Last modified: July 10, 2018

Fish Greenling & Lingcod

Rock Greenling

Greenlings and Lingcod: Family Hexagrammidae

Species: Hexagrammos lagocephalus (Pallas, 1810); from the Greek words hex (six), gramma (line), lagos (hare) and cephelos (head, referring to the large pair of cirri on the head, attached to the edge of the eye).

Alternate Names: Commonly called seatrout but also red greenling, red seatrout, red rock trout, kelp cod and fringed greenling. The 19th century Portuguese fishermen of Monterey called these boregat.

Identification: Five lateral lines on the side, and one pair of cirri on the head. Their coloring is reddish-brown with darker mottling; they often have large, bright red spots and blotches. The inside of the mouth is blue.

Size: To 24 inches; most caught off piers are less than 15 inches.

Range: From Point Conception to the Commander-Aleutian chain and northern Bering Sea, Alaska. Also the Kurile Islands, Russia to the Yellow Sea, Japan. Rarely encountered south of San Francisco.

Habitat: Usually found in inter-tidal and shallow-water rocky areas. Both juveniles and adults consume a wide variety of bethnic species; favorites include crabs, shrimp, snails, chiton, abalones, octopi, fish eggs, algae, and fish. A territorial species similar to kelp greenling.

Strangly-colored rock greenling from the Humbolt Bay jetty

Piers: Rock greenling are commonly taken from piers north of San Francisco, piers located near rocky areas. Best bets: Point Arena Pier, Trinidad Pier, and Citizens Dock (Crescent City).

Shoreline: A common catch for rocky shore anglers in northern California

Boats: Primarily an inshore fish so an uncommon catch for boaters. However, those boaters fishing in fairly shallow waters from San Francisco north catch a few.

Bait and Tackle: High/low leaders using size 6 hooks and baited with small pieces of shrimp, fresh mussels, pile worms or tube worms are the best set-up. Like kelp greenling, rock greenling will often tap the bait first and then return for a solid hit so be prepared.

Food Value: Greenling are mild-flavored fish suitable for most forms of cooking but they are especially suitable for frying. Most pier caught fish are fairly small so the fillets may not offer much meat.


About 50% of rock greenling are sexually mature at 3-4 years in age and 11.4-13.8 inches in length. Both kelp greenling and rock greenling make excellent bait for lingcod.

Also—some books use Hexagrammos superciliosus as the scientific name for this fish. I’m thinking we need a greenling with the name Hexagrammos supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Perhap it would have some sort of a Mary Poppins look to it?


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