CDFW Considers Reducing California Halibut Bag and Possession Limit in Northern California

angler lands a California halibut
Angler lands a California halibut
CDFW photo

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is proposing an emergency regulation change to reduce the recreational California halibut daily bag and total possession limit from three fish to two fish in northern California (waters north of Point Sur, Monterey County). The proposal will be discussed at the May 17, 2023 California Fish and Game Commission teleconference meeting.

Northern California Commercial Passenger Fishing Vessel (“party boat”) operators and recreational anglers communicated to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife that they anticipate nearshore fishing effort will shift and increase for California halibut in 2023, due to limited fishing opportunities and changes in accessibility to other fisheries, such as salmon.

During the salmon closure in 2008 and 2009, fishing effort shifted to California halibut and the estimated recreational catch in northern California surpassed 54,000 and 43,000 fish, respectively. By 2013, the catch had dipped to just below 5,000 California halibut. The catch remained below 20,000 fish for several years (2011-2016) following the closure.

Recreational anglers have expressed a desire for proactive management to lessen the effect of the anticipated fishing effort shift on the California halibut resource. This anticipated shift coincides with a cold-water period, which is correlated with lower California halibut egg and larval survival. The fishery began to rebound from the 2008-2009 salmon closure in 2017, following warm water periods that began in 2014. A bag limit reduction will help to support California halibut population levels through the current cold-water period.

Based on California Recreational Fisheries Survey estimates, a bag limit reduction from three to two fish could result in protecting about 13 percent of fish that would otherwise be taken.

Emergency regulations sunset after six months, with opportunities for two 90-day extensions. Stay tuned to the Commission’s regulations web page for updates.

updated May 30, 2023
post by Travis Tanaka, CDFW Environmental Scientist

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