Alaskan Rock Fish Identification

When ocean fishing in Alaska, there are a couple of terms that you will hear that you may not understand. These terms are pelagic and non-pelagic. The non-pelagic may also be called Demersal Shelf Rockfish. These terms are used when discussing Alaska’s many species of rock fish.

What you need to know is that pelagic means in the water column above the bottom while non-pelagic means on the bottom.

Alaska has several species of rock fish. Some are pelagic fish that are found at varying depths while others are non-pelagic bottom dwellers. The regulations call for different bag limits for the two categories of fish. This requires that the angler be informed and able to know and identify which species of fish he or she is catching.

Non-pelagic fish are a matter of concern to biologists as their population numbers are smaller and they take longer to reproduce. They can live to extremely old ages, sometimes longer than the human life span.

When a non-pelagic fish is reeled to the surface, the pressure change can be deadly to the fish. It is common to see these fish with their stomach or swim bladder protruding out of their mouth when they are hauled into the boat. There are special methods that must be followed to release these fish back into the ocean.  Look for another blog post on that topic soon.

While both species are legal to catch and both make great eating, we are encouraged to target the pelagic species. They reproduce at younger ages and their population numbers are higher. If we are careful not to over fish the bottom dwellers, they will be around for a long time to come.

The Alaska Dept of Fish and Game has a chart that will help you to identify which species of fish you are catching. I have included a copy of the pdf file below for your convenience.

Rock Fish ID chart from Alaska Dept of Fish and Game

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