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The Names & Nicknames Of Rockfish In SOCAL & Baja

Author: Colby Uva

Rockfish Species In Southern California + Baja

Rockfish Species Guide
The author with a Boccacio "Salmon Grouper" (left) and a Vermillion Rockfish (right) caught aboard the Fisherman III south of San Diego in Mexican waters.

One of my first trips when I moved to Southern California was a a trip aboard the Fishermen III just south of the border to Mexico to catch rockfish.  Rockfish season was not yet opened in San Diego so we made the trip down south to do some bottom fishing.  My first impression was that there were a TON of species of rockfish that the skippers had plenty of nicknames for and I had no idea how to tell them apart.  That is the inspiration for this guide. 

Vermillion Rockfish

AKA "Red Snapper"

These rockfish are the easiest ones to spot theyare red with golden eyes.  They do not have too many patterns when compared to other rockfish I will mention below. 


AKA "Salmon Grouper" or "Slimies"

These I am told are the most common rockfish, however on the trip I went on we were catching more Vermillion Rockfish.  They are dark brown in color and have shading to an orange "salmon" on their sides. 

Cow Cod 

This is a deep water cod often found from 300-1200 feet of water.  It is the largest of the rockfish and get get over 35 pounds. 

Chili Pepper 

These rockfish are deepwater fish often hooked in over 1,000 feet of water.  According to Chalie Davis, Author of "Hook Up - A Complete Guide To Southern California & Baja Ocean Sportfishing " .They got their name because "long strings of these bright fish often closely resemble a string of chilies".

Olive Rockfish 

AKA "Johny Bass"

This is one of the most common rockfish to catch.  They are typically caught in shallow waters around kelp beds as well as in water up to 500 feet in depth. They are not the biggest of rockfish (only getting about a max of 7Lbs). 

Whitebelly Rockfish 

AKA "Chucklehead"

This rockfish is a dull yellow with an olive pink on the back.  They can be caught anywhere from 60-600ft of water.  They are known for taking big baits since they have such large mouths. 

Starry Rockfish

AKA "Bosco"

These rockfish are one of the smaller rockfish (a 3Lb rockfish is pretty big).  This rockfish is bright orange with yellow spots. 

Green Striped Rockfish 

AKA "Poinsettia"

These are easily recognizable by the green and orange lateral stripes.  Green rockfish do not get very big (up to 2Lbs). 

Flag Rockfish 

AKA "Barberpole"

Its coloration resembles a barber pole with red and white markings that stand out. They get up to 3Lbs and can be found anywhere between 100 and 600 feet of water. 

Yelloweye Rock Fish

AKA "Turkey Red" or "Goldeneye" 

These rockfish is sometimes confused with the cow cod however its eye is a more red-orange than the Cow Cod. The dorsal fin is not as high, and the mouth is a lot smaller relative to the Cow Cod. These fish can get pretty big (over 20 Lbs) and are often found shallower than the Cow Cod (150 -1200 feet). 

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