Their abundance has severely declined since the mid-20th century primarily because of direct harvest by commercial and artisanal fisheries. Outside a known population in Bahia Magdalena, there is no published evidence of gulf grouper along the Pacific coast of the Baja California peninsula.
Adult gulf grouper are mainly found around rocky reefs, underwater mountains, and kelp beds. Gulf grouper are also likely protogynous hermaphroditic, which means that they mature as females and later transition into males.
Adult gulf grouper gather in large groups to reproduce once per year. They gather at reefs and underwater mountains and form spawning aggregations from April to June.
Activities that may degrade their habitat include the release of contaminants, such as urban runoff, wastewater, or oil and gas spills. Pollution can also reduce the amount of oxygen in the water or deliver chemicals that are toxic to these fish.
Physical barriers, such as shoreline and offshore development can also threaten gulf grouper by limiting their access to important breeding or feeding areas. Overfishing Direct harvest of gulf grouper, especially at spawning aggregation sites, is the biggest threat to the species.
This means that there are fewer male groupers left in the oceans, which makes reproduction more difficult. Note : Please consult current fishing regulations for species presented in this booklet.
To view information on safe fishing eating guidelines, please visit the Omaha website. Description: The body of the California scorpion fish is stocky and slightly compressed.
The color is red to brown, with dark blotches and spotting over the body and fins. They are caught over hard, rocky bottoms at depths ranging from just below the surface to 600 feet.
Natural History: The diet of the California scorpion fish includes crab, squid, octopus, fishes and shrimp. Spawning takes place from April through August, and probably occurs at night.
The eggs are embedded in the gelatinous walls of hollow, pear shaped egg-balloons. The walls of these “balloons” are about 0.1 inch thick, transparent or greenish, and contain a single layer of eggs.
The “balloons” are released at the bottom of the sea and rise rapidly to the surface. A lot of rebating time can be saved by utilizing a “difficult to steal” bait.
At times, a considerable amount of chumming with ground fish will attract California scorpion fish to the surface. Its dorsal, pelvic and anal fin spines are associated with venom glands and are capable of causing an extremely painful wound.
Penetration of the skin by any of these spines is followed almost immediately by intense and excruciating pain in the area of the wound. Many treatments have been used for California scorpion fish stings, but immersion of the affected part in very hot water seems to be the most effective.
Multiple punctures can be quite serious, producing shock, respiratory distress or abnormal heart action and may require hospitalization of the victim. Other Common Names: spotted scorpion fish, scorpion, rattlesnake, bullhead, Scorsese.
The head has a steep upper profile which is almost straight; the mouth is large and the lower jaw projects slightly. The color is brown to black on the back, paler on the sides, and dirty white below.
Range: Black rock fish occur from Kamchatka Island to Huntington Beach. They are wide-ranging fish that can live on the surface or on the bottom to 1,200 feet near rocky reefs or in open water over deep banks or drop-offs.
Natural History: The diet of the black rock fish includes squid, crab eggs, and fishes. Black rock fish are viviparous, like all members of this family fertilization and development of the embryo take place in the body of the mother.
Conservation methods (seasons, hooks, depth) for rock fish vary by area, so be sure to check the current regulations before going out. Description: The body of the blue rock fish is oval or egg-shaped and compressed with similar dorsal and ventral profiles.
The presence of five spines on the properly (gill cover), easily distinguish this species as a rock fish rather than a perch, a bass or a half moon which is of similar color. It is a schooling species that is often caught in large numbers over rocky bottoms and around kelp beds.
Natural History: Blue rock fish principally eats alps, jellyfish, crustaceans, small fishes and algae. Algae may be accidentally ingested while picking up small shrimp and other tidbits.
As with other rock fishes, fertilization is internal and live young are born which are quite small and helpless. Fishing Information: Blue rock fish can be caught in quantity near rocky shores and around breakwaters, sunken ships, piles of rubble and similar localities along the entire California coastline, especially north of Point Conception.
