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The Colorful, Even Psychedelic China Rockfish of Oregon Coast / Washington Coast

Published 06/09/22 at 6:45 PM PST
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

The Colorful, Even Psychedelic China Rockfish of Oregon Coast / Washington Coast

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(Seaside, Oregon) – They're freaky but they're also tasty, and they're common along the Oregon coast and Washington coast. Most any fisherman on these oceans will easily tout their many attractive qualities. (Photo courtesy Tiffany Boothe, Seaside Aquarium)

Inside any aquarium on the Oregon or Washington coastline, the Chinese rockfish is a colorful wonder. Intensely colored spots give way to a kind of psychedelic effect, as if they were dressed up for a rave, or perhaps part a show in the early careers of Velvet Underground or Frank Zappa. In a word: trippy, man. Yet they're stunningly beautiful.

Seaside Aquarium's Tiffany Boothe also agrees the China rockfish (Sebastes Nebulosus) is possibly the most striking of sea creatures in the area. They have a dark blue or black body, with splotches of yellow and a wide yellow strip along their sides. Yet in her photos they look like they might do something spectacular visually if you hit them with a black light.

Once the China rockfish is caught and out in the air, its colors don't have the same glow or iridescence, but the shades and patterns are still lovely.

According to many chefs it's a popular dish in west coast Chinese restaurants. What does the Chinese Rockfish taste like? It has a delicate, nutty and sweet flavor, with lean meat and a medium-firm texture. It has a fine flake, which is much coveted in the seafood world.

Boothe said they currently have three China rockfish at the facility on the north Oregon coast, all of which have been at the aquarium for over 20 years.

Courtesy Seaside Aquarium

“Like other species of rockfish, they have a relatively long lifespan, often exceeding the age of 70,” she said.

Other marine scientists say the China rockfish can live as long as 83 years or even more. Stunning.

China Rockfish live at fairly shallow depths, according to Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), generally 10 to 400 feet deep and always around rocky reefs.

“They can be quite territorial and are not much for traveling,” Boothe said. “Usually most active at dusk, they do not travel further than 20 or so feet from their established territory. They prefer complex habitats like boulder fields or kelp beds and are sometimes found living in dens or caves occupied by giant Pacific octopus.”

They have a tendency to to hang upside down in crevices and caves off the Oregon coast and Washington coast.

ODFW offered some tricks and tips to catch them: “They readily take both bait and lures. China rockfish will be caught in areas with lots of rocks and crevasses, and by keeping the bait or lure very close to the bottom.”

The name China rockfish comes from the the early Chinese immigrants to California who had quite a craving for the fish.

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Photos below courtesy ODFW

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees nearly 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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