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Current California Ocean Recreational Fishing Regulations

34°27 N. Latitude (Point Conception, Santa Barbara County) to the U.S. - Mexico Border

Includes a portion of Santa Barbara County, and all of Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties

This summary of current regulations was updated on November 1, 2017.

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 sp.) is open year-round to divers and shore-based anglers. The fishery is open to boat-based anglers from  March 1, 2017 through December 31, 2017. These species may only be taken or possessed in waters less than 360 feet (60 fathoms) deep. 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 (3 per person) and canary rockfish (1 per person), also included in the 10 fish RCG Complex aggregate limit. Yelloweye rockfish, bronzespotted rockfish, and cowcod (PDF) 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 of groundfish regulations.

View additional groundfish information.

  Cabezon

The recreational fishery for cabezon (PDF) (Scorpaenichthys marmoratus) is open year-round to divers and shore-based anglers. The fishery is open to boat-based anglers from  March 1, 2017 through December 31, 2017. 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 of groundfish regulations.

View additional groundfish information.

  Kelp and Rock Greenlings

The recreational fishery for kelp and rock greenlings (PDF) (Hexagrammos spp.) is open year-round to divers and shore-based anglers. These fisheries are open to boat-based anglers from  March 1, 2017 through December 31, 2017. Greenlings may only be taken or possessed in waters less than 360 feet (60 fathoms) deep. 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 of groundfish regulations.

View additional groundfish information.

  Lingcod

The recreational fishery for lingcod (PDF) (Ophiodon elongatus) is open year-round to divers and shore-based anglers. The fishery is open to boat-based anglers from  March 1, 2017 through December 31, 2017. Lingcod may only be taken or possessed in waters less than 360 feet (60 fathoms) deep. 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 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. The fishery is open to boat-based anglers from  March 1, 2017 through December 31, 2017. California sheephead may only be taken or possessed in waters less than 360 feet (60 fathoms) deep. The daily bag and possession limit is 5 fish, with a minimum size limit of 12 inches total length.

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 of groundfish regulations.

View additional groundfish information.

  Ocean Whitefish

The recreational fishery for ocean whitefish (Caulolatilus princeps) is open year-round to divers and shore-based anglers. The fishery is open to boat-based anglers from  March 1, 2017 through December 31, 2017. Ocean whitefish may only be taken or possessed in waters less than 360 feet (60 fathoms) deep. 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 of groundfish regulations.

View additional groundfish information.

  Leopard Shark

The recreational fishery for leopard shark (PDF) (Triakis semifasciata) is open year-round to shore-based anglers and divers. The fishery inside San Diego Bay, Mission Bay, Newport Bay and Alamitos Bay is open year-round to boat-based anglers. Outside of the above-mentioned embayments, the fishery is open to boat-based anglers from  March 1, 2017 through December 31, 2017. Leopard sharks may only be taken or possessed in waters less than 360 feet (60 fathoms) deep (except in the Cowcod Conservation Areas - see below). The daily bag and possession limit 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 of groundfish regulations.

View additional groundfish information.

  Soupfin Shark and Spiny Dogfish

The recreational fisheries for soupfin 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  March 1, 2017 through December 31, 2017. These species may only be taken or possessed in waters less than 360 feet (60 fathoms) deep. The 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 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  March 1, 2017 through December 31, 2017. These species may only be taken or possessed in waters less than 360 feet (60 fathoms) deep. Refer to the California Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations 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 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 sixgill shark (Hexanchus griseus) and sevengill 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.

  Pacific Sanddab and Other Flatfish

The recreational fishery is open year-round to all anglers and divers for the following species: Pacific sanddab (PDF) (Citharichthys sordidus), butter sole (Isopsetta isolepis), curlfin sole (Pleuronichthys decurrens), flathead sole (Hippoglossoides elassodon), rex sole (PDF) (Glyptocephalus zachirus), rock sole (Lepidopsetta bilineata), and sand sole (Psettichthys melanostictus). Refer to the California Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations 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 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 of groundfish regulations.

  Kelp Bass, Barred Sand Bass, Spotted Sand Bass

The fisheries for kelp bass, barred sand bass, and spotted sand bass (PDF) (Paralabrax species) remains open year-round. The daily bag and possession limit is five fish in any combination of species. The minimum size limit is 14 inches total length or 10 inches alternate length.

