CDFW News | Big changes to the Sport Groundfish Regulations coming in 2023
Big changes to the Sport Groundfish Regulations coming in 2023
Significant changes to California’s groundfish sport fishing regulations are expected starting next year, in response to recent scientific information suggesting that some coastal groundfish species are in decline. In order to reduce pressure on these stocks, fishing seasons will be shorter in nearshore waters, but new opportunities in deeper waters are anticipated.
The upcoming changes were developed by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) over the past year and reflect the results of a public decision-making process where the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) worked with representatives from the fishing industry, non-governmental organizations, and state, federal, and tribal governments to balance the need for fishing season closures in coastal waters with the needs of these communities and industries. The PFMC approved the recommendations for 2023 and 2024 at its June meeting.
Based on these recommendations, the National Marine Fisheries Service has begun the process of amending federal regulations, which is expected to take effect in January 2023. The California Fish and Game Commission is considering the same changes to sport fishing regulations in sea for state waters.
California Groundfish Sport Regulations divide the state into five “Groundfish Management Zones” – within which fishing seasons, rockfish conservation zones, or depth constraints and catch limits may to differ. In 2022, the length of nearshore groundfish seasons ranged from eight to 10 months, but in 2023 it is expected to decrease to no more than five and a half months in all areas.
Within the combined daily limit of 10 fish for rockfish, cabezons and greenlings, sub-bag limits of one fish each for quillback and copper rockfish, and four fish for vermilion rockfish will continue in 2023 These sub-bag limits are in effect. since January 2022 and was needed because new information in 2021 indicated severe declines in quillback and copperfish populations off California, and recreational catches of vermilion rockfish continued to be above sustainable harvest limits.
Sub-pocket limits and shortened fishing seasons should achieve the necessary reductions in catches of copper, vermilion and quillback rockfish.
While groundfish seasons will be shorter for inshore waters and some bag limits will be reduced, new opportunities to fish in deeper water starting in 2023 will allow anglers to target healthy populations of rockfish. shelf and slope in deeper waters, such as widow and yellowtail rockfish or bottom blackgill rockfish. In addition, sport fishing seasons for certain other federally managed groundfish species such as sablefish (sometimes called “black cod” or “butterfish”) will be open year-round with no depth constraints. Access to these previously closed depths means new experiences for anglers as they explore new habitats, new fishing spots, new target species, and new gear configurations to assemble and deploy.
“Next year should bring a momentous change in the sport groundfish fishery, as all of the overfished species on the shelf that have driven management decisions for much of the past two decades are now in good health,” said Marci Yaremko, CDFW Environmental Program Manager. “While concerns over spiny and copper rockfish will impact inshore fishing for years to come, there are also a number of new opportunities for anglers, and CDFW looks forward to supporting their development.”
To stay informed of in-season regulatory changes, please call the Recreational Groundfish Hotline at (831) 649-2801 or view CDFW’s Recreational Groundfish Angling Regulatory Summary.
Caroline McKnight, CDFW Marine Region, (831) 277-7683
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 804-1714
Photo: CDFW photo of a copper rockfish, by Ed Roberts