With Salmon season closed, focus shifts to Rockfish

Santa Cruz - Santa Cruz, CA

With Salmon season closed, focus shifts to Rockfish
Richard Do on the Kahuna with a fine example of a Monterey Bay vemrilion rockfish. Yes, that is a Barbie fishing pole he’s using as is Chris Victorino in the background.

by Allen Bushnell

Local anglers and fishing related businesses are lamenting the lack of a salmon season this year. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife in accordance with the Pacific Fisheries Management Council has imposed a complete closure for both recreational and commercial ocean salmon fisheries. Last year at this time, Monterey Bay was abuzz with boats heading out to deep waters to troll or mooch for salmon. Parking lots were full at our harbors and launch ramps. Rockfish season opened in conjunction with salmon season in 2022, and plenty of nearshore boaters were trolling or drifting for halibut.
This year, rockfish season opens on May 1. The rockfish regulations have shifted drastically with the most notable change being no depth limits. Anglers can fish as deep as they would like. Depth restrictions in previous years prevented fishing for RCG complex fish (rockfish, cabezon and greenlings) in waters deeper than 180, 240 or 300 feet, depending on the year. Allowing anglers to fish past the 300-foot depth opens up a fantastic amount of new territory, areas that have not been fished for many years. 
Rockfish season runs from May 1 through December 31, 2023. In a strange twist, the regulations this year will close the nearshore areas for fishing the RCG Complex. After October 31 and through December 31, no take of is allowed shoreward of the 50-fathom line (300 feet). In addition, no take or possession whatsoever is allowed for bronzespotted rockfish, cowcod or yelloweye rockfish, date or depth notwithstanding. Sub-bag limits will also be in effect during the 2023 rockfish season We are allowed 10 fish in combination except only one copper rockfish per angler, one quillback and four vermilion as a daily sub-bag limit.
We have received a few reports of flatties being caught for the past couple weeks. It’s likely more halibut would be reported if more boats were out there fishing for salmon or rockfish. The halibut are certainly occupying their usual areas for mid-April, though the water temperature is slightly lower than normal for this time of year. Savvy anglers should check the usual flat sandy areas, especially those near reef structure for the big flatfish. At this time of year, halibut are usually moving in towards the shallows with the majority being caught in 50-70 feet of water. Later in spring we’ll see more flatties move to much shallower water including some of the smaller models close enough for surfcasting. 

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