Current California Ocean Recreational Fishing Regulations

37°11 N. Latitude (Pigeon Point in San Mateo County) to 34°27 N. Latitude (Point Conception, Santa Barbara County)

Includes a portion of San Mateo County, all of Santa Cruz, Monterey, and San Luis Obispo counties, and a portion of Santa Barbara County

This summary of current regulations was updated on November 2, 2019.

See the California Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet for complete regulation information, including regulations for species not covered here.

Open Fishing Seasons

  Rockfish

The recreational fishery for rockfish (Sebastes species) is open year-round to divers and shore-based anglers. This fishery is open to boat-based anglers from April 1, 2019 through December 31, 2019. Take of these species is prohibited seaward of the 50 fathom depth contour (300 feet), defined in Federal regulations (50 CFR Part 660, Subpart C). The daily bag and possession limit is 10 fish in combination of all species within the RCG Complex (includes all species of Rockfish, Cabezon and Greenlings) per person, with a sub-limit on black rockfish (4 per person) and canary rockfish (3 per person), also included in the 10-fish RCG Complex aggregate limit. Yelloweye rockfish, link opens in new windowbronzespotted rockfish, and cowcod may not be retained (bag limit: zero). 

Rockfish are part of a group of fish known as groundfish, which includes over 90 species that live on or near the bottom of the ocean (with a few exceptions). View a summary table of groundfish regulations.

View additional groundfish information.

  Cabezon

The recreational fishery for cabezon (Scorpaenichthys marmoratus) is open year-round to divers and shore-based anglers. This fishery is open to boat-based anglers from April 1, 2019 through December 31, 2019. Take of cabezon is prohibited seaward of the 50 fathom depth contour (300 feet), defined in Federal regulations (50 CFR Part 660, Subpart C). The daily bag and possession limit is 3 fish within the 10-fish RCG Complex aggregate limit (includes all species of Rockfish, Cabezon and Greenlings), with a minimum size limit of 15 inches total length.

The cabezon fishery is managed under both state and federal groundfish management plans. The state manages this fishery in concert with the federally managed groundfish group, which includes over 90 species that live on or near the bottom of the ocean (with a few exceptions). View a summary table of groundfish regulations.

View additional groundfish information.

  Kelp and Rock Greenlings

The recreational fisheries for rock greenling and kelp greenling (Hexagrammos spp.) are open year-round to divers and shore-based anglers. These fisheries are open to boat-based anglers from April 1, 2019 through December 31, 2019. Take of greenlings is prohibited seaward of the 50 fathom depth contour (300 feet), defined in Federal regulations (50 CFR Part 660, Subpart C). The daily bag and possession limit is 10 fish within the 10-fish RCG Complex aggregate limit (includes all species of Rockfish, Cabezon and Greenlings), with a minimum size limit of 12 inches total length.

The kelp greenling fishery is managed under both state and federal groundfish management plans, while the rock greenling fishery is managed under California’s Nearshore Fishery Management Plan. Although not a federally managed groundfish species, rock greenlings are often encountered by fishermen targeting federally managed groundfish. Thus, the rock greenling fishery is managed in concert with the federally managed groundfish group, which includes over 90 species that live on or near the bottom of the ocean (with a few exceptions). View a summary table of groundfish regulations.

View additional groundfish information.

  Lingcod

The recreational fishery for lingcod (Ophiodon elongatus) is open year-round to divers and shore-based anglers. This fishery is open to boat-based anglers from April 1, 2019 through December 31, 2019. Take of lingcod is prohibited seaward of the 50 fathom depth contour (300 feet), defined in Federal regulations (50 CFR Part 660, Subpart C). The daily bag and possession limit is 2 fish, with a minimum size limit of 22 inches total length. 

The lingcod is part of a group of fish known as groundfish, which includes over 90 species that live on or near the bottom of the ocean (with a few exceptions). View a summary table of groundfish regulations.

View additional groundfish information.

  California Scorpionfish (a.k.a. sculpin)

The recreational fishery for California scorpionfish (Scorpaena guttata) is open year-round to divers and shore-based anglers. This fishery is open to boat-based anglers from April 1, 2018 through December 31, 2019. Take of California scorpionfish is prohibited seaward of the 50 fathom depth contour (300 feet), defined in Federal regulations (50 CFR Part 660, Subpart C). The daily bag and possession limit is 5 fish with a minimum size limit of 10 inches total length. 

The California scorpionfish is part of a group of fish known as groundfish, which includes over 90 species that live on or near the bottom of the ocean (with a few exceptions). View a summary table of groundfish regulations.

View additional groundfish information.

