Groundfish Regulation Changes Reconsidered for North Coast, Yelloweye Rockfish Conservation Areas Will Not Be Implemented on May 1

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The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) announced today that it will not implement Yelloweye Rockfish Conservation Areas (YRCAs) under 2008 groundfish regulations. The decision was made due to concerns that additional fishing restrictions could have a negative impact on local communities already burdened with salmon closures.

“Because the department is not implementing YRCAs this year, fishermen need to be extra careful to avoid encounters with yelloweye rockfish to reduce the likelihood of an early season closure,” said DFG Director Donald Koch. “We will implement an early closure if the yelloweye harvest limit is projected to be exceeded.”

Beginning May 1 however, new recreational fishing regulations will go into effect to prohibit fishing for groundfish in federal waters greater than 120 feet (20 fathoms) deep in northern California. The regulations were first announced by DFG on Apr. 18 and will help protect yelloweye rockfish and canary rockfish – both prohibited species.

When the season opens May 1, DFG asks anglers to voluntarily restrict fishing for groundfish in state waters to less than 120 feet until state emergency regulations making this official become effective shortly thereafter. Voluntary cooperation is necessary to minimize contact with yelloweye rockfish and prevent an early fishery closure. The season, area and depth restrictions (listed by management area) for boat-based anglers will be as follows:

NORTHERN MANAGEMENT AREA -OREGON BORDER TO 40°10′ NORTH LATITUDE (NEAR CAPE MENDOCINO, HUMBOLDT COUNTY)

  • Rockfish, cabezon, greenlings (RCG Complex) and other federal groundfish (other than lingcod): Open to boat-based anglers from May 1 through Dec. 31 in waters from 0 to 120 feet (0 to 20 fm).
  • Lingcod: Open to boat-based anglers from May 1 through Nov. 30 in waters from 0 to 120 feet (0 to 20 fm).

NORTH-CENTRAL MANAGEMENT AREA – 40°10′ NORTH LATITUDE (NEAR CAPE MENDOCINO, HUMBOLDT COUNTY), TO 37° 11’ NORTH LATITUDE (NEAR PIGEON POINT, SAN MATEO COUNTY)

  • Rockfish, cabezon, greenlings (RCG Complex) and other federal groundfish (other than lingcod): Open to boat-based anglers from June 1 through Nov. 30 in waters from 0 to 120 feet (0 to 20 fm).
  • Lingcod: Open to boat-based anglers from June 1 through Nov. 30 in waters from 0 to 120 feet (0 to 20 fm).

To minimize impacts on yelloweye and canary rockfish, contribute to the recovery of fish populations and help avoid an in-season closure, anglers can take the following steps:

  • Know all rockfish species and regulations. The California regulations booklet for Ocean Sport Fishing includes color illustrations of rockfish frequently encountered in California waters (www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/pdfs/fishid2008.pdf). In addition, a flyer distinguishing canary and yelloweye rockfish is available at www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/pdfs/canary_id.pdf. Numerous ocean finfish identification tools that can be found at www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/fishid.asp.
  • Avoid areas with high relief (like pinnacles) where yelloweye rockfish are known to live.
  • If yelloweye or canary rockfish are encountered when fishing, move to a different location to reduce contact with these species.
  • Use methods to help fish descend back down to depth that reduce gas expansion injuries (pressure shock or barotrauma). Weighted upside-down milk crates, inverted barbless hooks and commercial fish descending devices are all effective in reducing release mortality. The sooner the fish can be returned to depth, the greater its chances for survival. Please do not use a needle or other object to deflate a “bloated” fish as this can damage internal organs. For information about gas expansion injuries and descending devices visit www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/pdfs/release.pdf.
  • Report catches and encounters to samplers accurately.

“To ensure the best possible information is used in creating groundfish seasons, anglers must provide accurate information to California Recreational Fishery Survey samplers,” Koch said. “Both under-reporting and over-reporting yelloweye or canary rockfish catches can bring about negative results for California recreational anglers.”

If an angler inflates the number of fish released, the result is an overestimation of harvest that could result in an unnecessary fishery closure. If an angler reduces the number of fish released, the stock assessments that use these data may underestimate their actual ocean abundance, and lower harvest limits may be developed in the future to rebuild the population.

DFG fishery managers will be monitoring catches on a weekly basis so that they can take prompt action should an early closure be needed.

The department hopes that the combination of the 120 foot depth restriction and voluntary avoidance measures by fishermen will allow a full groundfish season in the North and North Central Management Areas.

Materials to assist anglers with identifying yelloweye and canary rockfish and help these species survive once released can be found on the DFG Web site. This information will soon be available at all DFG offices. For more information regarding recreational groundfish regulations and to stay informed of in-season regulation changes, please call the groundfish hotline (831) 649-2801, or visit DFG’s Marine Region Web site at www.dfg.ca.gov/marine.