Skip Navigation

Species Search:
FieldGuidesthreatened and/or endangered search resultsthreatened and/or endangered

previous  | next

Quillback Rockfish Sebastes maliger


enlarge +

Quillback Rockfish
credit: EDSClikes2hunt

All Images


Get Our Newsletters


Advanced Search

Family: Scorpaenidae, Scorpionfishes view all from this family

Description The quillback rockfish (Sebastes maliger) is one of 130 species of rockfish and primarily dwells in salt water reefs. The average adult weighs 2-7 pounds (0.9 – 3 kg) and may reach 1 m (3 feet) in length. Quillback rockfish are named for the sharp, venomous quills or spines on the dorsal fin. Their mottled orange-brown coloring allows them to blend in with rocky bottom reefs. Quillback rockfish eat mainly crustaceans, but they will also eat herring. They are solitary and minimally migratory, but not territorial, and give birth to live young (viviparous). They are a popular sport fish, generally caught in cold water 41–60 m deep, but also to subtidal depths of 275 m.

Quillback rockfish live along the Pacific coast from the Gulf of Alaska to the northern Channel Islands of Southern California. Like other rockfish species, quillbacks live on the bottom, perching on rocks or hiding in rock crevices. The juveniles stay mainly along the shore, in reefs, sand and eelgrass, while the adult rockfish live in the deeper waters. They are for the most part solitary dwellers, rarely being found in groups. They are rarely found in the open ocean, generally preferring to stay close to kelp, rocks, coral, or lodged in crevices or holes. Despite this, they are not territorial. High densities tend to coincide with peak plant growth. They occupy a variety of habitats in many different areas on the west coast of North America.

Depending on the location, quillback rockfish are minimally to moderately migratory. On the high-relief rocky reefs of Puget Sound, Washington, they maintain small ranges of 30 square meters, while on low-relief reefs they may stay within a larger, 400 - 1500 square meter, area. They sometimes move seasonally to low-relief reefs when kelp is present (summer).

Dimensions Up to 24" (61 cm).

Warning This fish has mildly venomous fin spines.

Habitat Ocean or bay shallows, Open ocean.

Range California, Northwest, Western Canada, Alaska.