  California Sheephead

The recreational fishery for California sheephead (Semicossyphus pulcher) is open year-round to divers and shore-based anglers. This fishery is open to boat-based anglers from April 1, 2019 through December 31, 2019. Take of California sheephead is prohibited seaward of the 50 fathom depth contour (300 feet), defined in Federal regulations (50 CFR Part 660, Subpart C). The daily bag and possession limit is 5 fish, with a minimum size limit of 12 inches total length. Read the Marine Management News article link opens in new windowNew California Sheephead Fillet-at-Sea Regulation Now in Effect (April 3, 2019).

The California sheephead fishery is managed under California’s Nearshore Fishery Management Plan. Although not a federally managed groundfish species, California sheephead is often encountered by fishermen targeting federally managed groundfish. Thus, California sheephead is managed in concert with the federally managed groundfish group, which includes over 90 species that live on or near the bottom of the ocean (with a few exceptions). View a summary table of groundfish regulations.

View additional groundfish information.

  Ocean Whitefish

The recreational fishery for link opens in new windowocean whitefish (PDF) (Caulolatilus princeps) is open year-round to divers and shore-based anglers. This fishery is open to boat-based anglers from April 1, 2019 through December 31, 2019. Take of ocean whitefish is prohibited seaward of the 50 fathom depth contour (300 feet), defined in Federal regulations (50 CFR Part 660, Subpart C). The daily bag and possession limit is 10 fish, with no minimum size limit. 

The ocean whitefish fishery is managed by the state of California. Although not a federally managed groundfish species, ocean whitefish are often encountered by fishermen targeting federally managed groundfish. Thus, the ocean whitefish fishery is managed in concert with the federally managed groundfish group, which includes over 90 species that live on or near the bottom of the ocean (with a few exceptions). View a summary table of groundfish regulations.

View additional groundfish information.

  Leopard Shark

Outside of Elkhorn Slough: The recreational fishery for leopard shark (Triakis semifasciata) is open year-round to divers and shore-based anglers. This fishery is open to boat-based anglers from April 1, 2019 through December 31, 2019. Take of leopard shark is prohibited seaward of the 50 fathom depth contour (300 feet), defined in Federal regulations (50 CFR Part 660, Subpart C).

Within Elkhorn Slough, this fishery is open year-round to all anglers and divers, except that in Elkhorn Slough State Marine Conservation Area only hook-and-line fishing is allowed. Also note that in Elkhorn Slough State Marine Reserve no fishing of any kind is allowed. There is no depth limit for this species within Elkhorn Slough.

The daily bag and possession limit for leopard shark is 3 fish with a minimum size limit of 36 inches total length.

The leopard shark is part of a group of fish known as groundfish, which includes over 90 species that live on or near the bottom of the ocean (with a few exceptions). View a summary table of groundfish regulations.

View additional groundfish information.

  Soupfin Shark and Spiny Dogfish

The recreational fisheries for link opens in new windowsoupfin shark (PDF) (Galeorhinus zyopterus) and spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias) are open year-round to divers and shore-based anglers. These fisheries are open to boat-based anglers from April 1, 2019 through December 31, 2019. Take of these species is prohibited seaward of the 50 fathom depth contour (300 feet), defined in Federal regulations (50 CFR Part 660, Subpart C). The daily bag and possession limit for soupfin shark is one fish with no minimum size limit. The daily bag and possession limit for spiny dogfish is 10 fish within the 20-fish general bag limit, and there is no minimum size limit. 

Soupfin shark and spiny dogfish are part of a group of fish known as groundfish, which includes over 90 species that live on or near the bottom of the ocean (with a few exceptions). View a summary table of groundfish regulations.

View additional groundfish information.

  Other Federally Managed Groundfish

The recreational fisheries for all other federally managed groundfish species are open year-round to divers and shore-based anglers. These fisheries are open to boat-based anglers from April 1, 2019 through December 31, 2019. Take of these species is prohibited seaward of the 50 fathom depth contour (300 feet), defined in Federal regulations (50 CFR Part 660, Subpart C). Refer to the California Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet for size limits, bag limits, and other regulations pertaining to these species.

The groundfish group includes over 90 species that live on or near the bottom of the ocean (with a few exceptions). View a summary table of groundfish regulations.

View additional groundfish information.

  Pacific Sanddab and Other Flatfish

The recreational fishery is open year-round to all anglers and divers for the following species: Pacific sanddab (Citharichthys sordidus), link opens in new windowbutter sole (Isopsetta isolepis), link opens in new windowcurlfin sole (Pleuronichthys decurrens), link opens in new windowflathead sole (Hippoglossoides elassodon), link opens in new windowrex sole (PDF) (Glyptocephalus zachirus), link opens in new windowrock sole (Lepidopsetta bilineata), and link opens in new windowsand sole (Psettichthys melanostictus). Refer to the California Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet for size limits, bag limits, and other regulations pertaining to these species.

