Creature Feature: Vermilion Rockfish

vermilion rockfish illustration by Amadeo BacharNote: Recreational fishing regulations for this species include depth constraints, seasonal closures, gear restrictions, and beginning January 6, 2022 a new sub-bag limit of four fish. Visit the Frequently Asked Questions flyer for more information about the sub-bag limit. As regulations can change in-season, anglers are encouraged to check the Marine Region website or call the Recreational Groundfish hotline at (831) 649-2801 prior to fishing for current regulations. 

Distinguishing Characteristics

  • Bright red on body and fins, black and gray mottling on young fish
  • Fish less than 12 inches long may have black-edged fins
  • Body moderately deep
  • Upper profile of head moderately curved
  • Large mouth, lower jaw slightly projecting, underside of jaw feels rough when rubbed from tail to head
  • Weak head spines

Life History & Other Notes

Vermilion rockfish feed almost exclusively on fishes, squid, and octopus. They appear to mature and spawn for the first time when they are 3 to 4 years old. Fertilization is internal and they give birth to live young. A female measuring 20 inches long was estimated to contain 282,000 eggs. By this measure, a 30-inch fish may contain as many as half a million eggs. Most spawning takes place from December through March.

The vermilion rockfish is a very popular and highly sought-after fish. The usual fishing rig consists of baited hooks above a sinker heavy enough to take the line to the bottom on a fairly straight course. A lot of baiting time can be saved by using a tough, difficult-to-steal bait such as a piece of squid or salted mackerel.

Scientific Name: Sebastes miniatus

Other Common Names: red snapper, red rock cod

Range & Habitat: Statewide over rocky reefs or other structure

Length & Weight: To 30 in. and 15+ lb.

Life Span: To 60 years

Diet & Suggested Bait: Feeds on fishes, squid, and octopus. Try live squid and anchovies, or salted mackerel for bait, and artificial lures such as leadhead jigs, swimbaits, and diamond bars.