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Welcome to Fish Talk

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I had a late idea for Bill on his forum reorganization.  I thought it might be nice to have a place to ask questions about fish and other marine/aquatic science issues.  There are at least a couple of us on this board that are "marine biologists" or "fisheries biologists" so I hope this doesn't simply become an "Ask Brian" forum and others chime in when they can help answer questions.

For those who don't know who I am, I'm a marine ecologist with the Smithsonian who happens to be stationed at the Bodega Marine Lab studying invasive marine species.  In graduate school however I studied the habitat preferences of juvenile groundfish on the Continental shelf off New York and New Jersey.

So, in case you're still not sure what kind of topics might be applicable in this forum, here are a few examples....

1.)  You catch a bizarre fish or other marine creature and manage to post a picture of it and want to know what it was.
2.)  You want the inside scope on how salmon populations are estimated.
3.)  Someone told you that you can tell how old a fish is by looking at its ears....WTF????  (it is true, sort of).
4.)  You're still not sure how to tell a vermilion rockfish apart from a canary rockfish.

you get the idea...

Oh, and if this forum gets slow..I'm warning you now... I will feel compelled to bore you with fish trivia! :smt015


Hi Steve -

What a useful forum!  Thanks for agreeing to moderate it. 

Don't worry about boring us with fish trivia, we'll eat it up.

So, what's this about estimating age by a fishes' ears?


Hi all,
And thanks for fish talk. I fish mostly fresh water except for the once a year party boat trip.
I want to learn to ocean fish but there are so many different fish. some you can keep some you can't. Is there something better then the DFG book for pictures? I would like to get something laminated to keep in the Kayak.Just don't want to make a mistake. I will most likely go with someone with experience but don't want a dead fish while waiting for a yea or a nay on the fish.
Thanks for any help.

Hi Jack,

I feel your pain, bro! 

The cool thing about nearshore ocean fishing is the incredible variety.  But it can be frustrating to learn all the species you're likely to catch. 

One approach is to first learn the ones that will get you trouble if you catch and keep them.  Cowcod, Canary Rockfish, etc.  Just check the DFG regs and memorize them.  The good news is there's very few. 

Then learn the most commonly caught.  Nearshore bottom fish are mostly Ling cod, Cabezon and Rockfish.  It's easy enough to learn Lings and Cabs, and that just leaves the rockies.  Blues, blacks, coppers, gophers, china, vermillion and kelp rockfish are the ones you'll see most often.  It'll take a while to sort those out, but no big deal because you already know which fish you can't take.  So take a laminated chart with you, or ask whoever you're fishing with, or just take a pic and look it up when you get home or post it here!  When you're  comfortable with those, you'll find it's really easy to pick up the rest one or two at at time. 

I like a book by Milton Love and others  called "Rockfishes of the Northeast Pacific"  You can get it at Amazon for about $16. Dr. Love also has a website with a section on fish identification.  Here's a link:  And don't forget that Mooch has posted several threads here with pics of various species.

Have fun!


A quick plug for a company I know nothing about but I wish I had thought of first.

They even sell their id guides in laminated format.

It seems that someone has found a market niche that needed filling.  They also sell all of the books I could possibly think to list when it comes to west coast rockfish id.



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