Pacific sanddab and other flatfish are part of a group of fish known as groundfish, which includes over 90 species that live on or near the bottom of the ocean (with a few exceptions). View a summary of groundfish regulations.

View additional groundfish information.

  Petrale Sole and Starry Flounder

The recreational fisheries for petrale sole (Eopsetta jordani) and starry flounder (Platichthys stellatus) are open year-round to all anglers and divers. There are no depth restrictions or bag limits for petrale sole or starry flounder. Refer to the California Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet for complete sport fishing regulations information.

Petrale sole and starry flounder are part of a group of fish known as groundfish, which includes over 90 species that live on or near the bottom of the ocean (with a few exceptions). View a summary table of groundfish regulations.

View additional groundfish information.

  Sharks (state-managed)

Open year-round, except that white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) may not be taken or possessed at any time. The bag limits for link opens in new windowsixgill shark (YouTube) (Hexanchus griseus) and link opens in new tab or windowsevengill shark (PDF) (Notorynchus cepedianus) allow take of one fish per day with no size limit. The bag limits for shortfin mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus), thresher shark (Alopias vulpinus), and blue shark (Prionace glauca) allow take of two fish per day with no size limit. 

   California Halibut

The recreational fishery for California halibut (Paralichthys californicus) remains open year-round. The daily bag and possession limit is three fish north of Point Sur, Monterey County, and five fish south of Point Sur, Monterey County. The minimum size limit is 22 inches total length. 

   White Seabass

The recreational fishery for white seabass (Atractoscion nobilis) remains open year-round. The daily bag and possession limit is three fish except that only one fish may be taken in waters south of Point Conception between March 15 and June 15. The minimum size limit is 28 inches total length or 20 inches alternate length. 

   Surfperch

The recreational fishery for surfperch (family Embiotocidae) is open year-round. The daily bag and possession limit is 20 fish in combination of all species (except shiner perch), with not more than 10 fish of any one species. Shiner perch (Cymatogaster aggregata) have a separate bag and possession limit of 20 fish. Redtail surfperch (Amphistichus rhodoterus) have a minimum size limit of 10½ inches total length.

Identification Guide: Common Surfperches of California (PDF)

   Sturgeon

The recreational fishery for white sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus) remains open year-round. The daily bag and possession limit is one fish that must be between 40 inches and 60 inches fork length. The annual limit is three (3) sturgeon per person. 

Short or oversized sturgeon must be released unharmed immediately; note that white sturgeon greater than 68 inches fork length may not be removed from the water prior to their immediate release. No snare may be used to assist in taking sturgeon. Only one single barbless hook may be used on a line to take sturgeon. The sturgeon must voluntarily take the bait or lure in its mouth. No sturgeon may be taken by trolling, snagging, or by the use of firearms. Sturgeon may not be gaffed, nor shall any person use any type of firearm to assist in landing or killing any sturgeon. Any person fishing for sturgeon shall have in their possession a non-transferable Sturgeon Fishing Report Card and complete it in accordance with California Code of Regulations Title 14, Section 27.92.

Green sturgeon (Acipenser medirostris) may not be removed from the water, taken, or possessed at any time. Green sturgeon must be released immediately without being removed from the water.

   Tunas

The recreational fishery for tunas is open year-round. Refer to the California Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet for bag limits, possession limits, filleting procedures on vessels, and other regulations pertaining to these species.

   Dungeness Crab

The recreational fishery for Dungeness crab (Metacarcinus magister) is open from November 2, 2019 through June 30, 2020. The daily bag limit is 10 crab, and the minimum size limit is 5¾ inches. Recreational crabbing is not allowed from vessels licensed for commercial Dungeness crab fishing. 

Review link opens in new windowcrab measurement methods (PDF) and the current California Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet for more Dungeness crab fishing information. 

To check for in-season closures due to domoic acid, call the CDFW Domoic Acid Fishery Closure Information Line at (831) 649-2883. Call the CDPH Shellfish Biotoxin Information line at: (510) 412-4643 or toll-free at (800) 553-4133 for updated crab consumption advisories, or check CDFW's Finfish and Shellfish Health Advisories web page.

See additional information about Dungeness crab and other species of crab.

  Rock Crab

The recreational fishery for all rock crab species, including rock crab (Cancer antennarius), yellow crab (Cancer anthonyi) and red crab (Cancer productus) is open year-round, statewide. The daily bag limit is 35 crab, and the minimum size limit is 4 inches. Review link opens in new windowcrab measurement methods (PDF) and the current California Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet for more rock crab fishing information.