  California Halibut

The recreational fishery for California halibut (Paralichthys californicus) remains open year-round. The daily bag and possession limit is 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 (PDF) (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)

  California Grunion

The recreational fishery for link opens in new tab or windowCalifornia grunion (Leuresthes tenuis) is open from June 1, 2017 through March 31, 2018. Grunion may only be taken by hand, and no holes may be dug in the beach to entrap them. Information about grunion, including a grunion run schedule, can be found on The Amazing Grunion web page.

  Tunas

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

Note:  As of July 30, 2015 the bag and possession limit for bluefin tuna is 2 fish, and fillet-at-sea regulations have changed for all tunas brought ashore as fillets south of Point Conception, Santa Barbara County. View the regulation changes.

  Yellowtail

The fishery for yellowtail (Seriola lalandi) remains open year-round. The daily bag and possession limit is ten fish. The minimum size limit is 24 inches link opens in new tab or windowfork length, except that up to five fish less than 24 inches fork length may be taken or possessed.

  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 statewide, year-round. The daily bag limit is 35 crab, and the minimum size limit is 4 inches. Review crab measurement methods (PDF) and the current Ocean Sport Fishing regulations booklet for further rock crab fishing information.

For the latest information concerning rock crab consumption advisories and related information, please access one of the following sources:

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

  Spiny Lobster

Note: The California Department of Public Health has issued a consumption advisory for spiny lobster taken off Santa Cruz Island and Anacapa Island due to the detection of dangerous levels of domoic acid, a naturally occurring toxin. CDPH recommends not eating the viscera (internal organs, or tomalley) of spiny lobster.

The recreational fishery for California spiny lobster (PDF) (Panulirus interruptus) is open from 6:00 a.m. on September 30, 2017 through March 21, 2018. The daily bag limit is seven lobster. The minimum size limit is three and one-fourth inches measured along the midline of the upper body from the rear edge of the eye socket (between the horns) to the rear edge of the carapace (body shell).

New regulations pertaining to hoop net buoys and other equipment, season start time, and measurement methods are now in effect:

  • The recreational lobster fishing season now begins at 6:00 a.m. on the first day of the season
  • Hoop nets used south of Point Arguello (Santa Barbara County) must now have a surface buoy marked with the operator's GO ID number (hoop nets deployed by persons from shore/pier excepted)
  • Divers many now possess spearfishing equipment while diving for crustaceans (including lobsters)
  • Measuring requirements now allow measuring lobster aboard a boat. This allows hoop netters to bring lobster aboard a vessel where they can be measured safely

Other regulations remain in effect, including the following:

  • A Spiny Lobster Report Card is required for all persons taking spiny lobster, including persons under the age of 16. Please review how to correctly fill out a spiny lobster report card.
  • No more than five hoop nets may be possessed by one person when taking spiny lobster. No more than 10 hoop nets may be possessed per vessel when taking spiny lobster.
  • Hoop netters are required to raise the hoop net to the surface and inspect the contents of the hoop net at least every two hours.
See sections 29.80, 29.90, and 29.91 (scroll down the page to the Crustacean section) in the California Saltwater Sport Fishing Regulations booklet for complete regulations pertaining to California spiny lobster. For more information about spiny lobster, please visit the Invertebrate Management Project web pages

  Mussels

The recreational season for California sea mussel (PDF) (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 domoic 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 shellfish health advisories web page.

  Other species

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


Closed Fishing Seasons

  California Scorpionfish (a.k.a. sculpin)

The recreational fishery for link opens in new windowCalifornia scorpionfish (PDF) (Scorpaena guttata) is closed as of September 1, 2017. The fishery is expected to reopen on January 1, 2018. For more information about California scorpionfish, visit the California Marine Sport Fish Identification web page.

  Giant Sea Bass

The recreational fishery for giant sea bass (PDF) (Stereolepis gigas) is closed year-round.

  Ocean Salmon

The recreational fishery for ocean salmon (PDF) is closed for the remainder of 2017. For more ocean salmon fishery information, please visit the Ocean Salmon Seasons 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 pages.


Additional Information about Groundfish

  • 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 that fish 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 specie or species group 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.

  • Additional Information about Marine Protected Areas

    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 Ocean Sport Fishing regulations booklet, and at your local CDFW office.You can also pick up an MPA guide or brochure at a location near you. Information about California MPAs is also available on the CDFW MPA mobile website.



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