PRIMARY FISHING METHOD:
Trawl, longline, jig
• Quality can be highly variable based on species and harvest method.
• Some species have soft flesh and bruise more easily than others.
• 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).
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.
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.
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Sebastes spp.
Snapper, Pacific snapper, rockfish, rock cod, black bass (assorted species names: bocaccio, chilipepper, Pacific ocean perch, etc.)
Whole to dressed/head-on: 85-90%; whole to skin-on fillet: 38-45%; whole to skinless fillet: 25-33%.
PRODUCT FORMS: FRESH:
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.
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.