State/National/WorldFish Rap

2022 Introduces New Rock Fish Regulations

CALIFORNIA—The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) announced several changes to recreational rockfish sub-bag limits, which took effect on Jan. 6.


The regulations’ importance was considered and adopted by the California Fish and Game Commission in mid-December to align with federal regulations for these species.


Although the rockfish population remains very healthy and robust overall, some subpopulations were re-evaluated recently, and the data showed a decline in certain species.


“New stock assessments conducted in 2021 for quillback and copper rockfish suggest severe population declines for these two species,” said CDFW Environmental Program Manager Marci Yaremko in a press release from Jan. 4.


Yaremko also noted the unsustainably high catches of vermilion rockfish that have occurred each year since 2015. For those reasons, new federal regulations were implemented to reduce sport bag limits for these three species in 2022.


“Groundfish, including species like copper and quillback rockfish, are managed through the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC). The PFMC’s Scientific and Statistical Committee recently reviewed and approved the use of new stock assessments for Copper and Quillback rockfish,” said information provided by Perter Tira of CDFW on behalf on the CDFW’s marine biologists. “The pessimistic results from these stock assessments were the driver for reductions in the sub-bag limit for Copper and Quillback Rockfish. Unsustainably high catches of vermilion rockfish have occurred each year since 2015, and a review of catch data from 2021 showed the 5-fish bag limit was not reducing catches enough. The data and justification for the decision to reduce the sub-bag limit for these species can be found in a PFMC briefing book for November, Agenda Item E.7.a. CDFW Report 2.”


The changes to the sub-bag limits within the 10-fish daily Rockfish, Cabezon, Greenling (RCG) complex bag, and possession limit include:

  • A decrease to the statewide sub-bag limit for vermilion rockfish from five fish to four fish.
  • A new statewide sub-bag limit for quillback rockfish of one fish.
  • A new statewide sub-bag limit for copper rockfish of one fish.
  • The RCG complex has a daily 10-fish bag and possession aggregate limit, meaning that each angler’s catch can be made up of any combination of rockfish, cabezon, or greenling, if the total catch remains at or below ten fish. Sub-bag limits within the RCG bag limit are exercised when harvest guidelines cannot accommodate the 10-fish bag limit composed of a single species.

Anglers are advised to release rockfish or any other species subject to barotrauma; the use of a descending device is encouraged to return the fish to the bottom. Please visit CDFW’s Rockfish Barotrauma page for more information.


To better assist anglers with identifying rockfish species while fishing, CDFW is creating new informational brochures to help identify copper and quillback rockfish from similar-looking species, such as gopher and canary rockfish. The flyers will be available soon on CDFW’s Fish and Shellfish Identification page and the Marine Region Groundfish page.


Anglers are encouraged to check CDFW’s website for the most up-to-date regulations before fishing for groundfish, including rockfish, lingcod, and other species defined in the California Code of Regulations; changes can occur in-season. Although the boat-based groundfish fishery is closed statewide as of Jan. 1, the fishery is open year-round for shore-based angling and spearfishing. The boat-based recreational groundfish fishery season dates and depth limits are expected to be the same as in 2021 and are as follows:

  • In the Northern Management Area (the Oregon/California state line to near Cape Mendocino) and the Mendocino Management Area (near Cape Mendocino to Point Arena) from May 1 through Oct. 31, take is prohibited seaward of the 180 feet Rockfish Conservation Area (RCA) boundary line. From Nov. 1 through Dec. 31, groundfish may be taken at any depth in these two areas.
  • In the San Francisco Management Area (Point Arena to Pigeon Point) and the Central Management Area (Pigeon Point to Point Conception) from Apr. 1 through Dec. 31, take is prohibited seaward of the 300 feet RCA boundary line.
  • In the Southern Management Area (Point Conception to the U.S./Mexico border) from March 1 through Dec. 31, take is prohibited seaward of the 600 feet RCA boundary line.
  • In all Groundfish Management Areas, the RCA boundary line for the established depth constraint is the series of connected waypoints defined in the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 50, Part 660, Subpart C.

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