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brown rockfish

The brown rockfish (Sebastes auriculatus), whose other names include chocolate bass, brown bass, and brown bomber, is characterized by a body colored by various shades of brown. This relatively heavy-bodied species is overlaid with dark-brown, red-brown, or blackish mottling, although a red species was reported off southern Baja California. The rear area of the gill cover has a prominent dark patch which probably inspired its Latin name auriculatus, meaning "eared". This blotch may become faint in larger species. Stripes of red-brown, brown, or orange radiate back from the upper jaw and eyes. The number of head spines can vary. Brown rockfish in Puget Sound and off central California commonly have coronal spines, while in southern California waters, these spine are generally absent. The brown rockfish often resemble the copper rockfish, who lack the dark patch on their gill cover and have lighter areas along their lateral line. The brown rockfish are also confused with the vermillion rockfish in deep water, grass rockfish in shallow water, and the naturally-occurring quillback-brown-copper rockfish hybrids in Puget Sound. Along the Pacific Coast, more than one population of browns may exist. The brown rockfish can grow up to 22.4 in. (56 cm), with the females being potentially larger than the males. Both sexes have similar growth rates and life spans, living to at least 34 years of age.

  brown rockfish

The range for brown rockfish can extend from Bahia San Hipolito in southern Baja California to Prince William Sound in the northern Gulf of Alaska. They are most often found in central and southern Puget Sound and from southern Baja California to Bodega Bay in northern California. Juveniles and subadults are thought to have relatively small home ranges. They commonly live at shallow inshore depths of 396 ft. (120 m), and can be found as deep as 444 ft. (135 m). The adults and subadults are commonly found near the sea bottom over both high and low terrain, and sometimes among eelgrass or other vegetation. Pelagic juveniles are at shallower depths of about 120 ft. (36 m). They live alone or in small groups and are found in waters more turbid than many other rockfishes. In shallower waters off southern California, browns are abundant around some oil platforms. The brown rockfish feed on small fishes, crab, shrimp, and other small invertebrates. The juveniles are prey to harbor seals and king salmon.

Between 55,000 and 339,000 eggs are produced by the female browns per season. In some regions the female can release multiple batches of larvae per season. In Puget Sound the release season is between April and June. The season off central and northern California is December to June, while off southern California, the season peaks in January and continues to August. All browns mature by 10 years of age. Those off southern California mature at a slightly smaller size than those off central and northern California.

Over time the importance of the brown rockfish to the fresh fish commercial fishery has diminished.  The species has maintained its importance to the live-fish fishery, however. Fishing for browns had been popular due to their occurrence in bays and shallow waters. The brown rockfish is particularly important to the recreational fishery in Puget Sound and from northern California to northern Baja California.

Adapted from Love, M. 2002 Sebastes auriculatus, p. 129-131. In M. S. Love, M. Yoklavich, and L. Thorsteinson, The rockfishes of the northeast Pacific. Univ. California Press.

brown rockfish

AFSC Rockfish Guide