Dennis Spike

How to ID (red) California rockfish


Canary and Vermilion and Yelloweye…oh my!
by Jayna Schaaf-DaSilva, Marine Biologist (article harvested from CDFG Bulletin)

One of the most diverse and successful groups of fishes in the eastern Pacific is the rockfishes (genus Sebastes), represented by more than 60 species in California waters. All rockfishes have a set of characteristics that distinguish them from other fishes, most notably the prominent head spines. Rockfishes have five spines on the rear cheek area, a continuous dorsal fin with 12–15 spines and 9–16 soft rays, and an anal fin with three spines and 5–9 soft rays. Rockfishes are generally long-lived, slow growing, late maturing, and mostly residential fishes.This combination of characteristics makes rockfishes extremely vulnerable to overfishing.

In addition to these life history characteristics, increased fishing pressure and unfavorable oceanic conditions have combined to reduce some populations of rockfish to extremely low levels. Two examples of important species under pressure are the canary (Sebastes pinniger) and the yelloweye (Sebastes ruberrimus) rockfishes. Canary rockfish have a potential lifespan of 60 years or more, while the yelloweye rockfish can live to be at least 118 years old. They mature relatively late in life. NOAA Fisheries has designated these species as “overfished” and the federal Groundfish Fishery Management Plan mandates actions to rebuild their stocks to a healthy condition in the shortest time possible. In order to allow these stocks to rebuild, it is illegal to keep individuals of these species. Stocks are not expected to be rebuilt until 2017 and 2074, respectively. Unintentionally caught canary or yelloweye rockfishes should be returned to the water immediately to increase their chances of survival.

It can be challenging to identify any rockfish species, including prohibited species, when many of them are the reddish-colored and look very similar. In the past, anglers have typically misidentified canary (a prohibited fish) as vermilion rockfish (a permissible fish). The best way to distinguish a canary rockfish is by the bright orange coloration. The color can be compared to that of a road construction cone, a soda can of orange Crush®, or a bowl of Cheetos®. In northern California, the orange color pattern may be more reddish. However, all canary rockfish have a broad white or light grey band along the lateral line of the body that extends from the head to the tail. Canary rockfish also have a white belly, a slanted triangular-shaped anal fin, and a slightly forked tail fin. In smaller individuals, a dark grey or black spot can often be found at the base of the dorsal fin, about halfway down the body. When all else fails, rubbing the thumb against the chin of the fish will give a clue; canary rockfish have a smooth jaw.

Vermilion rockfish are actually quite distinct from canary rockfish, once one knows what to look for. Vermilion rockfish possess a much deeper red color: envision the red of a very ripe tomato. Vermilion rockfish lack the broad white or grey band on the body, but may have a partial band, and the belly is never bright white. The anal fin is rounded in vermilion rockfish, and the tail fin is straight. Many individuals have black borders on the fins. The upper (dorsal) part of the body is mottled with dark grey to black speckles, especially in younger fish. Again, rubbing the chin of the fish can help distinguish it; vermilion rockfish have a sandpaper-like roughness to the chin.

Some anglers misidentify yelloweye (a prohibited fish) as vermilion rockfish (a permissible fish). Yelloweye rockfish reach a larger maximum size than either canary or vermilion rockfishes, and they have very big, strong head spines. The yelloweye rockfish goes though a rather dramatic color change with growth. Juveniles are reddish-orange with two solid white lines running the length of the body, one along the lateral line and one below it. During transition, the body is red with only one white stripe (the bottom stripe disappears first). Large, mature individuals lack the white stripes completely, and are more orange-colored with pinkish fins. The fins are tipped with black throughout growth. The yelloweye rockfish, not surprisingly, has prominent golden-yellow eyes. There is a rasp-like ridge of spines above the eyes of large individuals. Like the canary rockfish, the chin of the yelloweye rockfish is smooth.

With practice and patience, identifying the characteristics of canary, vermilion, and yelloweye rockfishes can become a straightforward task. A combination of characteristics such as the coloration of the lateral line, shape of the fins, chin texture, and body color can be used to identify each species of these three “red” rockfishes. Proper identification is the key to reducing the accidental harvest and ultimately rebuilding the California stocks of overfished species in a minimum amount of time.

For more information about canary, vermilion and yelloweye rockfishes, visit the following Web sites:

For full-color illustrations of these rockfishes, click here.

What’s the cheapest and easiest way to get a Mexican fishing license and kayak (boat) permit?



Mexican Department of Fisheries
2550 Fifth Ave.
Suite #15
San Diego, CA 92103-6622.

PHONE:  (619) 233-4324
FAX: (619)233-0344

Give a call, then send in your application fees with money order only. Thanks to “Mr. Limpet” for originally providing this update.

