Pacific Rockfish

Sebastes spp.

Market Name(s): Snapper, Pacific snapper, rockfish, rock cod, black bass (assorted species names: bocaccio, chilipepper, Pacific ocean perch, etc.)

Contact Purchasing
Pacific Rockfish
  • Primary Source: California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, Alaska
  • Season: Year-round, subject to weather
  • Primary Fishing Method: Trawl, longline, jig

Size Range:

Avg. Size: 1-40 lbs.

Product forms:

LIVE, FRESH: Whole; skin-on and skinless, pinbone-in fillets

FROZEN: Whole; skin-on and skinless, pinbone-in fillets, IQF and shatterpack.

Storage & Handling

The shelf life of rockfish depends on the species, product form and harvest method. On average, fresh fillets have a shelf life of 5 to 7 days at 32°F with ice, with red rock fillets typically keeping better than brown rock fillets (due to lower oil content). Frozen fillets have a shelf life of 9 months at -5 to -15°F.

Cooking Suggestions

Rockfish has a sweet, mild flavor, with a flaky, medium-firm texture. It is best baked, sautéed, broiled or poached. Since the flesh tends to flake easily, it is not the best fish for grilling. Try it with a little lemon to bring out the sweet flavor without overpowering. Rockfish is also an excellent fish for use in ceviches.

Selling Points

  • Rockfish are affordable, available year-round and lend themselves to a wide variety of preparations.
  • The species’ medium texture means it fits nicely between firm fish (like sword) and delicate fish (like sole).
  • Certain species can be marketed by name for added menu appeal (e.g., bocaccio, chilipepper, vermilion rockfish).


  • Quality can be highly variable based on species and harvest method.
  • Some species have soft flesh and bruise more easily than others.
  • Yellowing or browning flesh (indicates older fish).

The Pacific Advantage

  • Pacific Seafood Group buys direct from the boats
  • Process all fish in our own processing plants under HACCP and Pacific Seafood QA standards
  • Pacific Seafood has industry leading traceability systems tracking fish from harvest to the plate
  • Pacific Seafood - a founding member of the NFI Better Seafood Board, policing ethical industry practices
  • Sustainability - The Canadian Rockfish and Alaska Pacific Ocean Perch fisheries are managed under a sustainable quota system
  • Pacific Seafood is a contributing member to the Groundfish Conservation Society
  • Owners and operators of fishing vessels, license and quota guaranteeing continuity of supply
  • Fisheries include "Dockside Monitoring" and "At Sea Observer Programs"


Consisting of dozens of related species and sold under several market names, the Pacific rockfish family is the most important year-round source of groundfish on the West Coast. Marketed widely as Pacific snapper, these fish have fillets that are mild and slightly sweet-tasting. Versatile and affordable, rockfish are a seafood staple for supermarkets and restaurants from Seattle to San Diego.

There are almost 70 species of rockfish found in the Eastern Pacific, ranging from the Bering Sea to Baja California, although only a dozen or so are caught in significant commercial quantities. Relatively slow-growing, rockfish range from 1 to more than 40 pounds, depending on the species.

Many rockfish take their names from their skin color (e.g., blue, green, brown, red); generally, the brighter the coloration, the deeper-dwelling the fish. Most rockfish fillets are marketed as either red or brown. Red rock fillets, which tend to have lower oil content and, therefore, a longer shelf life, typically command a premium.

The most important red-fleshed rockfish species are yelloweye, S. ruberrimus, canary, S. pinniger, and red, S. babcocki. Significant brown rock species include widow (or brown), S. entomelas; thornyhead, Sebastolobus alascanus; yellowtail (or greenie), S. flavidus; black, S. melanops, and quillback, S. maliger.

Along the U.S. West Coast, where annual catches have declined to less than 20,000 tons, more than 90% of rockfish are landed by trawlers, with the heaviest catches coming during the summer.

In British Columbia, where annual harvests have stabilized at approximately 23,000 tons, rockfish are caught by trawlers year-round under an individualized quota system.

According to the FDA, rockfish can be marketed as snapper or Pacific snapper, but only in the state in which they were harvested (i.e., not in interstate trade).

On average, fresh rockfish fillets have a shelf life of 5 to 7 days after processing. Species with above-average shelf life include bocaccio, chilipepper and bank rockfish.

Fillets from larger rockfish (e.g., canary, vermilion, yelloweye) tend to have a bigger flake and more tender texture.