Surf's Up Magazine

Copper Rockfish: All you need to Know

  • Date: February 27, 2024
  • Time to read: 5 min.

With a deep physique, the Copper Rockfish is an elegant sea dweller that comes in a range of hues. Its hues can be anything from dark brown to orange with copper-colored spots or yellow to pink blotches – offering a captivating array of shades and textures.

Beware when you catch one of these carnivorous creatures, as their dorsal fins are armed with spines that can cause serious pain. These fish primarily feed on crustaceans, cephalopods and smaller species of fish.

freshly caught copper rockfish
Freshly Caught

Quick Facts About the Copper Rockfish

  • In the early stages of life, juvenile rockfish attach themselves to kelp forests. As they mature and grow, however, these fish relocate to rocks where they can nest comfortably.
  • Through their hue, they effortlessly blend in with the rocks and coral formations of their habitat for optimal camouflage.
  • It can be difficult to differentiate between copper rockfish and other species of rockfish. Such as the brown and canary varieties, due to interbreeding. 


Despite its modest size, the copper rockfish is an impressive creature that can reach up to 27 inches in length and weigh 10 pounds at its largest.

However, it usually averages 13.3 inches long and 3.3 pounds heavy! With a potential lifespan of 50 years old this remarkable species should not be underestimated for their diminutive stature!

Habitat and Distribution

The majestic copper rockfish call the Pacific Ocean their home, stretching from Alaska’s Gulf to Baja California. For those looking for a close-to-home experience in America, head on over to Santa Monica, Monterey or Santa Rosa in California and you’ll be bound to find them!

These creatures can be found in depths ranging from 33 to 600 feet. They mostly thrive nearshore or offshore rocky areas and man-made jetties. You are sure to find them residing within the Puget Sound too!

The copper rockfish is an immobile species, fond of inhabiting one specific spot and concealing themselves within rocks. These fish thrive under water temperatures between 34° to 60°F.

If you’re looking for the perfect opportunity to capture these gamefish, head out during their spawning season from December until March!

Copper Rockfish Diet

Copper rockfish are bottom-dwellers whose primary sustenance is composed of smaller fish, crustaceans, squid and octopus. They possess a varied toolkit of foraging techniques to find their food.

These strategies vary depending on the habitats they inhabit. These opportunistic predators capitalize on the resources available in their local environment to ensure successful hunting outcomes.


Copper rockfish, much like other rockfish species, are viviparous reproducers. This signifies that the fertilization of eggs, hatching and growth of embryos occurs within the mother’s womb.

In addition to this she also supplies some nourishment for her developing young. As soon as they have reached full development female copper rockfish bring forth live larval fish!

As the months of January to April arrive, Copper rockfish meetup for a chance to feed and spawn. Those who have chosen this species as their lifetime companion can expect it to remain by its side for up to 30 years or even longer.

With an amazing record-breaking 55 years in one case! Even though these fish prefer living alone, they congregate during spawning seasons, allowing them some company every now and then.

Conservation and Threats

Copper rockfishes are a prized fish that is actively sought after by recreational and commercial fishers alike. To ensure the sustainability of this species, agencies such as NOAA Fisheries along with the Pacific Fishery Management Council have joined forces to co-manage this species.

Fishing regulations are adapted every year based on the geographical location, time of year, and species being caught. These governing bodies analyze population health to establish commercial and recreational fishing seasons as well as define catch limits that must be followed.

The copper rockfish is being threatened by a variety of forces. This includes climate change and ocean acidification, as well as coastal habitat destruction and pollution.

It faces an array of obstacles to its survival such as less readily available food sources, reduced oxygen levels in the sea, hotter and more acidic waters that are uninhabitable for them, physical disturbances from human activity, plus contamination from hazardous chemicals.

Given their long life spans and slow reproduction patterns, it is difficult for this species to recover if the population ever shrinks. As a result, these fish are more vulnerable due to its lower rate of replacement than other varieties of aquatic animals.

How to Catch a Copper Rockfish

Copper rockfish are a favored choice among fishers. But especially for fledgling anglers since they can be easily coaxed to take the bait. These aquatic creatures aren’t hesitant and you’ll find abundant amounts of them in most areas.

Whether you choose to cast from your boat offshore or near jetties and piers, these fish make it easy for anyone to enjoy fly fishing!

To successfully land a copper rockfish, anglers should aim to fish at the bottom of the water. The ideal range for targeting these critters is between 30-150 feet from shore – so keep your gear set accordingly!

Try searching in shallow rocky areas where they are inclined to hide and cast bait there. As you drop it back down, give it several small lifts up before dropping again; repeat this pattern until your catch is secured!

If you’re looking to fly fish copper rockfish, the ideal equipment for success is a 6-weight medium-action rod between 7 and 8 feet long. Additionally, you will need 50-pound test braided line with a 30 pound monofilament leader attached.

To reach greater depths in your fishing spot, sinkers weighing 10 to 12 ounces are recommended as well. Finally, don’t forget hook sizes ranging from 1/0 to 4/0 circle hooks! With this arsenal of tools at hand, there’s no limit on how far your adventure can go!

Copper rockfish can be a challenging species to target, but the right lures and baits make it much easier.

Rubber tail jigs and bucktails are two of the best options for this fish, while squid and shrimp flies have also been successful. For bait fishing, worms, shrimps, pieces of squid or minnows will do the trick!

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