See additional information about rock crab and other species of crab.

  Mussels

The recreational season for link opens in new windowCalifornia sea mussel (Mytilus californianus) and bay mussel (Mytilus trossulus) remains open year-round. The daily bag and possession limit is 10 pounds (in the shell) of California sea mussels and bay mussels in combination.

Note that the California Department of Public Health monitors and annually quarantines mussels to prevent human cases of paralytic shellfish poisoning and link opens in new windowdomoic acid poisoning; however, warnings advising consumers not to eat recreationally taken shellfish may be issued at any time. The annual quarantine is usually in effect from May through October, and applies only to sport-harvested mussels intended for human consumption. For updated information on warnings, advisories, and quarantines concerning naturally-occurring shellfish toxins, call the California Department of Public Health's Shellfish Biotoxin Information Line at (510) 412-4643 or toll-free at (800) 553-4133. You can also review CDFW's Finfish and Shellfish Health Advisories web page.

  Kelp

The daily bag limit on all marine aquatic plants for which the take is authorized is 10 pounds wet weight in the aggregate, except that 25 pounds of herring eggs on kelp may be collected. No eel grass, surf grass, or sea palm may be cut or disturbed at any time.

  Other Species

See the California Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet for complete regulations, including regulations for species not covered here.

Closed Fishing Seasons

  Ocean Salmon

The recreational fishery for link opens in new tab or windowocean salmon (PDF) (Onchorynchus spp.) is closed as of August 29, 2019 south of Pigeon Point, San Mateo County. The 2020 ocean salmon season dates will be available in April, 2020 after federal and state review of 2019 spawning escapements, 2020 ocean abundance forecasts, annual management objectives, and other relevant issues. More information is available on the CDFW Ocean Salmon Seasons web page.

  Pacific Halibut

The recreational fishery for Pacific halibut (Hippoglossus stenolepis) is closed as of November 1, 2019. For further information about Pacific halibut, please visit the CDFW Pacific halibut web page.

  Red Abalone

The recreational fishery for link opens in new tab or windowred abalone (PDF) (Haliotis rufescens) is closed year-round south of the mouth of San Francisco Bay. For more information, visit the Invertebrate Management Project web page.

Groundfish - Additional Information

  • Groundfish Angler and Diver Definitions
    • Boat-based anglers are fishermen angling from boats or vessels of any size or any other type of floating object, including kayaks and float tubes.
    • Shore-based anglers are fishermen angling from beaches, banks, piers, jetties, breakwaters, docks, and other manmade objects connected to the shore. No vessel or watercraft (motorized or non-motorized) may be used to assist in taking or possessing federally-managed groundfish species, greenlings of the genus Hexagrammos, ocean whitefish, or California sheephead while angling from shore.
    • Divers are scuba or free divers with or without spearfishing gear, entering the water either from the shore or from a boat or other floating object. Except for spearfishing gear, all other types of fishing gear are prohibited aboard a vessel or non-motorized watercraft while diving or spearfishing for the purpose of retaining federally managed groundfish species, greenlings of the genus Hexagrammos, ocean whitefish, and California sheephead during a seasonal closure for boat-based anglers.
  • The recreational fisheries for Pacific halibut and federally managed groundfish species, greenlings of the genus Hexagrammos, ocean whitefish, and California sheephead may close early if the annual harvest guideline for any one species or group of species is met or is expected to be met prior to the end of the year. Check this website regularly or call the Recreational Groundfish Fishing Regulations Hotline (831) 649-2801 for the latest information.
  • Federally managed groundfish species, greenlings of the genus Hexagrammos, ocean whitefish, and California sheephead may be possessed aboard vessels that are transiting waters deeper than the groundfish management area depth limit only when all fishing gear is stowed.

Marine Protected Areas - Additional Information

In addition to the fishing regulations presented here (and in California Code of Regulations and California Fish and Game Code), marine protected area (MPA) regulations may further restrict or prohibit sport fishing within MPAs. MPA regulations, maps, and coordinates are available on the CDFW website, in the current California Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet, and at your local CDFW office.You can also pick up an MPA brochure at your local CDFW office. Information about California MPAs is also available on the CDFW MPA mobile website.

Pigeon Point to Point Conception
Pigeon Point to Point Conception
Note: Map shows state marine protected areas.

Additional Resources

cell phone Try our link opens in new tab or windowOcean Sport Fishing Interactive Web Map on your next fishing trip! This new resource is designed to help you visualize sport fishing regulation boundaries, including marine protected areas and groundfish conservation area depth restrictions, on your mobile phone. After you have used this new web mapping application, please take a minute to help us make it better by completing this user survey. We want to hear from you, so please tell us what you think!