Sebastes Variegatus



Offshore, Continental Shelves, Slopes

24 - 29 pounds

6" - 15"

Harlequin Rockfish

Harlequin Rockfish (Sebastes variegatus) Fish Description

The Harlequin Rockfish is a small saltwater fish. It has 8 spines on top of its head. It has a pink to dark red color with black irregular blotches at the top; from its head to its caudal fin. It has large eyes for its body and it has 8 head spines and 2 to 3 anal spines. It has a horizontal band along its body. Its 2nd anal spine is always longer than the two which are in equal size. Its close relative is the equally small, Stripetail Rockfish.


Size and Diet 

The harlequin rockfish can grow up to  15 inches long, and on average they’re only 6 inches long. As of now, there is no study regarding the fish’s weight; both average and heaviest record. The harlequin rockfish diet is other benthic creatures such as shrimps, juvenile fish, and squid.


Interesting Facts About the Harlequin Rockfish

  • The harlequin rockfish is one of the recent rockfish discoveries in 1971. It’s also one of the species that lack observation and research.
  • They give birth viviparously; meaning they don’t lay eggs and instead give birth to live fry.
  • The harlequin rockfish has a low market value as food or game fish because of its size.
  • Like other rockfishes, the harlequin rockfish is demersal. They spend most of their time at the bottom of the ocean.
  • Despite its small size, this fish can live up to 47 years. They also grow slowly, it’s said to take 10 years for the harlequin rockfish to reach 10 inches.


How to Fish the Harlequin Rockfish

The harlequin rockfish is not a popular gamefish among anglers. It’s usually a by-catch of fish trawling. If you like to see these fish, the best method to catch them is through deep drop fishing with multi-rig. Look for rocky bottoms or crevices where they could be hiding. Just drop cast your presentation and pull it every time it hits the bottom to entice the fish. Wait for the bite.

The recommended equipment to catch a harlequin rockfish is a light-action rod of 6- to 7- feet in length. For your line, use a 10 to 30- pound test. You also need sinkers to get to a nice depth. A good weight for sinkers is around 16 to 30 ounces tear drop sinkers. For your multi-rig setup, you can use small hook sizes between #6 to #2.

The recommended lures are minnows, jigs, and shrimp-baits. The baits you can use are shrimps, worms, and sliced crabs.


Habitat and Distribution

The harlequin rockfish prefers temperate water, in one study the harlequin rockfish’s median temperature is 42.98°F. Being a demersal fish, you can find them thrive in continental shelves and slopes where they rest in rocky areas where they hide and blend with their environment. Their common depth is between 180 to 230 feet, but some have been found as deep as 1830 feet. No study has been conducted yet regarding if they are migratory species nor their spawning season.

The harlequin rockfish has a small range in the North Pacific Ocean; from southern California up to Alaska. Most anglers have caught the harlequin rockfish in California. Spots such as the Channel Islands, Point Loma, and Anacapa Island. In Alaska, you can try the Gulf of Alaska. You can also try Newport or Seal Rocks in Oregon. In Washington, the Bering Sea is the spot for this fish. A few harlequin rockfish have been found in Ensenada Blanca and Baja California, in Mexico.