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Department of Fish and Game

Sept. 25, 2003

Chamois Andersen, Information Officer, (916) 657-4132
Carrie Wilson, Marine Region, (831) 649-7191
Deb Wilson-Vandenberg, Research Manager, (831) 649-2892

Three Ocean Sport Fisheries Scheduled to Close Oct. 8

Annual harvest limits will soon be met for three ocean sport fish - cabezon, greenlings and California sheephead (CGS) - prompting marine managers to close those fisheries effective midnight on Wed., Oct. 8 for the remainder of the year, the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) has announced.

Ocean sport fisheries that remain open include lingcod, sculpin (scorpionfish), rockfish species not prohibited, as well as ocean whitefish, sanddabs, sand bass, kelp bass, yellowtail, several tuna species, and California halibut. Rockfish species, lingcod, sculpin, and ocean whitefish are available in water depths up to 120 feet from Cape Mendocino to Point Conception, and in waters up to 180 feet south of Pt. Conception.

Due to the closure of the CGS fisheries, the current sport bag limit of 10 fish in the rockfish, cabezon, and greenling (RCG) complex can now only include rockfish species. Within the 10-fish bag, anglers can keep only two "shallow" nearshore rockfish species (defined as black-and-yellow, gopher, kelp, grass, and China rockfishes). For a complete list of open ocean sport fisheries, log on to DFG's Web site at .

The CGS fishery closure scheduled for Oct. 8 will apply coastwide to all recreational angling and diving activities in all waters, at all depths, and includes all methods of take. The year-round sport-fishing season for these species north of Cape Mendocino will also be closed.

While central and southern California sport anglers were subject to a six-month season for rockfishes, cabezon, greenlings, and other species that opened July 1 (except sheephead, which opened Jan. 1), unanticipated high landings prompted the early closures. DFG's marine managers explained that this is the result of several key factors. Anglers who typically target salmon and albacore found that those fisheries, unlike last year when oceanic conditions were excellent, were not as active in the early part of the season. Instead those anglers fished for rockfish. Because of the sheer number of anglers who experienced successful catches, the quotas were met during what many consider the prime-fishing season.

"Our sampling efforts reveal that a large number of anglers caught an unusually high number of fish just after the season opened," said Fred Wendell, DFG's Nearshore Fishery manager. "Coupled with catches being landed in northern California when fishing was open in early 2003, and fish from central and southern waters that were caught when the season was closed, we've just about reached or exceeded our annual limits for cabezon, greenlings, and sheephead."

Depth regulations and bag and possession limits are key to managing the resource. "Anglers and the hundreds of boat captains along the coast who take out paying patrons really need to understand the regulations in order to ensure the right fish are being caught during the open fishing season," Wendell said.

"We do have a lot of regulations that sport anglers need to follow. And regulations have become more complex as fishery managers struggle to provide as much fishing opportunity as possible while avoiding fishing for overfished ocean stocks such as bocaccio and canary rockfish."

Typically, annual harvest limits imposed on individual species are based on harvest records and fishing practices from previous years. Capping the number of fish harvested each year is considered a fishery management tool that DFG uses to ensure each fishery remains at a sustainable level for the long-term.

Based on projections from recent recreational catch estimates derived from the Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey, the recreational allocation of 84,330 pounds of cabezon, 26,403 pounds of greenlings, and 135,524 pounds of sheephead for the 2003 calendar year will be taken or exceeded by the Oct. 8 closure date.

In addition, the commercial greenling fishery has been closed since June 19, and the commercial cabezon fishery was closed July 10, when projections of catches indicated the commercial allocations had been reached for 2003.

Catches for other shallow nearshore species are also high, which may lead to DFG closing the shallow nearshore rockfish fisheries in November. Reaching the harvest limits for cabezon so quickly is an indication that shallow rockfish limits will be met in the next few weeks because those fish occupy the same nearshore waters and are caught in conjunction with CGS. During October, marine mangers will review harvest data for nearshore species and based upon their findings, if shallow nearshore rockfish fisheries require closing, DFG will notify anglers prior to any scheduled closure.





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