Vermilion Rockfish

Sebastes miniatus


The Science


It is typically bright red in color, but smaller fish have more dark mottling.

Vermillion rockfish swimming above substrate.
Vermillion rockfish swimming above substrate. Steve Lonhart/NOAA MBNMS

Taxonomic description

  • Although known for its striking vermilion shade, this rockfish is also known to have some gray or white mottling along the side. [1]
  • On smaller fish, the mottling is more apparent, as seen in the image above. [1]
  • Has a large mouth, with a lower jaw that protrudes beyond the smaller upper jaw. [1]
  • Unlike similar species of rockfish, the Vermilion rockfish has scales garnering its lower jaw. [1]
  • Usually grows to be between 35.56 and 55.88 cm (14 and 22 in), but the largest ever recorded was 76.2 cm (30 in). [1]


  • Found all along the Northern Hemisphere’s Pacific Coast, from Prince William Sound, Alaska to San Benito Island, Baja California. [1]
  • More common along the northern part of the coast than southern. [2]
  • Typically found at depths of around 100 to 500 feet (30 to 150 meters). [1]

Life history

  • Has an average 22 years max lifespan; matures at 5-6 years and 14 inches (42 cm). [1,2]
  • Larger fish contain more eggs: a 54.6 cm (21.5 inch) fish is expected to have ~1,600,000 eggs. [1]
  • The mating period is from December-March, and has internal fertilization with live young. [1]


  • Lives amongst rocks at the bottom of reefs, and in other large rocky patches. [1,2]
  • Younger rockfish are found in shallower waters. [2]
  • Eats zooplankton, cephalopoda (squid and relatives), white croaker, krill.  [9]

The Fishery


Catch is largely recreational; but there is a modest commercial fishery under the State Shelf Fishery Program.

People on dock next to fishing boat with traps.
People on dock next to fishing boat with traps. Theresa Talley, CA Sea Grant

Seasonal availability

  • The commercial fishery is available year-round, but is subject to inseason closures by management authority. [10]

Regulatory and managing authority

  • Fishery is managed federally by the NOAA fisheries and, as established by the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) through the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan (FMP). [17]
  • As established by the Marine Life Management Act, the California Fish and Game Commission (CFGC) regulates the fishery in state waters, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) manages this fishery. [18]

Gear type

  • Caught in longline gear, as incidental catch in otter trawls, traps, and hook and line with other shelf fish. [8]

Status of the fishery

  • Aside from overarching Rockfish Conservation Areas and general rockfish regulations, there are few regulations specific to Vermilion Rockfish. [3]
  • In southern California, it is typically caught as incidental take in Bocaccio rockfish fishery [9], and is classified by NOAA as a “minor shelf rockfish” fishery category. [10]
  • Currently there is a lack of concern for stocks, which are considered “healthy”. [4,5]
  • This fish is found in high abundance; in 2005, it was listed as the seventh most recreationally landed species in California. [11]

Potential ecosystem impacts

  • Incidentally taken, so the ecosystem impact from this fishery is not as prominent.
  • The use of demersal (seafloor) longline gear has some localized impact from placing and removing the gear. [12]


The Seafood


This fish is tough to cut into, but easy to roast whole!
Whitefish filet topped with lemon and cherry tomatoes.
Whitefish filet topped with lemon and cherry tomatoes. Ulvi safari/unsplash
Vermilion rockfish nutrition info

Edible portions

  • The whole fish-except for the bones-can be eaten after being cleaned. 

Description of meat

  • It has lean meat with a nutty flavor, and a medium or firm texture. [7]

Culinary uses

  • Can be obtained whole and fresh. [7]
  • This fish tastes great roasted or deep-fried whole, often with vegetables. [6,7]
  • Try it roasted, baked, batter fried, or steamed. [14]
  • For a baked rockfish recipe, visit Cooking on the Weekends. [19]
  • For a fish stock recipe, visit The Spruce Eats. [20]

Nutritional information 

  • While typically cooked whole, the serving size is per fillet. [15]
  • Information specific to Vermilion Rockfish could not be found; listed is the information for rockfish as a general category. [15]
  • Rockfish is a good source of Vitamin D; as it contains 6.9 micrograms per serving, or 46% of the daily value for a 2000 calorie diet. [16]

Toxicity report

  • Listed as a medium mercury species of rockfish; between 2 and 4 servings per week considered safe. [13]

Seasonal availability

  • Year-round. [10]


[1] California Department of Fish and Wildlife. 2013. California Marine Sportfish Identification: Rockfish. Web. Accessed 13 April 2017.

[2] Froese, R. ed. Luna, S.M. n.d. Fishbase. Sebastes miniatus, Vermilion rockfish. Web. Accessed 15 Sept 2020. 

[3] NOAA fisheries. 2020. West Coast Groundfish Closed Areas. Web. Accessed 15 Sept 2020. 

[4] California Department of Fish and Wildlife. 2017. Summary of Recreational Groundfish Fishing Regulations for 2017. Web. Accessed: 29 April 2017.

[5] NOAA Fisheries. 2017. Yelloweye and other Rockfish Species of Concern. Web. Accessed: 29 April 2017.

[6] True, M. 2016. Roasted Rockfish with Artichokes, Citrus, and Lemon-Caper Browned Butter. Web. Accessed: 29 April 2017.

[7] The Cookingfishmonger. 2016. Rockfish Facts. Web. Accessed: 29 April 2017.

[8] California Department of Fish and Wildlife. n.d. Commercial Fishing--Selected Fishery Regulation Information. Web. Accessed 15 Sept 2020. 

[9] Encyclopedia of Life. n. d. Sebastes miniatus: Rock cod. Web. Accessed 15 Sept 2020.

[10] California Department of Fish and Wildlife. n.d. Final California Commercial Landings. Web. Accessed 15 Sept 2020. 

[11] California Department of Fish and Game. 2005. Review of some California fisheries for 2004: Coastal pelagic finfish, market squid, sea urchin, lobster, spot and ridgeback prawn, groundfish, highly migratory species, ocean salmon, nearshore live-fish, pacific herring, and recreational. CalCOFI Rep., 46:10–31. Web. Accesed 15 Sept 2020. 

[12] Seafood Watch. n.d. Fishing and Farming Methods. Web. Accessed 15 Sept 2020. 

[13] California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment. n. d. A Guide to Eating Fish from the California Coast. Web. Accessed: 15 May 2017.

[14] Shaw, H. 2017. What is Pacific Rockfish? Web. Accessed: 15 May 2017.

[15] SELFNutritionData. 2014. Fish, rockfish, Pacific, mixed species, raw Nutrition Facts & Calories. Web. Accessed: 15 May 2017.

[16] Stein, N. n. d. Nutritional Information Data on Rockfish. Web. Accessed: 15 May 2017.

[17] Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan. 2019. Pacific Fishery Management Council. Web.…. Accessed 21 August 2020.

[18] Marine Life Management Act. n.d. California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Web. Accessed 24 August 2020.  

[19] Wein, V. Cooking on the Weekends. 2020. Rockfish Recipe (Baked with Lemon). Web. Accessed 3 February 2021. 

[20] Alfaro, D. The Spruce Eats. 2020. Homemade Fish Stock. Web. Accessed 3 February 2021.  

[21] King, C. SIMoN. 2006. Digital image. Web. Accessed 25 February 2021. 

[22] Lonhart, S. SIMoN. 2012. Digital image. Web. Accessed 25 February 2021. 

[23] Ulvi Safari. unsplash. 2020. Digital image. Web. Accessed 25 February 2021.