Mussel, clam, crab, shrimp and squid strips work almost equally well, as do some kinds of wet flies and other artificial lures. Conservation methods (seasons, hooks, depth) for rock fish vary by area, so be sure to check the current regulations before going out.
The head is pointed, the mouth large, and the lower jaw greatly protruding. The color varies from shades of brown to reddish and extends down over the belly.
Young fish are generally light bronze with speckling over the sides and back. As they mature, their color generally becomes darker and the speckling gradually disappears.
Young Boccaccio 1 or 2 years old travel in loose schools and move into shallow water where they may be captured in quantity. With increasing age they seek deeper water and move from near the surface to near the bottom.
Adults are commonly found in waters of 250 to 750 feet over a somewhat irregular, hard or rubble bottom. Natural History: The diet of Boccaccio includes mainly fishes such as surf perch, jack mackerel, sable fish, anchovies, sardines, Pacific mackerel, deep sea lantern fish, other rock fishes and sand dabs.
As with all rock fish, fertilization is internal and development of the embryos takes place within the ovaries of the female until they are ready to hatch. The newly hatched young, about 0.25 inch long, does not completely absorb the yolk from the egg stage for a period of 8 to 12 days.
A typical rock fish rig consists of one or two hooks with enough weight to get to the bottom on a fairly straight course. Bait is usually strips of squid, live anchovies or sardines or lead head scampi, sometimes jigs are used.
Conservation methods (seasons, hooks, depth) for rock fish vary by area, so be sure to check the current regulations before going out. The head is elongated, pointed and with no spines; the lower jaw is projecting.
The middle of the chillipepper's side, the lateral line, stands out clearly, as a lighter, bright red zone. In comparison to the Boccaccio, it has a smaller mouth with an upper jaw that extends only to about the center of the eye, not past it.
Range: This species occurs from Magdalena Bay, Baja California, to Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Chili peppers are not taken as frequently as other rock fishes because they are rarely caught in depths less than 360 feet along the coast of California.
When fishing for chili pepper in deeper waters, the typical rock fish rig and bait is appropriate (see Boccaccio). Conservation methods (seasons, hooks, depth) for rock fish vary by area, so be sure to check the current regulations before going out.
Young fish have four dark vertical bands on their sides which gradually fade into dusky blotches as they increase in size. Their heads are large and spun, the dorsal fins are deeply notched, and there is an unusually wide space between the eye and the upper jaw.
Range: Cow cod occur from Ranger Bank and Guadalupe Island, Baja California, to Newport, Oregon. Natural History: The diet of the cow cod includes mainly fishes, octopus, and squid.
Like all members of the genus Se bastes, the cow cod gives birth to live young. The upper profile of the head is almost straight, and the snout is long and pointed.
Natural History: The diet of olive rock fish consists primarily of fishes; however, crab, shrimp, and squid also are consumed in smaller quantities. Fishing Information: Olive rock fish may be found in almost every kelp bed along the mainland shore south of Monterey Bay, California.
The bait should be cast directly into the floating fronds of kelp and no sinker should be used. If there are any olive rock fish around they will hit the bait right at the surface, usually so hard that they set the hook themselves.
The ensuing battle is excellent in every respect and the larger the fish the better the fight. Olive rock fish will also strike a streamer fly or a properly worked metal lure or small wooden plug.
Conservation methods (seasons, hooks, depth) for rock fish vary by area, so be sure to check the current regulations before going out. The head is rather long and the upper profile is steep and slightly curved.
When the fish is fresh, reddish brown speckling is visible on some scales. Some distinguishing characteristics of the yellow tail rock fish include a convex (surface curves outward) space between the eyes, the absence of spines on top of the head, a projecting lower jaw, an anal fin with eight (rarely seven) soft rays and the lining of the belly is white.
Conservation methods (seasons, hooks, depth) for rock fish vary by area, so be sure to check the current regulations before going out. Description: The body of the canary rock fish is elongated, moderately deep and compressed.
