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copper rockfish

The copper rockfish (Sebastes caurinis) was first taken off Sitka, Alaska (the northwestern part of North America) which influenced the origin of its Latin name, caurus, meaning "northwest wind". This species is also called whitebelly, chucklehead, white gopher, fighting bob, never dies, rock cod, and sailfin rockfish, among other names. Coppers have pronounced spines and deep (back-to-belly) bodies. The rear two-thirds of their lateral line contains a constant light-colored strip which noticeable underwater. This light-coloring helps to distinguish the coppers from the similar gopher and quillback rockfishes. The coppers are commonly olive, or dark brown and copper pink in color. Off California they are often bright red, while some coppers in northern areas can be almost entirely black. A wide range of blotchy colors are exhibited in older species. Several bars of brown, yellow, or copper orange extend back from the eyes.

  copper rockfish

The range for coppers extends from the northern Gulf of Alaska to central Baja California and they are commonly found between Port Valdez (Gulf of Alaska) and Punta Banda (northern Baja California). They are a common shallow-water species in Puget Sound and the Strait of Georgia (British Columbia). Coppers live in depths ranging from barely subtidal to 600 ft. (183 m). In California they are most often found to shallower depths of 297 ft. (90 m). Newly spawned coppers begin settling near the surface around large algae canopies or eelgrass, when available, or closer to the bottom, when lacking canopies. They can also be found around some oil platforms in midwater. Young coppers move to deeper water within a few months and are often seen over sand, low rocks, or reef-sand interface where they mix with drift algae. Older coppers usually exist over large rocks and boulder fields, in addition to lower-relief rocky terrain. They are both solitary and found in groups, often with several other species of rockfishes, depending on habitat and geographic area. Coppers are occasionally seen living in the dens of the giant Pacific octopus, Octopus dofleini.

Coppers have been found as large as 26.4 in. (66 cm) and aged up to 50 years. The growth rate and age at maturity between males and females vary depending on geographic location. In the southern part of its range the females' release of larvae occurs earlier in the year (January-April) than in northern parts (March-May, or later). A single batch of larvae are released by coppers, which produce between 16,000 and 640,000 eggs per season. The size of larvae is about 0.2 in. (5.3 mm).

Newly spawned coppers feed mainly on the larvae of copepods and invertebrates. After several months they switch to eating shrimp and certain amphipods, in which the feeding becomes more active during morning and evening hours. As they age, coppers feed on a variety of prey including, crab, squids, octopi, spiny dogfish, juvenile herring, surf perches, sculpins, greenlings, and other rockfishes. Coppers are eaten by cormorants, herons, lingcod, chinook salmon, larger rockfishes, and likely, harbor seals and sea lions.

From Alaska to Southern California, coppers have been important to the commercial fishing industry for the last 100 years, and longer. They are significant to the live-fish market due to their abundance and hardiness. Most coppers are caught commercially using hook and line methods. They are often taken in shallow-water recreational fishing.

Adapted from Love, M. 2002 Sebastes caurinis, p. 144-147. In M. S. Love, M. Yoklavich, and L. Thorsteinson, The rockfishes of the northeast Pacific. Univ. California Press.

copper rockfish