Twiddling our thumbs while we wait for new regulations

Santa Cruz - Santa Cruz, CA

Twiddling our thumbs while we wait for new regulations
Meanwhile, Surfcaster Craig Pappas is still finding beautiful barred surf perch from the beaches near Santa Cruz. this one is from Monday, and was released safe and sound.

by Allen Bushnell

They say that time and tide wait for no man. Unfortunately, the rest of us are resigned to twiddling our thumbs on shore while a stack of government agencies deliberate this year’s recreational fishing regulations. April 1 is the historical opener for king salmon season in our area. Recreational groundfish season usually opens in April or May. Our slice of coast is designated the South Central region and stretches from Pigeon Point in the north to Point Conception to the south. This week’s column was intended to shed some light on scheduled season openings and other possible regulation changes for the 2024-2025 fishing season. But, the situation is still in flux. In a few weeks we will have our initial rockfish regs to discuss as well as the possibility of actual salmon fishing this year.

What’s ‘most likely?” Like last year, the groundfish rules will include three depth delineations describing habitat for nearshore, slope and shelf rockfish. Fishing will likely be open at all depths from May through August, then open only beyond 300 feet of water from August until year’s end. This of course puts small boats and especially kayak fishermen at a distinct disadvantage, not having the “legs” to reach those offshore spots safely for basically half of rockfish season. The Department of Fish and Wildlife has recently acknowledged this concern and is in the process of discussing with stakeholders at this time.

In 2023 we had no ocean salmon season due to precipitously low numbers of spawning fish returning to our rivers. This years’ numbers were better, but still not good. There is some serious talk about opening a few three or four-day “windows” for ocean salmon fishing, with various proposals already sent to regulatory agencies. Ultimately, the decision rests with the Pacific Fisheries Management Council under the mandate of the National Marine Fisheries Service, a subset agency of our National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Decisions seem ponderously slow. But the timeline becomes more understandable when you consider all these agencies and layers of bureaucracy are working with fisheries data gathered and collated only a few months ago.

The true damage.sadly, is one of economics. The Monterey Bay is a prime location for recreational charter boats as well as commercial fishing operations. These outfits are directly damaged when the fish stocks become dangerously low. King salmon and Dungeness crab are by far the biggest money makers for small commercial anglers and charter operations. This year, we already saw crab season truncated, and salmon is next on the list. Many in our area have already lost their livelihoods.

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