Young-of-the-year (YOY) Sebastes inermis use Zostera and Sargassum beds as nursery grounds, although it is not known which habitat YOY prefer. In this study, YOY S. inermis were accurately assigned to Zostera or Sargassum beds by two approaches: the width and length of the otolith nucleus and the composition of trace elements in otoliths. The otolith nucleus was initially opaque and then showed a marked shift to hyaline deposition once YOY settled in the nursery grounds. The first hyaline zone (FHZ) was deposited earlier in Zostera beds (from mid-May to early June) than in Sargassum beds (around mid-summer). Likewise, irrespective of settlement year, the FHZ was formed at both significantly younger ages and shorter back-calculated sizes (total length, TL) in the Zostera bed (overall mean: 131 ± 3 days; 2.5 ± 1.7 mm TL) than in the Sargassum bed (overall mean: 158 ± 12 days; 61.3 ± 1.00 mm TL). YOY collected in the Zostera bed were born earlier (mainly in January) than YOY from the Sargassum bed (mainly in February). In addition, a significant linear relationship was found between the age at formation of the FHZ and nucleus dimensions, suggesting that nucleus dimensions were a reliable macroscopic indicator of the time of formation of the FHZ and, consequently, also an indicator of the nursery where YOY grew. Linear discriminant function analysis (LDFA) based on the width and length of the otolith nucleus could distinguish juveniles from Zostera (88-96%) and Sargassum (96-97%) beds with a high degree of accuracy. In the other approach, six detectable trace elements (Li, Mn, Ni, Cu, Zn, and Ba) in otoliths of YOY collected in the nursery grounds were measured by high-resolution, inductively coupled mass spectrometry. LDFA based on the trace elemental composition separated YOY from three nurseries with 100% of accuracy. Findings suggest that both the trace elemental composition and nucleus dimensions of otoliths can be used as natural tags of the nursery grounds of S. inermis, offering a considerable potential for answering questions on habitat use and the contribution of nursery grounds to the adult stock.