Creature Feature: Blue Rockfish

creaturefeature_blueRFBlue rockfish are found statewide off the California coast, especially north of Point Conception. They are most commonly caught from the surface to around 100 ft. depths, although they have been caught as deep as 300 ft. Large schools of blue rockfish may be found over rocky bottoms and around kelp beds.

Distinguishing Characteristics

  • Dark blue or olive brown to grayish black on the back, becoming lighter below; blotched with lighter shades on back and sides.
  • No spots on dorsal fin
  • Anal fin slanted
  • Mouth extends only to mid-eye (these characteristics help to differentiate it from black rockfish).
  • Five spines on gill cover
  • See the black rockfish vs. blue rockfish identification flyer

Life History & Other Notes
Blue rockfish principally eat small fishes, shrimps and other crustaceans, and small pieces of algae or seaweed (the algae may be accidentally ingested while capturing other prey).

As with other rockfishes, fertilization is internal and live young are born. A 16-inch female may produce over half a million young. The main spawning season for blue rockfish runs roughly from November through March.

Blue rockfish may be caught in large quantities near rocky shores and around breakwaters, sunken ships, piles of rubble, and similar locations along the California coast, especially north of Point Conception. They are caught just beneath the surface in and around kelp beds; where kelp is absent they live mostly near the bottom. Blue rockfish put up an excellent battle when hooked.

 Blue Rockfish Quick Facts:

Scientific Name: Sebastes mystinus

Other Common Names: blue bass, blue snapper

Range & Habitat: Statewide, but especially north of Point Conception around rocky habitat & kelp beds

Length & Weight: To 21 in. and 3+ lb.

Life Span: To 44 years

Diet & Suggested Bait/Lures: Feeds on fishes & crustaceans. Try fishing with cut fish, mussels, clams, crab, shrimp, squid, wet flies, or artificial lures.

Excerpt from the California Finfish and Shellfish Identification Book.

Single copies of the book are available to California residents free of charge by emailing a request to