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Puget Sound rockfish

The Puget Sound rockfish (Sebastes emphaeus) grows to 7.2 in. (18.3 cm), making it one of the smallest rockfishes. Its coloration is pink-red, orange-brown, or brown when seen underwater. Beneath the lateral line a dusky to dark brown stripe is usually present along the flanks. Green spotting appears above the line. Out of water the stripe and all coloration fades. DNA studies show that this species may be most closely related to the pygmy and harlequin rockfishes. The Latin name emphaeus means "display."

Abundance information for the Puget Sound rockfish is relatively unknown, though they have been commonly found from southeast Alaska to Oregon. Their known range extends from Prince William Sound in the Gulf of Alaska to northern California. Adults are found in depths between 10 ft. and 1,200 ft. (3-366 m). In Alaska, this rockfish lives in shallower depths during the summer, moving to deeper waters during winter. In Puget Sound, the newly spawned one-inch long juveniles are first seen in January and February often living at the bases of rock walls in nearshore waters. In Puget Sound and Alaska waters, they are often the most common fish living around the inshore rocks. During winters In Puget Sound, individuals may be found inhabiting caves.

PugetSound rockfish  

Puget Sound rockfish are solitary and may also aggregate with others, sometimes in schools of thousands. Schooling occurs primarily during daylight hours in the water column. Their midwater diet consists of lingcod eggs (Puget Sound) and small zooplankton, such as copepods, invertebrate larvae, arrowworms, and gelatinous creatures, among others. Lingcod and rock outcrop dwelling rockfishes feed on Puget Sound rockfish.

About 3,300 and 58,000 eggs are produced each year, depending on the size of the female Pugets. A gestation period of about one month occurs after fertilization. Females often position themselves in crevices to release larvae. Larval release in southeast Alaska occurs from June to August, peaking in July, and occurs later, August to September, in Puget Sound. Females mature as young as one year of age. After maturity, females are usually larger than males at any given age. Males reach maximum length at an earlier age. Pugets can live to 22 years or more.

Puget Sound Rockfish are insignificant to both the commercial and recreational fisheries. They are rarely taken due to their small size.

Adapted from Love, M. 2002 Sebastes emphaeus, p. 168-169. In M. S. Love, M. Yoklavich, and L. Thorsteinson, The rockfishes of the northeast Pacific. Univ. California Press.

Puget Sound rockfish

AFSC Rockfish Guide