How To Cook Rockfish – Especially Small Ones!

Here in Southern California fall just started. And if you’re not busy catching big tunas or yellowtails, you’re busy catching rockfish. What happens when you come home with a bag full of small rockfish? Now what?  The next question is: How to cook rockfish, especially if it’s small.

My new recipe was inspired by that very question. I met up with my buddy Captain Brian Woolley of the Dana Point sport fishing boat, the Sum Fun. That’s where one of his customers, Bill Hogan showed me his small rockfish and asked how to cook rockfish. Here you go Bill, a quick, delicious easy fish recipe that will turn that small rockfish into a gourmet dinner!

If you’re planning on catching more rockfish, check out Fisherman’s Belly rockfish recipe section.

How To Cook Rockfish

Serves 2


  • 2 Small rockfish whole, gutted, gilled and scaled
  • 1 Avocado 1/2-in diced
  • 1 Tomato 1/2-in diced
  • 1/2 Onion sliced
  • 1/4 Bundle cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 Lemon juiced
  • 1/2 Lemon wedged into 4 pieces
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4-5 Tbsp. grapeseed oil, for frying
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • Kosher salt
  • Course black pepper
  • Crushed oregano


  1. After cleaning the rockfish, make two slits, one on each side, into the thickest part of its meat right behind the gill plates. Then, using a paper towel, wipe dry the outside and gut cavity.
  2. Now, add salt, brush on olive oil and then sprinkle on a liberal amount of crushed oregano on the entire fish and inside its gut cavity. Normally I never add salt to fish skin because salt draws out moisture from the skin and makes the skin rubbery when cooked. But that principle applies when marinading the skin since it takes time to draw out the moisture. Here, the fish is fried right away.
  3. Add 3-4 tablespoons of veggie oil into a frying pan over medium-low heat.
  4. While the oil is heating up, add the all-purpose flour into a paper or plastic bag. Then add a pinch or two of salt and then shake vigorously. Now add the two fish to the frying pan after its oil begins to shimmer. Cook for 3-4 minutes per side, or when the fish reaches a golden brown color.
  5. While the fish if frying, create the tomato avocado salsa by mixing the avocado, tomato, sliced onions, cilantro, lemon juice, and salt into a small mixing bowl. Set aside.
  6. After frying up both sides of the fish, place each fish onto a plate and then add the tomato avocado salsa on each one. Serve with a couple of lemon wedges and enjoy!

Fisherman's Belly

Please visit Fisherman’s Belly for many more delicious recipes and unique ideas for preparing your seafood and fresh catch or visit the “FishermansBellyChannel” on Youtube to subscribe for weekly updates:

More great recipes from Fisherman’s Belly on BD.

Fisherman's Belly is the brainchild of Yanni Hassir, a SoCal waterman whose passion extends from the ocean to his kitchen. offers a growing list of seasonal SoCal sport fish recipes. There are tips and tricks for cooking yellowtail, rockfish, white seabass, halibut, lobster, tuna...