Rockfishes of the genus Sebastes comprise one of the most important and heavily utilized groups of commercial and recreational fishes occurring off California. In this study, carried out primarily in the 1980s, we examined various aspects of life history for the nearshore rockfishes and for cabezon, kelp greenling, and lingcod off central California. The following species of rockfishes were those primarily considered within this study: black, black-and-yellow, blue, canary, China, copper, gopher, grass, green spotted, kelp, olive, rosy, starry, vermilion, yelloweye, and yellow-tail. During the study, 21 species of rockfish and 8 additional species of fish, including cabezon, kelp greenling, and lingcod, were tagged and released to study patterns of movement. Of 7332 tagged fish, 197 (3%) representing 15 species, were recaptured. Of these, only three species (canary and yellowtail rockfishes and lingcod) manifested substantial movement. Most nearshore rockfishes appear to be highly residential. Age and growth parameters were determined for 15 species of rockfish. Whole otoliths were the primary structure utilized for ageing. Most nearshore rockfishes examined appear to have lifespans of moderate longevity, with maximum ages between 20 and 30 years. Weight-length relationships were calculated for 16 species of rockfish and for cabezon, kelp greenling, and lingcod. Reproductive patterns were determined for 18 species of rockfish and size at sexual maturation for 17 of these species. The majority of nearshore rockfishes appear to release larvae during the winter-spring period. However, timing of larval extrusion is species specific and must be examined on a case-by-case basis. General food habits were described for 11 species of rockfish. An Appendix, summarizing life-history characteristics for the 17 most commonly encountered species in this study, is included. We conclude that the nearshore rockfishes are a valuable marine resource to the State of California and should be managed with the realization that, as with many of the world's fishery resources, they are vulnerable to human impacts and over exploitation.