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If black rockfish are black, what color are blue rockfish?

So I’m going fishing on the Oregon Coast and apparently I need to be able to tell the difference between a black rockfish and a blue rockfish. They seem to be nearly identical, and it’s tough to tell the difference. How can I tell them apart?

— J.J., Medford

Well, J.J., at the risk of sounding snarky — and we at Since You Asked are all about snark — black rockfish are black and blue rockfish are blue.

But if that’s not good enough, we do have a little trick for you.

But first, black and blue rockfish roughly look like an ocean version of a bass, with their relatively large heads and spiny backs.

Black rockfish are very common and generally make up the lion’s share of the so-called “aggregate limit” of a total of five fish from a variety of species. The blue rockfish you keep are part of that same limit, and while in the past you were limited by a subquota on blue rockfish, that doesn’t exist in 2019.

Still, it’s good to know what you catch and keep, right?

The best way to make sure you’re legal is to positively identify black and blue rockfish. Here’s the trick: For black rockfish, the jaw extends to or past the rear of the eye; for blue rockfish, the jaw doesn’t extend past the midpoint of the eye.

Not that it’s likely to come up very often, even for seasoned salts like you, J.J.

Blue rockfish account for less than 5 percent of the rockfish caught and kept by Oregon anglers, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.