Coastal Fishes of the Pacific Northwest


224 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-920080-75-8
DDC 597






Illustrations by Phil Edgell
Reviewed by Nancy E. Glozier

Nancy E. Glozier lectures in the Department of Biological Sciences, University of Calgary.


This book is a field guide for people with a range of interests in coastal fishes varying from angling and diving to beachcombing. It successfully brings scientific facts to the layperson in a simple, straightforward manner with a minimum of scientific terminology. For example, to facilitate fish identification, silhouette diagrams of characteristic body forms of coastal fish families are included in the table of contents. A quick check of the family section then confirms that you’re on the right track, while consultation of the species section and corresponding colour pictures should complete the identification. However, this field guide is more than a simple identification tool, since it also includes many interesting ecological observations on coastal fishes.

By organizing the guide into fish families, general information on related species is easily accessible. This section includes descriptions of general anatomical features, life cycle traits, behaviours, and habitat preferences common to the family members. Following the introduction to the family, each species is described with a simplified illustration pointing out important identification features as well as the maximum recorded size and known distribution. Colour photographs portraying the fish against a natural background provide the reader with additional information on typical habitat locations. Finally, scientific and common names are identified and an interesting explanation of the Greek or Latin derived species name is given.

Several additional sections for each species, each with easily understood symbols, are directed at specific interest groups and add more information than usually appears in a field guide. The first section covers information for sports fishers and provides suggestions on specific angling techniques, bait, or tackle used for particular fish species. Second, a section for divers describes the habitat and fish behaviour which may allow them to observe the fish in their natural environment. Third, a section for commercial fishers describes certain ecological aspects of the species, and is intended to enhance understanding of the coastal environment. The next section is directed at beachcombers interested in techniques for observing life in tidepools or identifying fish from a wharf or boat. Finally, the edibility of the fish species is discussed. The authors encourage exploration of new culinary tastes, giving suggestions on the best manner of preparation of exotic fish like the red brotula. They also give warnings to avoid specific fish. Even though each of these sections is aimed at a particular interest group, there is information contained in all sections that should be of interest to most fish enthusiasts.

This book is not only a valuable guide to persons interested in the identification of coastal fishes, but it is also a useful source of information on the ecology, behaviour, and angling opportunities of coastal fishes found in the Pacific northwest.


Lamb, Andy, “Coastal Fishes of the Pacific Northwest,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed September 30, 2023,