Sanctuary Integrated Monitoring Network
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Species Database

Sebastes caurinus - Copper rockfish

Copper rockfish image

Geographic range:

Western Gulf of Alaska to northern Baja California, Mexico

Key features:

Bright lateral line on a fish that is usually golden, orange, pale red or rusty brown.

Similar species:

Sebastes carnatus -- Gopher rockfish
Sebastes maliger -- Quillback rockfish


bay (rocky shore), Continental shelf, exposed rocky shore, kelp forest, protected rocky shore, seamount

Primary common name:

Copper rockfish

General grouping:

Bony fishes

ITIS code:


Geographic Range

Range Description:

Northern limit near Kodiak Island, Alaska and south to Bahia San Quintin, Mexico.

Intertidal Height

Lowest intertidal height:

meters OR feet

Highest intertidal height:

meters OR feet

Intertidal height notes:

Tidepools as new recruits only.

Subtidal Depth Range

Minimum depth:

0 meters OR 0 feet

Maximum depth:

408 meters OR 1338 feet


bay (rocky shore), Continental shelf, exposed rocky shore, kelp forest, protected rocky shore, seamount

Habitat notes:

Associate with rocky reef and in kelp forests.


Relative abundance:

Uncommon in central California at diving depths, but can be common at particular locations.

Species Description

General description:

The copper rockfish is most easily differentiated from the gopher rockfish by a bright, white line along the lateral line from the middle of the spiny (front) dorsal fin back to the tail fin. The body is pale, white or cream, with red/orange/brown covering much of the area above the lateral line, but incompletely. A single stripe runs diagonally downward from the eye to the gill cover. A second stripe parallels the upper, but is thinner and below the eye.

Distinctive features:

The copper rockfish has a clearly defined lateral line, which almost appears as though color was erased from that area and the pale background color left exposed. The gopher rockfish is similar but the lateral line is blotched and not nearly as clearly delineated


To 66 cm total length

Natural History

General natural history:

Young of the year (YOY) recruit to kelp canopies at a few cm long, then descend at 4-5 cm total length. Recruits arrive in spring and usually before many other species that also use the kelp canopy as a nursery. As YOY they are hard to differentiate from the YOY of kelp, gopher, and black and yellow rockfishes, and are part of the KGB-C complex. By 5 or 6 cm TL a bright dot is apparent under the center of the dorsal along the lateral line, and this will be the start of a clear lateral line that will eventually extend back to the caudal.

Coppers can live for 50 years and weigh up to 4.5 kg. Particularly large, and therefore old, coppers are seen in old marine protected areas, such as at Point Lobos in MBNMS. Genetic data indicate coppers are closely related to kelp, China and quillback rockfishes, and the latter can occasion mate with coppers.


As juveniles there are numerous fish that eat them, but as they age and increase in size, the more likely predators include sea lions and humans. Auklets and salmon can eat smaller individuals.


Smaller fish, including YOY that could be their own offspring!

Feeding behavior


Feeding behavior notes:

Associated with rock areas, and can cruise a small area or lurk in a crack or crevice waiting to ambush small fishes swimming past.

January - April


Females release their young at this time, but they are not usually seen in nearshore waters until March. Reproduction is delayed as you move the range, and larvae may not be released in Alaska until July.
Click on an image below to view a larger version in the SIMoN Photo Library. You will also be able to view important information on each photo such as photographer, date, caption and more.
Butler, J.L., M.S. Love, and T.E. Laidig. 2012. A guide to the rockfishes, thorny heads, and scorpionfishes of the northeast Pacific. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA. 185 p.
Love, M. 1996. Probably more than you want to know about the fishes of the Pacific Coast. Really Big Press, Santa Barbara, CA. 381 p.