fish.  They readily take bait and lures. Lures commonly used include rubber-tailed lead head jigs and shrimp flies.


Predators for young black rockfish include: sablefish, Pacific halibut, other fish species, and pigeon guillemot.

Typical Black Rockfish (courtesy of Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife)


Fish in the Sebastes genus use a different reproduction process compares to other fish–fertilization and embryo development is internal.

Adult Black rockfish mate in late summer. The eggs (between 125,000 and 1,200,000) are not mature yet. Females store eggs and sperm temporarily.

Fertilization completes when eggs mature. About one month later, live young are spawned.


Black rockfish do not have a vent on their swim bladder. Rockfish use the swim bladder to adjust buoyancy.  Changes in air pressure can damage or kill the fish. ‘Barotrauma’ symptoms include bulging eyes, tight gill membranes, and the esophagus protruding from the mouth.


Managers are watching this species closely for signs of overfishing. This is currently not a problem.

–Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife ( and
–Pacific Fisheries Management Council (
–Oregon State University Fish and Wildlife program (
–Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game, Species profile, Black rockfish  (  
–California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, Abbreviated Life History of Black Rockfish (