The color is yellow orange with gray mottling on the back and paler, near white, below. There is often a black spot near the back of the first dorsal fin in fish shorter than 14 inches.
Although the canary rock fish resembles the vermilion rock fish superficially, the two are easily separated. The underside of the lower jaw of the canary rock fish has no scales and feels smooth to the touch when rubbed from back to front.
The vermilion rock fish has scales on the underside of its lower jaw so that it feels rough when rubbed forward. The canary rock fish, like all members of the genus Se bastes, produces live young.
Fertilization and embryo development take place within the body of the mother. Other Common Names: red snapper, fantail, canary, orange rock fish.
The upper profile of the head is somewhat curved; the mouth is large, with the lower jaw slightly projecting. The color is bright red on the body and fins; many with black and gray mottling on back and sides.
On fish shorter than 12 inches, the mottling is much more apparent and the fins are often edged with black. The vermilion rock fish has scales on the bottom of the lower jaw which make it rough to the touch.
Range: Vermilion rock fish occur from Prince William Sound, Alaska to San Benito Island, Baja California. Vermilion rock fish appear to mature and spawn for the first time when they are 14 inches long (5-6 years old).
Fishing Information: Vermilion rock fish can be found just off the bottom over almost any rocky or rubble bottom at various depths The same rig, bait, and technique used for Boccaccio works for vermilion rock fish. Conservation methods (seasons, hooks, depth) for rock fish vary by area, so be sure to check the current regulations before going out.
The back two-thirds of the sides are a clear, light pink area; the belly is white. Range: The copper rock fish occurs from San Benito's Islands, Baja California, to the Kenji Peninsula, Alaska.
Natural History: The diet of copper rock fish includes snails, worms, squid, octopus, crabs, shrimps, and fishes. Copper rock fish, like all species in the genus Se bastes, give birth to fully developed embryos.
Fertilization and development of the embryo take place in the body of the mother. Upon being expelled from the female, the fully developed embryo is released from the egg.
Fishing Information: Copper rock fish can be found near the bottom over rocky habitat. Conservation methods (seasons, hooks, depth) for rock fish vary by area, so be sure to check the current regulations before going out.
Some individuals continue to twitch long after members of other species have died. Other Common Names: never die, white belly, chuckle head, white belly.
Specimens smaller than 10 inches are lighter and are tinged with vague streaks of orange. Range: Widow rock fish occur from To-dos Santos Bay, Baja California, to Kodiak Island, Alaska.
Natural History: Adult widow rock fish feed extensively on small free floating crab-like animals. Conservation methods (seasons, hooks, depth) for rock fish vary by area, so be sure to check the current regulations before going out.
The Largest Recorded: A 20-inch widow rock fish will weigh about 4 pounds. The color is yellow pink with distinct green spots over the back and top of the head.
There are three to five white blotches with green borders along the upper back, and the pectoral fins carry 17 rays. Nevertheless, they can be distinguished from the green spotted rock fish by the small patches of scales on the underside of their lower jaws.
These two look-alike species attain a larger size than the green spotted rock fish, but are not encountered as frequently since they usually inhabit deeper water. Range: The green spotted rock fish occurs from Pedro Island, Baja California, to Coals Head, Washington.
Green spotted rock fish are caught around offshore, rocky reefs at depths ranging from 160 to 660 feet. Natural History: As with other rock fishes, fertilization is internal and live young are born.
Conservation methods (seasons, hooks, depth) for rock fish vary by area, so be sure to check the current regulations before going out. Other Common Names: chuckle head, red rock cod, Molina.
Description: The body of the starry rock fish is elongated, robust, heavy forward tapering to the tail. The body is red orange and profusely covered with small white spots.
Natural History: As with other kinds of rock fish, fertilization is internal and live young are born. Fishing Information: Starry rock fish contribute to the recreational anglers offshore reef catch.
Conservation methods (seasons, hooks, depth) for rock fish vary by area, so be sure to check the current regulations before going out.