The brown rockfish has a body colored in various shades of brown. In this species, the background color is overlaid with dark-brown, red-brown, or blackish mottling. The rear area of the gill cover has a prominent dark patch which probably inspired its Latin name auriculatus, meaning "eared". This blotch may become faint in larger specimens. Stripes of red-brown, brown, or orange radiate back from the upper jaw and eyes. Brown rockfish in Puget Sound and off central California commonly have coronal spines, while in southern California waters, these spine are generally absent. The brown rockfish often resembles the copper rockfish, but the latter lack the dark patch on their gill cover and have lighter areas along their lateral line. The brown rockfish may also be confused with the vermillion rockfish in deep water, and the grass rockfish in shallow water. Along the Pacific coast of the United States, more than one population of these fish may exist. The brown rockfish can grow to about 56 cm (22.0 in) in length, with the females being potentially larger than the males. Both sexes have similar growth rates and life spans, and are known to live to at least 34 years of age.
Distribution and habitat
The brown rockfish is native to the northwestern Pacific. Its range extends from Bahia San Hipolito in southern Baja California to Prince William Sound in the northern Gulf of Alaska. These fish are most abundant in the central and southern parts of Puget Sound and from southern Baja California to Bodega Bay in northern California.
Juveniles and subadults are thought to have relatively small home ranges. They commonly live at shallow inshore depths of 396 ft. (120 m), and can occasionally be found as deep as 444 ft. (135 m). The adults and subadults are commonly found near the sea bottom over both high and low terrain, and sometimes among eelgrass or other vegetation. Pelagic juveniles are at shallower depths of about 120 ft. (36 m). They live alone or in small groups and are found in waters more turbid than many other rockfishes. In shallower waters off southern California, brown rockfish are abundant around some oil platforms. The juveniles are prey to harbor seals and king salmon. The brown rockfish feeds primarily at night on small fishes, crab, shrimp, and other small invertebrates. During the day this fish tends to lie on the seabed among seaweed or next to rocks or in other hidden locations. Its spines are venomous and can cause painful injuries to the unwary.
- "WoRMS taxon details - Sebastes auriculatus (Girard, 1854)". World Register of Marine Species. Retrieved 23 November 2013.
- "Sebastes auriculatus (Girard, 1854) - Brown rockfish". FishBase. Retrieved 23 November 2013.
- "Brown rockfish". Oceanário de Lisboa. Retrieved 2013-12-19.