For two decades, recreational fishing for groundfish species in deep waters off the California coast has been completely off limits, driven by the need to protect certain stocks that have been overfished. This marks the first time anglers off the northern California coast will be allowed to fish for groundfish without needing to abide by fishing depth limit regulations.
The all-depth fishery will take place only in November and December 2019, and only north of Point Arena. The newly open areas will allow anglers to target groundfish species in the midwater column, such as widow and yellowtail rockfish, as well as species found on the bottom. There are no special gear requirements, though unless otherwise specified, regulations require anglers to use not more than two hooks and one line to target groundfish. All other season dates, bag limits, size limits and other special area closures still apply.
“We’re hoping there will be calm weather windows on the north coast, so anglers can get out and try their luck with a different variety of rockfish and other groundfish species that are found in deeper depths these next two months,” said CDFW Federal Fisheries Program Manager Marci Yaremko.
While the all-depth fishery has been proposed since 2017, encounters with yelloweye rockfish (Sebastes ruberrimus) in 2017 and 2018 exceeded the federal limit. In-season regulatory action in those years was needed to restrict depth limits in most areas of the state and also prevented the all-depth fishery from occurring. Following the outcome of the most recent yelloweye stock assessment indicating the population is rebuilding much sooner than expected, the federal limit increased in 2019, allowing the all-depth fishery this year.
California’s rugged north coast offers many opportunities to fish for groundfish from vessels. Launch and harbor facilities for private vessels are available from Fort Bragg to Crescent City but may vary by port and time of year. For those wishing to take a fishing trip on a party or charter vessel, there are multiple businesses offering fishing out of Fort Bragg, Shelter Cove, Eureka, Trinidad and Crescent City. An internet search for a specific port and “rockfish fishing” can quickly provide business contact information, scheduling details and cost of trips and gear rentals.
Anglers who take advantage of the deeper depths during November and December may encounter yelloweye rockfish. CDFW continues to recommend anglers avoid fishing in areas where yelloweye rockfish are known to occur. If encountered, yelloweye rockfish should be immediately returned to the water using best fish handling practices, and anglers should use a descending device in order to minimize injury and mortality. CDFW also encourages anglers who encounter yelloweye rockfish to change fishing locations to prevent catch of the species.
For more information regarding groundfish regulations, management and fish identification tools, please visit the CDFW Marine Region Groundfish website.