Rockfish on ice in the market? It probably won’t be a Puget Sound rockfish. Local and much larger bottom-dwellers such as Bacaccio, Yelloweye and Canary rockfish are now listed as endangered or threatened under the Federally Endangered Species Act, and they didn’t get on that list by not being caught. Rockfish are ancient residents of the Salish Sea, waxing and waning as the Ice Age brought wave after wave of ice sheets to the valleys where they now live. Each time the ice melted, back came the rockfish. There are over a dozen rockfish species here now, anther indication of a long-lived presence that has allowed for species diversification.
Unusual for boney fish, females give birth internally and release swimming young in great masses. A Puget Sound rockfish can produce upwards of 60,000 eggs a year – and that’s a lot of babies to live in an 8-inch fish. Most rockfish are solitary, but this species can school by the thousands, possibly all related. They drift with the currents until grown enough to find home territories around rock piles in depths between 10 and 1,200 feet. In some places, this these fish live in shallower water during the summer, moving deeper in winter. They’re a most interesting part of this place we call home.
Larry Eifert paints and writes about wild places. His work is in many national parks across America – and at larryeifert.com.