Reminder about rockfish identification and retention

With the recreational bottomfishing season underway on the Washington Coast, anglers are reminded that retention of copper, quillback, and vermilion rockfish is prohibited May 1 — July 31, 2024.

This restriction is intended to reduce catch to stay within federal harvest limits. Recent surveys of these three rockfish species indicate populations are likely healthy but smaller than previously understood.

Retention of yelloweye rockfish is prohibited year-round in all Washington marine areas.

Rockfish species that may be closed to retention depending on the area and time of year. Signs with similar information to this blog post are also being posted at boat launches near coastal marine areas.

Rockfish are often incorrectly called “sea bass”, but are in fact a family of fish from the genus Sebastes separate from sea bass and perch. The dozens of species of Pacific rockfish — including more than 28 species in the Salish Sea — are distinct from white seabass (a member of the croaker family more common in California waters) and Atlantic sea bass.

Rockfish are a type of bottomfish or groundfish, which includes cod, flounder, sole, and other flatfish (excluding Pacific halibut), and some shark and perch species.

West Coast groundfish are managed by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) on a biennial management cycle, and many populations on the West Coast have rebounded from lows experienced in the 1990s.

Washington recreational rockfish fishing regulations

Always check for emergency fishing rule changes online or by using the Fish Washington mobile app before going fishing.

Washington marine areas 1 through 4 west of the Bonilla-Tatoosh Line have a daily limit of 7 rockfish and a daily aggregate (combined) limit of 9 bottomfish not including flatfish, surfperch, and shiner perch.

Marine Area 4 (Neah Bay) east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh Line remains closed to the retention of all rockfish species other than black, blue/deacon, yellowtail, and widow rockfish, and has a daily limit of 7 rockfish and a daily aggregate limit of 9 bottomfish not including surfperch.

Marine Area 5 (Sekiu and Pillar Point) has a limited fishing season for black or blue/deacon rockfish May 1-Sept. 30, with spearfishing allowed May 1-June 15; see regulations for area and catch limits.

All other Washington marine areas including Puget Sound are CLOSED to fishing for or retention of rockfish. For detailed regulations including depth restrictions and bottomfish closure areas, visit:

A printable rockfish identification guide is also available online at:

Spearfisher with a large black rockfish, an abundant and popular species for recreational fishers in Washington Marine Areas 1–5 known for making tasty fish tacos or fish and chips. Photo by Preston Hoffman.

Retention rules when fishing more than one marine area

Be advised that it is not legal for anglers to fish in a Washington marine area if there are fresh fish onboard the vessel not legal to retain in that area — even if they were caught in a different marine area.

This rule applies to certain rockfish species legal to retain in the ocean waters of Marine Area 4 west of the Bonilla-Tatoosh Line but not legal to retain inside the Strait of Juan de Fuca in Marine Area 4 (Neah Bay) east of that line or in Marine Area 5 (Sekiu and Pillar Point).

Anglers may not continue to fish inside the Bonilla-Tatoosh Line — or in other marine areas closed to rockfish fishing and retention — if there are fresh rockfish or other fish onboard not legal to retain in that area.

Transiting through a marine area with fish caught legally in a different marine area without stopping to continue fishing is allowed.

Learn more about 2024 coastal rockfish and bottomfish seasons in our news release:

Most other Washington marine areas (excluding Marine Area 12 Hood Canal) are open year-round for fishing for numerous bottomfish species including flounder, sole, perch, and dogfish sharks. Check the fishing regulations or the Fish Washington mobile app for details.

Yelloweye rockfish, an endangered species not legal to retain in Washington waters.



The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is dedicated to preserving, protecting and perpetuating the state’s fish and wildlife resources.