New rockfish regulations active in state waters

THE CALIFORNIAN fishing full-day out of Ventura Harbor Sportfishing puts anglers on the meat.


SACRAMENTO — On April 19, the California Office of Administrative Law (OAL) approved the regulations adopted March 26 by the California Fish and Game Commission which conforms our state waters regulations with those in federal waters which went active April 1.

At this writing, Department of Fish and Wildlife staff is hard at work updating web resources to reflect the change.

The basics are the waters from Point Lopez, Big Sur, south to the Mexican border are open all-depth for rockfish now.


The vermilion sub-bag limit is now 2 fish from Cape Mendocino south to the Mexican border, while it remains at 4 between there and the Oregon border.

The old Cowcod Conservation Area is open, all depths for the first time in over 2 decades. However, within that area there are several areas over parts of some deep banks that will remain closed. These are called Groundfish Exclusion Areas and skippers will want to be aware of the coordinates that define them.

There is a new requirement to have a descending device rigged and ready when you are fishing for rockfish or have them aboard.

In the waters south of Pt. Lopez at 36N lat. the open waters and rockfish groups change every 3 months, first all-depth, then just shallower than 50 fathoms and then just deeper.

This was necessary to keep both vermilion and copper rockfish catches below annual limits while providing as long a season as possible.

DEEP BITERS on the Fury out of Dana Wharf Sportfishing.

The north regulations are somewhat more involved, with the need to keep from any level of quillback rockfish mortality. A nearshore species, essentially the objective is to keep waters between 20 and 50 fathoms closed, and limit the time spent inside of 20 fathoms where quillback that are in those waters are most likely to survive when released.

When the inshore waters and nearshore rockfish species are closed anglers can still fish for lobster, crab and squid using nets inshore, but may not have any hook-and-line gear rigged if they have rockfish aboard.

Simpler regulations that kept catches of reds, quillback, copper and other constraining species below limited catch levels would have cut rockfish season to mere weeks and fishing for other available rockfish species with it.

Anglers see a plentitude of vermilion in the southern half of the state, and the low levels of copper and quillback rockfish as assessed seem unlikely to most. That disconnect between fisheries science and the fishery is likely the result of very limited fisheries data going into the assessment process.

Fishery representatives, anglers and scientists are working together to fulfill the desperate need for robust biological data on all rockfish species.

Skippers should sure to look at the new regulations before going. Here are some important links shared by James Philips of the CDFW on April 19.


The Groundfish regulations for State waters were approved by OAL and are in effect. The summary of Groundfish regulations has been updated . This is the webpage of record and all other CDFW webpages ultimate reference this one. If you or anyone else finds an error on another CDFW page please let us know and we will get it resolved. In addition to this the following webpages and resources were updated


  1. Ocean sport fishing webpages – These are the “stop light” pages that let people know what you can and cannot fish for in each Management Area.
  2. Ocean Sport Fishing Map – This shows the current RCA boundary lines that are in effect in each management area.
  3. New Groundfish Exclusion Area webpage – This is the webpage for the GEA’s that replaced the CCA’s once the CCA was repealed.
  4. Map of the Groundfish Management Areas. – This is the static map you see in a lot of reports.

Marine Region Groundfish blog post went out this afternoon. We are also trying to update the sportfishing regulation PDF tonight as well, but that might have to wait until next week. Let me know if you have any questions.