Monterey rockfish anglers tap federal waters

NICE SCORE in federal waters out of Monterey.


MONTEREY— The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has approved the rockfish, lingcod and greenling (RCG) regulations for the 2024 fishing season, finally. Apparently one final submission and legal approval is due before the season goes into full official effect.

Anglers in the Monterey Bay have been fishing “Federal Waters” all week, with the tacit approval of DFW. State waters stop at a line three miles from shore. Unfortunately, Monterey Bay like San Francisco Bay legally is a “closed bay.” This means state waters extend to the narrowest point of the bay. In San Francisco, that would be the Golden Gate a narrow passageway. Monterey Bay, however is 30 miles across and the Federal line extends roughly from Lighthouse Point in Santa Cruz straight across to Point Pinos near Monterey. This puts the Federal waters line about 12 miles offshore from Moss Landing. The immense Monterey Bay Submarine Canyon provides many good spots for deep water fishing that anglers cannot advantage at this time. Monterey and Moss Landing anglers are most affected by this current legal condition. From Santa Cruz, the 50- fathom line and the three-mile Federal waters boundary are in closer proximity and anglers have done very well this week, catching a mix of vermilion and chilipepper rockfish, and some truly impressive lingcod.

By far the most prolific and targeted type of fish in our area, rockfishing can be as simple or complicated as you want to make it. The standard rig used by most is a shrimp fly jig. We’re allowed only two hooks on each jig, and only one rod may be used per angler for RCG species. The flies are often tipped with bits of squid for added scent attraction and flavor. Deckhands on the charter boats and other experienced anglers recommend a thin strip of squid hooked on one end, so the squid strip flutters in the current like a little underwater flag. The shrimp flys can be used without bait at all, though anchovy, herring or mackerel chunks can add that extra cachet to elicit a bite. Fishing with heavy irons can be productive and exciting while going deep. Plastic swimbait also work well, even at those depths, but the leadhead needs to be very heavy and using braid as your mainline is a smart move.


Anglers can still target non-RCG species in shallower waters, but no gear may be deployed if those vessels possess any deepwater rockfish aboard. In other words, fish for your anchovies, sardines, mackerel or halibut before you target the deep rockfish this month. This year the DFW is providing waypoints to describe that 120-foot line, and also is providing an app for your smartphone to provide that information while you’re out on the water. Most sonar unit makers have prepared software updates for your unit that will describe these boundary lines as well. In May, we are looking at a switcheroo. Inside of 120 feet of water, fishing for the RCG will be allowed, and that regulation stays in effect until October.

Bushnell operates Santa Cruz Kayak Fishing and Surfcasting Guide Service. Please send your reports, pictures or questions to