Rockfish Fishing Tips – How To Catch Rockfish

Rockfish are common to the pacific ocean ranging from California up to Northern Alaska. They are commonly fished for commercial and sport use. They are known for being very lean and tasty but have been overfished in some areas so the seasons may often be tightly controlled depending on the waters.

Fishing for rockfish is very popular throughout the Pacific. They are known for being relatively easy to catch without putting up much of a fight. This can make them great for fishing with kids. If you’re targeting rockfish on your next fishing trip, we created this guide for you. Here we will cover the different types of common rockfish, what they eat, the equipment you will need to catch them, and a few other basic tips to help you catch more rockfish.

Types of Rockfish

Rockfish is the general name given to fish belonging to the Sebastes family. There are 109 different species that can be classified as rockfish. We won’t cover them all here. You can read the full list here if you are interested.

Rockfish are commonly divided into two categories: pelagic rockfish and non-pelagic rockfish. Pelagic rockfish often swim in larger schools throughout the water column. Common species included black rockfish, dusky rockfish, dark rockfish, and yellowtail rockfish.

Non-pelagic rockfish stay close to the bottom in rocky areas and generally swim alone or in smaller schools. Some of them like to hide under rocks and cracks. Common species include yelloweye rockfish, quillback rock, silvergray rockfish, tiger rockfish, and china rockfish.

How Big Do Rockfish Get?

The size of your average rockfish can vary greatly by their species. On average most rockfish fall between the 1.2 to 22lb range and measure around 15 to 36 inches in length. World record rockfish can be upwards of 39 lbs.

Where Do Rockfish Live?

Most species of rockfish live in the North Pacfic Ocean. They are commonly fished from North Alaska all the way down to California. There are also a few species that live in the South Pacific and Atlantic Ocean

Where are Rockfish Found?

rockfish fishing areas

As the name suggests, you can commonly find rockfish near rocks and other structure. Look for rock piles, reefs, pinnacles, and giant boulders. Try to get a feel for if the area you are fishing is known for pelagic or non-pelagic rockfish. If the area is known for non-pelagic rockfish, then fishing near rocky bottoms is your best bet. Otherwise, you can aim throughout the water column if the area is known for its pelagic rockfish. If you have a GPS you can have a lot of success fishing in larger schools.

What Do Rockfish Eat?

Rockfish eat a wide variety of other animals including crab, plankton, crustaceans, worms, and fish. Using a lure that mimics something a rockfish is regularly feeding on is a great way to get the fish to strike.

Equipment You Will Need

In this section, we will cover the best rods, reels, lures, baits, fishing line, hooks, and other tools that you will need to catch rockfish.

Rockfish Rods and Reels

Generally, for rockfish you will likely want a medium action rod that has enough power to pull fish off the bottom. Look for something that is light that won’t bother you if you’re fishing all day, that also has a sensitive tip so you can feel the strikes and immediately set your hook. Something around the 6 to 7.5-foot range is usually adequate, unless you know you will be casting long distances, then you can opt for a longer rod.

If you are fishing shallow water you can get away with a good baitcasting reel or spinning reel. For deeper water, a conventional reel or baitcasting reel would work fine. Just make sure any reel you choose is saltwater friendly.

Rockfish Lures and Baits


Jigging is one of the most popular ways to catch rockfish. There are a variety of different jigs that work well but diamond jigs and jigging a spoon lure are two of the most popular ways to get the rockfish to bite.

If there is a strong current make sure to use a weight on your jig to get it near the bottom. What makes jigs so effective is the up and down jigging motion. This is what causes the rockfish to bite. To get a proper motion you need to lift and lower your rod tip.

Soft Plastic Lures

Many anglers prefer to use soft plastic lures like scampi tails for fishing rockfish. If you’re going to use a plastic lure you will probably need some sort of weight like a lead head to bring your lure to the bottom. You might also consider using a dropper loop to help you cover more area.


You can use a variety of different smaller baitfish for rockfish. Some of the most common that work well are anchovies, mackerel, and sardines. Live bait usually works best, but you can use dead bait too.

Squid Strips

Using strips of squid is also a very effective bait for rockfish. These are very popular rockfish bait. If you’re fishing for larger rockfish just make sure you are using larger strips.

Fishing Line for Rockfish

Braided line is the most popular among anglers for rockfish. This is because it has low stretch and high sensitivity which allows you to feel strikes in the deep water and set your hook quickly. Use something around a 40lb test for braided line because it works well for both jigging and casting.


If you’re fishing shallow water you can use monofilament line. Use around a 15lb test for casting or 25lb test for jigging.

Hooks for Rockfish

Most anglers opt for using circle hooks when fishing for rockfish. You can use both inline and offset circle hooks. Generally, a size 2/0 to 5/0 will work depending on how big the rockfish are in the area you are fishing

Tips to Help You Catch More Rockfish

Find the Bottom

When fishing for rockfish be ready to set your hook as soon as your line drops all the way to the bottom. You need to get a feel for when your bait hits the bottom and be ready. If you feel a little flutter, set your hook.

Tap the Bottom

If you don’t feel a strike as soon as your bait hits the bottom, try to gently tap the bottom. Reel up a little bit, release a little line. Gently tap the bottom and you may get the hungry rockfish to attack your bait.

Rockfish Faq – Commonly Asked Questions

What Does Rockfish Taste Like?

Rockfish is known to taste mildly sweet with a bit of a nutty accent. It’s a lean fish with a medium-firm texture.

How Long Do Rockfish Live?

Rockfish are known to be one of the longest living fishes. Some species can commonly live up to 120 to 140 years. A 200-year-old rockfish was caught in Alaska, which might be the oldest one ever caught.

What Pound Test Line for Rockfish?

We recommend a 40lb test braided line or 15lb to 25lb mono line for catching rockfish.

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