Big Changes to Sport Groundfish Regulations Coming in 2023

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Big Changes to Sport Groundfish Regulations Coming in 2023
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Source: California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW)

Significant changes to California’s groundfish sport fishing regulations are expected starting next year, in response to recent scientific information suggesting some nearshore groundfish species are in decline. To reduce pressure on these stocks, fishing seasons will be shorter in nearshore waters, but new opportunities in deeper water are anticipated.

The upcoming changes were developed by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) over the past year and reflect outcomes of a public decision-making process where the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) worked with fishing industry representatives, non-governmental organizations, and state, federal and tribal governments to balance the need for fishing season closures in nearshore 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 are expected to take effect in January 2023. The California Fish and Game Commission is considering the same changes to ocean sport fishing regulations for state waters.

California’s sport groundfish regulations divide the state into five “Groundfish Management Areas” – in which the fishing seasons, Rockfish Conservation Areas or depth constraints, and bag limits may differ. In 2022, nearshore groundfish fishing season lengths ranged from eight to 10 months, but in 2023, they are expected to shrink to not more than five and a half months in all areas.

Within the 10-fish daily combined rockfish, cabezon and greenling bag limit, the 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 have been in effect since January 2022 and were necessary because new information in 2021 indicated severe declines in the populations of quillback and copper rockfish off California, and recreational vermilion rockfish catch continued to be greater than sustainable harvest limits.

Both the sub-bag limits and shortened fishing seasons are expected to achieve necessary reductions in copper, vermilion and quillback rockfish catch.

While groundfish fishing seasons will be shorter for nearshore waters and some bag limits are reduced, new opportunities to fish in deeper water beginning in 2023 will allow anglers to target healthy populations of shelf and slope rockfish in deeper waters, like schooling mid-water widow and yellowtail rockfish, or bottom-dwelling blackgill rockfish. Additionally, the sport fishing seasons for some other federally managed groundfish species like sablefish (sometimes called “black cod” or “butterfish”) will be open year-round without depth constraints. Access to these previously closed depths means new experiences for anglers as they explore new habitats, new fishing locations, new target species, and new gear configurations to assemble and deploy.

“Next year is expected to bring a momentous shift in the sport groundfish fishery as all but one of the overfished shelf species that drove management decisions for the better part of the past two decades are now healthy,” said CDFW Environmental Program Manager Marci Yaremko. “While concerns for quillback and copper rockfish will impact the nearshore fishery in the coming years, 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 visit CDFW’s summary of recreational groundfish fishing regulations.


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Basicinfo805 Aug 11, 2022 02:15 PM
Big Changes to Sport Groundfish Regulations Coming in 2023

The local effect of the debris dump on Goleta beach was probably bad, but not what effected the DFG to make this decision. They try and use a much larger scale assessment. Not saying it’s accurate or effective. Fisheries “science” is still so so fraught with errors, assumptions, and limitations.

Luvaduck Aug 11, 2022 10:11 AM
Big Changes to Sport Groundfish Regulations Coming in 2023

Does the Thomas Fire depris dumped on the beach or washed into the ocean have anything to do with the declining fish populations? A recent article dealt with expectations/hopes at the time vs findings now didn't specifically mention fish, only crustaceans. Anyone with factual information or URL to recommend?

surfbum Aug 10, 2022 10:06 PM
Big Changes to Sport Groundfish Regulations Coming in 2023

Anglers in California have had to observe depth restrictions because
several rockfish species such as cowcod and yelloweye rockfish which inhabit deeper waters can be incidentally taken while fishing for other non threatened species. Most rockfish species taken in deeper waters cannot survive a "catch and release" protocol because once they are brought to the surface they suffer from fatal barotrauma or "bends" due to the sudden change of atmospheric pressure. Now the fishery managers have done an about face and have devised "new fishing opportunities" by opening up this previously protected deeper water habitat (formally known as conservation areas). This is in response to the decades long concentrated fishing effort in shallower waters where it is now evident that many nearshore species have been overfished. Commercial fishermen are required to have Federal observers on board when fishing most of these waters for groundfish in order to document which species are harvested for management purposes. It should be no different for recreational fishermen to be subject to such data collection with the use of punch cards, log books, etc.

Lucky 777 Aug 10, 2022 12:21 PM
Big Changes to Sport Groundfish Regulations Coming in 2023

The appropriate way to address this issue would be to rebuild habitats with artificial reefs.
This local organization produces the Sea Cave®, which is being utilized globally as a key tool for kelp forest and coral restoration. A "pilot program" was done with several of their caves off of Goleta and was a total success, kelp began to grow and fish gather in what was previously only a sand undersea desert. Then, in a typical government idiotic move, they were told to remove their caves as the project was over. The Government would rather legislate and restrict instead of life positive solutions.
Check out the Fish Reef Project and donate to their worthy efforts.

Harbor_Seal Aug 11, 2022 11:11 AM
Big Changes to Sport Groundfish Regulations Coming in 2023

That sounds like a demand the California Coastal Commission would make… I once worked on a project to remove existing offshore concrete anchors with new steel anchors per the demands of the California Coastal Commission. The concrete anchors were removed (covered in sea creatures) and taken to a local landfill. Then we installed giant steel anchors (shipped from China) in their place.

At one point I had a housemate who worked at the Coastal Commission and I can’t count the times they would tell me about the convoluted politics driving decisions. That agency is filled with a bunch of self righteous wanna be “scientists”.

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