Rockfish are common along the coastal waters near Seward. These fish are easily recognized by their stout bodies, bony heads, large eyes, and sharp dorsal fin spines. These spines can be mildly poisonous. Although 34 species of rockfish are known to occur in Southcentral waters, only about a dozen species are commonly taken. The most commonly caught species near Seward are the yelloweye rockfish (or red snapper) and black rockfish (or black bass).
Seward rockfish can be broken into two groups based on their preferred habitat. Bemersal rockfish are most often found on or near the bottom, associated with rocky reefs or pinnacles. Dermersal rockfish are usually brightly colored and vividly marked. The most commonly caught demersal rockfish include yelloweye, quillback, canary, bocaccio, China, copper, silvergray and tiger rockfishes. Seward, Alaska's pelagic rockfish travel in schools throughout the water column; however, the specieds are most often found near rocky reefs or pinnacles. Pelagic rockfish are usually uniformly gray, black or brownish in color. The most commonly caught species of pelagic rockfish include the black, dusky and yellowtail rockfishes.
The life history of Seward, Alaska rockfish is both complex and fascinating. Regardless of the species, all rockfish grow slowly and live long. Many do not reach sexual maturity until age 15 or older and some can live over 100 years. Unlike most fish, rockfishes give birth to as many as 2.5 million free-swimming larvae. Survival of these larvae is usually very poor, depending on conditions in the ocean. Due to these life history characteristics, most rockfishes are highly susceptible to over-harvest and once over-harvested require long periods (decades) to recover.
Rockfishes commonly eat shrimp, crabs and jellyfish, as well as other small fishes. They are voracious and easy to catch. Most anglers use a medium stout rod and levelwind reel loaded with 200-400 yards of 30-80 pound test line. Many anglers prefer to use a lighter weight line and leader unless they are fishing in an area where it is possible to hook into a large halibut or lingcod while fishing for rockfish. Commonly used terminal tackle are silvery lures or jigs aggressively "bounced" on the bottom to attract nearby bish. Many anglers also use bait, such as herring or shrimp. Areas outside the Bay frequented by anglers seeking rockfish include Johnstone Bay, Cape Aialik, and Chiswell Islands. Areas inside Resurrection Bay frequently fished inculde the nearshore water of Fox, Hive and Rugged Island as well as off Cape Aialik and Cape Resurrection.
New sport bag and possession limits for rockfish in the Cook Inlet-Resurrection Bay Saltwater Area were recently adopted by the Alaska Board of Fisheries. Anglers are allowed four (4) rockfish daily only one (1) of which can be a non-pelagic rockfish, and 8 in possession, only two (2) of which can be non-pelagic rockfish. There are no minimum size limits and the season is open year-round. Pictures identifying commonly caught pelagic and non-pelagic rockfishes have been included in the 1996 North Gulf Coast regulation booklet. Various guides to Alaska fishes are also available commercially to help anglers identify their catch.
Given that most rockfishes are highly susceptible to over-harvest and once over-harvested require long periods (decades) to recover, managers ask that you limit your catch of these fish to what you need. Also, please don't release "small" rockfish to obtain a limit of large fish. Rockfish have an air bladder that expands as the fish is brought to the surface from deep water. This expanding air bladder often pushes the fishes stomach out of it's mouth. In addition, internal organs and eyes may be injured as the fish is brought to the surface. These fish cannot usually submerge and will die if released. Do not puncture the protruding stomach and/or air bladder to allow the fish to resubmerge - this essentially guarantees that the fish will die by infection of it's internal organs. The best way to minimize catching rockfish is to avoid rockfish habitat while targeting other species.