About Alaska's Rockfish

Alaska rockfish are some of the coolest fish found anywhere and their story is pretty amazing too. The world is aware of around 100 different species of rockfish, 40 can be found in Alaska’s waters, and 30 of which can be found right in the the gulf of Alaska, Kachemak Bay, and Cook Inlet’s waters. However, of those 30 we regularly only catch about 10 species.

Alaska rockfish are incredibly long lived and don’t even reach sexual maturity until they are in their twenties. Yelloweye rockfish have been reported to be 150 years old. Alaska takes a conservative approach to rockfish management to protect this phenomenal sport fishery. 

Rockfish have swim bladders to regulate buoyancy in the water. When these fish are pulled up from the bottom at depths greater than 90 feet, they cannot regulate their swim bladder and they suffer barotrauma. Barotrauma is the rapid expansion of stomach gasses. This often causes the stomach to protrude from mouth, can tear the swim bladder and stomach, and causes the eyes to bulge. Studies have shown that if these fish can be returned to the pressurized depths quickly the survival rate can be as high as 96%. All Alaska boats, charter or recreational, are required to carry deep release mechanisms to help these fish survive being released. 

Two Categories Of Rockfish

Pelagic & Nonpelagic

Pelagic (pronounced pe-la-jic) or pelagic zone refers to the entire water column that would exist between the surface of the water and the bottom. It can be divided into a number of different zones based on overall depth. 

The pelagic zone refers to the open, free waters away from the shore, where marine life can swim freely in any direction unhindered by topographical constraints

Pelagic fish can be categorized as coastal and oceanic fish, based on the depth of the water they inhabit. Coastal pelagic fish inhabit sunlit waters up to about 655 feet deep, typically above the continental shelf. Examples of species include forage fish such as anchovies, sardines, shad, and menhaden and the predatory fish that feed on them. 

Nonpelagic rockfish are typically 100% bottom-dwelling, and often remain in one small area for the entirety of their life. Nonpelagic rockfish typically live much longer than pelagic rockfish. 

One small fact is that rockfish do not lay eggs! They actually mate and develop embryos internally before releasing thousands or millions of larvae.

An illustration showing the different pelagic zones from the surface to 4 miles deep
5 Species of pelagic rockfish commonly found in Kachemak Bay, Cook Inlet, and the Gulf Of Alaska

Pelagic Rockfish

Lets discuss pelagic rockfish first. These are the rockfish that we will find throughout the water column, congregate in big schools, but still hangout near pinnacles and rocky areas. There are 5 species of rockfish we see in our waters but only 3 that we regularly catch: black rockfish, dusky rockfish, and yellowtail rockfish. 

Since these fish travel in big schools, once we find them, rods are usually bending everywhere.

We fish for these rockfish with lightweight rods, smaller hooks, and small pieces of bait. Your captain will usually tell you exactly what depth to lower your bait, which you can watch on your reels line counter. You usually won’t have to wait long, as soon as your line counter reads the correct number, it’s usually…wham! Fish ON

Rockfish limits are 5 per person per day only 1 of which can be a nonpelagic. We often strive for 4 from this pelagic group and 1 from the nonpelagic group shown below.

Nonpelagic Rockfish

Pelagic rockfish are highly sought after fish. These yelloweye, tiger, and copper rockfish have incredible colorings. And they make for fantastic table fare.

As mentioned previously, many of these fish can be 150 years old and don’t reach sexual maturity until almost 20 years old. 

Populations have crashed in some parts of the Northwest such as Puget Sound/Georgia Basin in Washington. These populations have been listed as part of the endangered species act and neither commercial nor sport fishing is allowed for them at this time in those areas. 

Fortunately there is an active and conservative management program for Alaska Rockfish. We have healthy populations that allow us to enjoy this phenomenal sport fishery.

Alaska Rockfish limit in our area is 5 per person per day only 1 of which can be a nonpelagic such as Yelloweye, Tiger, Copper, Silvergray or Quillback. Any other rockfish must come from the pelagic group shown above. 

5 Species of pelagic rockfish commonly found in Kachemak Bay, Cook Inlet, and the Gulf Of Alaska

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3/4-Day Halibut

$300 Early & Late Season
$350 June, July, August

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Drifters lodge staff show off their limits of halibut caught aboard Orion with Captain Jimmy Counts of Homer Halibut Hunters

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Two anglers hold up three yelloweye rockfish caught in Kachemak Bay, Homer Alaska

Multispecies: Halibut,
Rockfish, Salmon, Lingcod

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  • Meet 6:45 AM For 7:00 AM Departure
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Homer Halibut Hunters customer holds a huge Kachemak Bay King Salmon

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(Wednesday Only)

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