Fish Finder Installation 101 By Mark “Sea Wolf” Hall


In response to the many inquiries about fishfinder installation I decided to document the installation of my unit on my Scupper Pro and publish it here for all to see.

Finder and battery selection

I am not endorsing any specific finder! As matter of fact, I don’t know JACK S#*$ about how they work or which is better than the other. I will, however, tell you why I chose the particular finder and battery that I did. I bought the Humminbird 200 DX. I based my fishfinder decision on three simple points:

  1. Price.
  2. Power requirements. Only 250 mA.
  3. I think the yellow accents look good with my blue Scupper Pro!

The battery I used is the Yuasa NP7-12. It is a 12 volt battery with 7 Amp hours of power. I am sure they are available at most any electronics store. I based my battery choice on two simple points:

  1. Size / weight. It fits inside the hull easily and weighs about 5 ¾ lbs.
  2. The guy at the electronics shop said it would run my unit for about 28 hours! I know it’s overkill but what the heck.
  3. Don’t forget to buy a charger when you get your battery.

Read this before you start!

This is usually where the manufacturers tell you about the things that can go wrong and how you may possibly injure yourself or your family if you don’t follow directions. I only have on thing to say: “It is EASY!” If it seems to be difficult, then you are doing it wrong. I finished this install in twenty minutes with nothing more than a screwdriver, a box wrench, and a cheapo cordless drill that was having problems with the trigger.

Start here

OK, I lied. There is another element that I took into consideration as I looked at the different brands. This unit has a “shoot through the hull” transducer. That means that it can be mounted inside the hull and it will take reading through the hull. No holes to cut! By the way, less (holes) is more (better).

The “Puck”

The first thing that I did was I located where I wanted to install the transducer and I installed it. I positioned it inside the hull directly below where to compass mounts. Why? It seemed like a good place (no rocket science here) and the cables would reach the place I had in mind for the finder unit. The installation was simple:

  1. Rough the inside of the hull with 80-grit sandpaper.
  2. Goop a load of 3M marine adhesive sealant / Fast Cure 4200 in to the center of the roughed spot. Be sure to make the puddle of adhesive about ½ inch larger than the transducer unit and also make sure that there aren’t any air bubbles in the mix.
  3. Push the transducer “puck” into the blob of glue with a slight twisting motion to squish out any possible air bubbles. Too easy, isn’t it? You may want to set something heavy on top of the whole thing until the glue is completely cured. Mine cured in about 24 hours.

A note on adhesives: Although the manufacturer recommends a 2-part epoxy to mount the transducer, I chose to go with the fast curing polyurethane instead. It seems to be a little more flexible, easier to use and not as messy as the epoxy. As far as performance, I have been getting clean readings down to 350 feet.

The Battery

Since you did such a fine job installing the transducer, it sure would be a shame if your battery got loose in heavy seas and bashed it and the cables to oblivion. My battery weighs 5 ¾ lbs. And if you think the outside of a plastic Ocean Kayak is slick, you should see the inside. I made a cradle / holder out of some plastic foam that I received as shipping material with my computer. It is pretty solid stuff and it won’t soak up water. It is similar to the foam that they make Boogie boards out of. This part is easy too.

  1. Cut a box or brackets out of the foam to fit your battery.
  2. Find a convenient place within the hull to hold the battery. Depending on the weight of your particular battery, you may want to improve the balance of your kayak with the placement. I just tried to get it right at the center point. It is almost under my butt.
  3. Rough up the area with the 80 grit sandpaper. (No, not your butt!)
  4. I tried the silicon glue for this part but it didn’t stick to the foam so I opted for the spray-on contact cement. 3M makes some good stuff. Spray it on both the roughed up area inside the hull and on the bottom of your battery box. Wait till both sides are almost dry and then carefully attach it to the hull. I say carefully because once this stuff is down, it is down for good.
  5. Lastly, set the battery in place and use one of those tiny bungee cords to secure it.

The Fishfinder

There are a variety of mounting products that are suitable for kayaks. (edit-The Johnny Bar) Another option is the various mounts that are at all the marine hardware stores. Whatever your choice, place the fishfinder screen in a place where it will be visible, secure, and out of the way. I chose to mount mine directly to the forward hatch without any after market mounting devices. It is out of the way. It is visible. It is a lot cheaper to replace a screwed up hatch than to replace a screwed up hull! Mine comes off very easily and by putting the stainless bolts back through the holes and bolting them down, the hatch is watertight. So far my access to the hatch has been fine but I haven’t hauled in any giant threshers or anything.

The only thing left to do is to attach the cables as shown in the instruction booklet that came with your fishfinder. I didn’t bother making holes for the cables to run through. The seals on the Scupper Pro are loose enough to allow the cables to pass without much leakage at all.

Now it’s time to go fishing!