New Recreational Groundfish Regulations For 2021

Vermilion rockfish
photo © katastrophe1 CC BY-NC 2.0

If you are a recreational angler or spearfisher and plan on fishing for rockfish, lingcod, California scorpionfish (sculpin), and other species of “groundfish” in 2021, continue reading to learn about important regulation changes that will take effect in the new year. Anglers and spearfishers should check CDFW’s website for the current regulations before fishing for groundfish, and are advised that some groundfish regulations printed in the 2020-21 ocean sport fishing regulations book will be out of date starting January 1, 2021.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) worked closely with recreational stakeholders to develop the following changes, effective January 1, 2021 (see CDFW’s summary of recreational groundfish regulations for Groundfish Management Area boundary definitions).

There are no longer sub-bag limits for black rockfish, canary rockfish and cabezon within the 10-fish Rockfish, Cabezon, Greenling (RCG) complex daily bag limit, but there is a new sub-bag limit of five vermilion rockfish. Also, for consistency with federal regulations, the legal method of take for California scorpionfish has been updated, and no more than two hooks and one line may now be used when angling for this species.

The Rockfish Conservation Area (RCA) boundary will allow for increased opportunities by moving:

  • to 30 fathoms (180 feet) in the Mendocino Management Area during the regular open season (May 1-October 31);
  • to 50 fathoms (300 feet) in the San Francisco Management Area during the open season (April 1-December 31);
  • to 100 fathoms (600 feet) in the Southern Management Area during the open season (March 1-December 31).

The 30, 50, and 100 fathom depth contours are defined by straight lines connecting the waypoints adopted in the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 50, Part 660, Subpart C. Note that these lines are the official boundaries, regardless of the actual water depth, and that some areas may be closed even though they are shallower.

The ‘All Depth’ fishery in the Northern and Mendocino Management Areas will continue each November and December, unless modified by an in-season action.

The regulation changes were adopted by the Pacific Fishery Management Council in July and the California Fish and Game Commission in mid-October. Many of these changes were made in response to the outcomes of recent stock assessment science that showed certain groundfish populations are rebounding.

See the official news release and the CDFW Groundfish web page for further information.


post by Travis Buck, Senior Environmental Scientist Supervisor