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Fish of the North: Rockfish - Fauna
Written By: Elizabeth Barrette (Writer)
Several species of rockfish form a pleasant accent to the Northern diet.

Several dozen species of light-fleshed bottomfish are grouped together under the name rockfish or duurlirth. The name comes from duurl (rock) and irth (fish). Sizes range 1-3 feet and they typically weigh between 1-10 pounds. They live a long time, some up to 100 years. They are ovoviviparous, mating internally and giving birth to live young. They have bony plates or spines along the back and sometimes the head, with a large mouth. The mildly venomous spines discourage predators by causing pain, inflammation, and infection if they break the skin. Many types of rockfish have vivid coloration.

Most species of rockfish are highly active during summer, making that the best fishing season. Some species also respond to a baited hook in winter. They're easy to locate because they stay near the bottom, so ice fishers often try for them. When quickly pulled from the bottom to the surface, rockfish cannot adapt to the changing pressure, and the swim bladder will expand until it erupts from the fish's mouth.

Species of Rockfish

Other-fish or tigirth is the one species of rockfish that Northerners will not eat, and consider unlucky to catch. The name comes from tig (Other) and irth (fish). The fish is deep blue-gray with one or more spidery white markings that resemble Others. The flesh is mediocre at best, and there is one fatality from eating it recorded by the healers. People understand that this was probably due to allergy or improper cleaning, but they still find the fish unpalatable and downright creepy. Only a starving fisher will continue to fish after catching one. Fortunately, other-fish are fairly rare.

Quillback rockfish or ujutors resemble the Terran fish of the same name. The name comes from urj (quill, spine) and tors (back). They measure 2-3 feet and weigh 7-10 pounds. They are mottled in shades of brown, orange, and yellow.

The dorsal fin has tall, sharp, rigid spines connected by a deeply incized vane; the spines are vivid orange and the vane bright yellow. The bases of the spines are rooted in venom glands, and this species produces the strongest toxin of any rockfish, occasionally causing death due to allergic reaction. The venom glands must be carefully cut away when the fish is cleaned. Unlike other rockfish, this species can release its dorsal spines into the flesh of an attacker, and regrow them, similar to a porcupine. They are not vigorous fighters, but a single hard flop can stab unwary fingers.

Quillbacks feed during midday, making them popular with some fishers in comparison to crepuscular species. Other fishers dislike them due to the hazardous spines. Their flaky white flesh has a high fat content and delectable flavor, often filleted and baked slowly as a main dish for lucky recipients.

Streaked rockfish or laarn resemble the Terran tiger rockfish. The name comes from laan (stripe). Also called streakers, they have dark red stripes on a pink or orange body. The dorsal spines are sharp and heavy, with moderate venom. Streakers are also aggressive, with strong jaws and a formidable bite. They measure 1-2 feet and weigh 3-5 pounds.

Their flesh has a pinkish streaks and hints of a spicy flavor. The pink indicates fat deposits, which readily absorb spicy oils; this meat is often cut into chunks and simmered in a hot red sauce so that it takes on a piquant flavor. Then it is poured, sauce and all, over a bland base such as cooked grains or bread. It's one of those dishes that people tend to love or hate. Streakers prefer shallow water, making them one of the few rockfish that can be caught with net or gig-spear rather than hook and line.

Yellow-eye rockfish or lereyorv resemble the Terran red snapper. The name comes from lere (yellow) and yorv (eye). They have a lattice pattern of red and silver scales, with vivid yellow eyes. Their spines are shorter and duller than most rockfish, with weak venom. The yellow-eye has a large head and huge gill covers; when threatened, it extends its gill covers, becoming so wide that it can choke an attacker. This is the largest type of rockfish, measuring 2-3 feet with a typical weight of 8-10 pounds, although some specimens have weighed over 20 pounds.

Yellow-eyes are the most common type of rockfish, and often considered the tastiest. Their succulent flesh is almost always filleted to serve as a main dish -- typically awarded to skilled rangers, pregnant women, or a potential mate whom the fisher wishes to impress. Regrettably this type of meat does not store well and must be consumed soon.

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