Abbreviated Life History of Calico Rockfish
(Sebastes dalli)

Calico Rockfish; CDFW Staff Photo

Dalli refers to the Smithsonian zoologist Willian H. Dall. Adults are easily distinguishable from all other rockfish by their reddish brown bars slanting obliquely on the brown or yellowish green body.

Distribution, Stock Structure and Migration

Calico rockfish range from San Francisco, California to Sebastian Viscaino Bay, Baja California. They have been caught at depths extending from the intertidal zone to 850 ft.

Age and Growth

The calico rockfish is a small, colorful rockfish species that does not exceed 10 in. in length or 2 pounds in weight. Calico rockfish have been aged to a maximum of 11-12 yr.

Reproduction, Fecundity and Seasonality

Male calico rockfish first become sexually mature at age seven. Female calico rockfish become sexually mature at age nine. Spawning occurs in southern California between January and May, with peak spawning occurring in February. Fertilized eggs are present in November and December. The larval stage lasts from less than four weeks to two months.

Predator/Prey Relationships

Juvenile calico rockfish feed on zooplankton such as copepods, barnacle cyprids, and larval fish. Adults feed on larger crustaceans such as euphausiids, fishes, and cephalopods. Larger rockfish species, lingcod, cabezon, and salmon prey upon adult calico rockfish. Sea birds and dolphins have also been known to feed on calico rockfish.


Calico rockfish probably compete with other foraging rockfish species and other finfishes with similar food habits.

Critical Habitat

Juvenile calico rockfish are found in areas of soft sand-silt sediment, and on artificial reefs. Adult calico rockfish inhabit rocky shelf areas where there is a mud-rock or sand-mud interface with fine sediments. They are associated with areas of high and low relief, including artificial reefs.

Status of Stocks

There are currently no estimates of abundance for calico rockfish in California. Because of the relatively small size of adult calico rockfish, they are not usually targeted by either sport or commercial fishermen, but are caught incidentally when other finfish species are targeted. Calico rockfish frequently appear as a bycatch in prawn trawls in southern California, and are caught by sport anglers on commercial passenger fishing vessels and private boats when they are fishing for other, larger benthic species.

Information on this page was originally presented in the Nearshore Fishery Management Plan (these profiles updated July, 2010).

Calico Rockfish