The 2002-2003 ocean sport fishing regulations for nearshore species, including rockfish, lingcod, California scorpionfish (sculpin), surfperch, and abalone are now in effect for all state waters. The regulations were approved Jan. 10 by the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) and filed with the Secretary of State.
The regulations are a part of the California Department of Fish and Game's (DFG) 2002 sport fishing regulations that the Fish and Game Commission adopted at its Dec. 7, 2001 meeting in Long Beach. Sport fishing regulations for both ocean and inland fisheries are adopted by commissioners every two years.
The regulations are available on the Fish and Game Commission's Web site at www.dfg.ca.gov/fg_comm/oceanfish02web.pdf.
The new state regulations for offshore and nearshore rockfish and lingcod stocks were prompted by action taken in November by the Pacific Fishery Management Council. The Council voted to decrease the bag and possession limits of certain rockfish species found in federal waters to help rebuild overfished stocks of bocaccio, canary, cowcod, yelloweye rockfishes, and lingcod. Because many of these species are found in both state and federal waters, the Commission adopted similar state laws to comply with the federal regulations for these species. Also prompted by the new regulations are the designated management areas for rockfish and lingcod species.
The new management areas are:
- Northern Rockfish and Lingcod Management Area - waters from Cape Mendocino (40 degrees, 10 minutes north latitude) to the California-Oregon border.
- Central Rockfish and Lingcod Management Area - (formally known as the Northern Rockfish and Lingcod Management Area) waters from 40 degrees, 10 minutes north latitude south to Point Conception.
- The Southern Rockfish and Lingcod Management Area and Cowcod Closure Areas - remains the same; between Point Conception (34 degrees, 27 minutes north latitude) and the US/Mexico border.
Rockfish, lingcod, and sculpin fisheries will be closed for eight months (March-June and September-December, inclusive) in offshore waters (deeper than 20 fathoms) of the central management area, and closed for four months in offshore waters (January-February and November-December) in the southern management area.
In addition, in order to address fishing pressure that could occur to nearshore stocks as a result of the offshore closures, the nearshore fishery 20 fathoms deep (120 feet) will be closed in the central management area during March, April, November and December.
However, during the offshore closures in the central management area (May, June, September, and October), nearshore anglers will be allowed to take and possess two lingcod and two offshore species of rockfish in waters less than 20 fathoms deep (120 feet). This two-fish allowance, however, does not apply to offshore species of bocaccio, canary, cowcod, and yelloweye rockfishes because of their depressed status.
The nearshore fishery will be closed in the southern management area during January, February, November, and December - the same months the offshore fisheries are closed.
The new sport fishing regulations also include a reduction in the minimum size limit for lingcod from the previous 26 inches to 24 inches in total length, and a reduction in the minimum fillet length for lingcod from 18 to 16 inches.
The new regulations for finfish species do not apply to angling or spear fishing for rockfish and lingcod from shore or from any man-made structure.
In the northern management area, all waters from Cape Mendocino north to the Oregon border are not affected by the closures and therefore, will remain open to sport fishing opportunities for rockfish and lingcod year-round.
Nearshore rockfish are listed under section 1.90 on page 6 of the 2001 sport fishing regulation booklet and page 7 of the 2002 booklet, which is currently available only online at www.dfg.ca.gov/fg_comm/oceanfish02web.pdf. DFG will continue to monitor nearshore rockfish catches during 2002 and may consider recommending a late season regulation change, which may provide for additional fishing opportunities.
In addition, the Commission's adoption of regulations for surfperch include:
- A minimum size limit of 10 ½ inches for redtail surfperch (within the 20 total fish daily bag and possession limit).
- A daily recreational bag limit of five surfperch for all species, with the exception for shiner surfperch (a total of 20 shiner surfperch may be taken and possessed).
- The take and possession of surfperch is prohibited in San Francisco Bay and San Pablo Bay from April 1 to July 31, inclusive.
Also adopted by the Commission and approved by OAL, are new abalone sport fishing regulations. The reduced recreational bag limit is three per day and 24 per year. The previous bag limit was four per day, 100 per year. The abalone sport season occurs each year from April 1 to June 30, and from Aug. 1 to Nov. 30, only in waters north of San Francisco Bay. North coast red abalone can only be taken by sport divers for personal consumption. In addition, the abalone report "punch cards" must now be returned to DFG within 30 days of the end of the abalone season, rather than within 30 days of the end of the calender year, as previously required.