Boat-based rockfish depth regulations released – more opportunity in 2024



SACRAMENTO – Boat-based rockfish took a major hit in August/September 2023 with the closure of waters shallower that 300 feet due to concern for a single species, the quillback, but the 2024 rockfish regulations lead to more opportunity for shallow water fishing during specific months. The new regulations are designed to protect quillback rockfish as they are found primarily between 20 and 50 fathoms (120 to 300 feet). Since quillbacks are rarely found in the Central Management Zone south of 36 degrees of latitude, the depth restrictions are far more liberal in the Central below this line and in the Southern Management Zones. In the Northern, Mendocino, San Francisco, and Central Zones above 36 degrees, rockfish season will start on April 1 deeper than 50 fathoms. During May, June, July, August, and September – rockfishing is allowed only less than 20 fathoms before returning to deeper than 50 fathoms in October. During the crucial months of November and December when the crab/rockfish combination season is open, rockfishing will be allowed only shallower than 20 fathoms. In 2023, the restriction to fish only deeper than 50 fathoms during the combo season limited a number of operations due to a more than 20-mile one-way trip to deep water. Kayakers will now have access to the shallow waters during certain months after being shut out from access for months last year. Quillback and cowcod rockfish remain closed while the sub-limit for vermilion rockfish south of the 40/10 line is two fish. A descending device is highly recommended on all vessels.

ROCKFISH MANAGEMENT ZONES – Rockfish regulations are different in the Southern and Central Zones below 36 degrees of latitude

In the Southern Zone and Central Zone south of 36 degree, rockfishing is open at any depths in April, May, and June before transitioning to less than 50 fathoms for the remainder of the year. All of this is good news for an industry that was severely limited in 2023. Coordinates for the 20-Fathom line can be downloaded here. Party and private boaters along the California coast are gearing up for the April 1 opener, but good weather is necessary to make it out far offshore past the 50-Fathom line out of most ports.

2024 BOAT-BASED ROCKFISH REGULATIONS – Stay up on rockfish regulations to keep legal as the season is only a few weeks away.