There are more then 30 species of rockfish that inhabit PWS and the Gulf of Alaska.   Of these 30 species, about 15 different species are common to the nearshore shelf area and may sometimes be caught while halibut fishing.    Rockfish are divided into two types, "pelagic" - shallow, open water, and "non-pelagic" - deep water, bottom dwelling (demersal).  Pelagic rockfish include Black, Dusky, and Yellowtails.  Non-pelagic include Yelloweye, Quillback, Copper, China, Tiger, Silvergray, Rougheye and Shortrakers.

Yelloweye, Quillback, and Black rockfish have been aged at 114, 71 and 40 years old.  Most pelagic rockfish from PWS caught by sport gear are 10 to 20 years old, however most non-pelagic rockfish such as yelloweyes and quillbacks are 12 to 60 years old.  Rockfish do not start reproducing until they are at least 10 to 20 years old, and therefore are extremely susceptible to over-harvest.  The rockfish swim bladders are not vented, so when they are brought to the surface their bladder expands, and compresses the internal organs.  Any rockfish caught that has its stomach expanded outside its mouth will probably die.

Almost all the Rockfish that we catch are from the Gulf.  These rockfish are mostly all larger/mature fish.  Most of the spots that contain rockfish will have big schools (lots of numbers of rockfish) of all mixed species of rockfish. It is my theory that out in the Gulf the larger Halibut and Lingcod substantially prey upon the smaller size rockfish.  Inside Prince William Sound the average size of Rockfish is substantially smaller, and the overall population is very small compared to out in the Gulf.  

The problem associated with fishing for rockfish in the Gulf is that when you start catching them, everyone on the boat usually limits out quickly.  Rockfish can not be returned to the water without almost certain mortality.  Also, any rockfish removed from the water must be kept according to Alaska fish and game regulations. When posed the question of what to do in this situation, an Alaska Fish and Game representative told me that he recommended that we should move to a new location. While that may seem a simple enough answer, it has been our experience that when you move to a new location you just get a new flurry of rockfish from the new location. The solution to the problem that we have found to be most successful is that when somebody on the boat catches their limit of rockfish, they get to fish with a bait that will be too large for a rockfish to eat, i.e. large salmon head, rockfish head, etc.  Not only does this prevent the person with the salmon head from catching additional rockfish, its chums in larger halibut and Lingcod, which will in turn scare away remaining rockfish.

Here are some pictures and additional information on some of the rockfish caught on ORION CHARTERS:

Yellow Eyed Rockfish (Sebastes rubberimus)
Red Snappers as they are commonly called are non-pelagic rockfish.  These fish are brilliant orange in color and average 5 to 10 pounds.  The Alaska State Record Yelloweye is 37#/36" (caught in Prince William Sound).  These are the most common type of rockfish that we catch, making up perhaps 95%.  A friend of mine caught several that were aged at 145 and 147 years old.  The very old ones fade in color from bright orange to a pale yellow.  Red snappers are excellent quality eating (my favorite).

Nice Yelloweye from 2016 season

26.0#/34" Red Snapper 2003                                              23.0#/33" Red Snapper 2003                                                  24#/33" Red Snapper 2003


072902rs3.jpg (52399 bytes)    070201RS2.JPG (59590 bytes)   
       24.0#/33" Red Snapper 7/29/2002                                       23.4# Red Snapper 7/2/2001 caught by Sam Cornell of Valdez, AK            

070702rs.JPG (56150 bytes)   070200RS2wp.JPG (36446 bytes) 
     7/7/2002 - 20# Red Snapper                              21.0# Red Snapper 7/2/00 caught by Tim Washeleski   
 June2001RS2.JPG (46278 bytes)     061501RS2.JPG (35019 bytes)
            21.0#, 20.2# Red Snapper- June 2001                                             22.5# Red Snapper 6/15/2001                      

Black Sea Bass (Sebastes melanops)060500BBwp.JPG (36600 bytes)

Black Bass are a Pelagic rockfish and are the next most common type of rockfish that we catch.  These medium size rockfish are normally caught suspended in the water.   They average around 5 pounds and can grow up to 24".  This one pictured is above average size for a Black Bass.  The National Audubon Society Field Guide to Fishes, Whales and Dolphins says that Black rockfish only get up to 10.5#, however we caught one that was 16.5#.



Black Sea Bass caught 6/5/2000.





China Rockfish (Sebastes nebulous)062800CRwp.JPG (27830 bytes) 

China Rockfish are a small yellow and black non-pelagic rockfish normally around a foot in length.  These fish can grow up to 17 inches in length. Their spines are mildly poisonous.   




  06/28/2000 China Rockfish






Tiger Rockfish(Sebastes nigrocinctus)
Are smaller non-pelagic rockfish that can grow to 24".  They are fairly rare.  We only catch a few of these per year.  These fish have dark red stripes on pink/orange.   They average 3 to 5 pounds.

 081100TRwp.JPG (32065 bytes)     091002tf2.jpg (56429 bytes) 
Pink phase Tiger Rockfish  8/11/2000                              Orange phase Tiger Rockfish 9/10/2002

Orange Phase Tiger Rockfish

KELP GREENLING (Hexabrammous decagrammus)
                060499KG2.JPG (77130 bytes)                     June2001KelpGreenling3.JPG (45954 bytes)
                    Male  Kelp Greenling                                                    Female Kelp greenling     

   Kelp Greenling are actually in the Greenling family and not a true rockfish.  They can get up to 21" in length, the ones pictured here were around 18" long and all were released.

Whitespotted greenling  (Hexagrammos stelleri)


NORTHERN ROCKFISH (Sebastes polyspinis)

073102nr2 (40295 bytes)

This is a rare catch (for us).  It looks kind of like a Dusky Rockfish, however it has a pink/orange belly.





      7/31/2002 Northern Rockfish



           071702rf2.jpg (42588 bytes)

                          7/17/2002 Northern Rockfish  



COPPER ROCKFISH    (Sebastes caurinus)   060201Copper2.JPG (39127 bytes)         

Copper Rockfish are a small non-pelagic rockfish that can grow to 22".


  6/2/2001 Copper Rockfish     








SILVERGREY ROCKFISH  (Sebastodes brevispinis)r061601SG2.JPG (53353 bytes) 

Silvergrey rockfish are a medium size non-pelagic rockfish that can grow to 28"

6/16/2001 Silvergrey Rockfish








Light Dusky Rockfish (Sebastos ciliantus)

 June2001Lightdusky2.JPG (43323 bytes)         
                                   June 2001 Light Dusky Rockfish                                          

Quillback Rockfish (Sebastes maliger) 082802qb2.JPG (66707 bytes)

Quillback rockfish are non-pelagic rockfish that can grow up to 24".. 













Canary Cod (Sebastes pinniger)
rockfish a.JPG (41744 bytes)

Bocaccio (Sebastes paucispinis)


Dave & Frieda Wiley
P.O. Box 3577
Valdez, AK 99686

EMAIL:      dave@orioncharters.com or

PHONE:              (907) 835-8610                         

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This page was last updated on 09/24/17.