Current California Ocean Recreational Fishing Regulations - Northern Region

42°00 N. Latitude (Oregon Border) to 40°10 N. Latitude (near Cape Mendocino in Humboldt County)

Includes all of Del Norte County and most of Humboldt County

This summary of current regulations was updated on May 1, 2021.

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 species) is open year-round to divers and shore-based anglers. This fishery is open to boat-based anglers from May 1, 2021 through December 31, 2021.

Take of these species is prohibited seaward of the 30 fathom (180 feet) Rockfish Conservation Area boundary line, which is a series of connected waypoints defined in Federal regulations (50 CFR Part 660, Subpart C), from January 1, 2021 through October 31, 2021. From November 1, 2021 through December 31, 2021 these species may be taken at any depth.

The daily bag and possession limit is 10 fish per person in combination of all species within the RCG Complex (includes all species of Rockfish, Cabezon and Greenlings) , with a sub-limit on vermilion rockfish (5 fish per person), also included in the 10-fish RCG Complex aggregate limit. Yelloweye rockfish, bronzespotted rockfish, and cowcod 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 table of groundfish regulations.

View additional groundfish information.

  Cabezon

The recreational fishery for cabezon (Scorpaenichthys marmoratus) is open year-round to divers and shore-based anglers. This fishery is open to boat-based anglers from May 1, 2021 through December 31, 2021.

Take of cabezon is prohibited seaward of the 30 fathom (180 feet) Rockfish Conservation Area boundary line, which is a series of connected waypoints defined in Federal regulations (50 CFR Part 660, Subpart C), from January 1, 2021 through October 31, 2021. From November 1, 2021 through December 31, 2021 cabezon may be taken at any depth.

The daily bag and possession limit is 10 fish per person 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 table of groundfish regulations.

View additional groundfish information.

  Kelp and Rock Greenlings

The recreational fisheries for rock greenling and kelp greenling (Hexagrammos spp.) are open year-round to divers and shore-based anglers. These fisheries are open to boat-based anglers from May 1, 2021 through December 31, 2021.

Take of greenlings is prohibited seaward of the 30 fathom (180 feet) Rockfish Conservation Area boundary line, which is a series of connected waypoints defined in Federal regulations (50 CFR Part 660, Subpart C), from January 1, 2021 through October 31, 2021. From November 1, 2021 through December 31, 2021 greenlings may be taken at any depth.

The daily bag and possession limit is 10 fish per person 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 table of groundfish regulations.

View additional groundfish information.

Lingcod

The recreational fishery for lingcod (Ophiodon elongatus) is open year-round to divers and shore-based anglers. This fishery is open to boat-based anglers from May 1, 2021 through December 31, 2021.

Take of lingcod is prohibited seaward of the 30 fathom (180 feet) Rockfish Conservation Area boundary line, which is a series of connected waypoints defined in Federal regulations (50 CFR Part 660, Subpart C), from January 1, 2021 through October 31, 2021. From November 1, 2021 through December 31, 2021 lingcod may be taken at any depth.

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 table of groundfish regulations.

View additional groundfish information.

  Leopard Shark

The recreational fishery for leopard shark (Triakis semifasciata) is open year-round to divers and shore-based anglers. This fishery is open year-round to all anglers and divers inside Humboldt Bay. The fishery outside of Humboldt Bay is open to boat-based anglers from May 1, 2021 through December 31, 2021.

Take of leopard shark is prohibited seaward of the 30 fathom (180 feet) Rockfish Conservation Area boundary line, which is a series of connected waypoints defined in Federal regulations (50 CFR Part 660, Subpart C), from January 1, 2021 through October 31, 2021. From November 1, 2021 through December 31, 2021 leopard shark may be taken at any depth.

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 table 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 May 1, 2021 through December 31, 2021.

Take of these species is prohibited seaward of the 30 fathom (180 feet) Rockfish Conservation Area boundary line, which is a series of connected waypoints defined in Federal regulations (50 CFR Part 660, Subpart C), from January 1, 2021 through October 31, 2021. From November 1, 2021 through December 31, 2021 these species may be taken at any depth.

The daily 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 table 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 May 1, 2021 through December 31, 2021.

Take of these species is prohibited seaward of the 30 fathom (180 feet) Rockfish Conservation Area boundary line, which is a series of connected waypoints defined in Federal regulations (50 CFR Part 660, Subpart C), from January 1, 2021 through October 31, 2021. From November 1, 2021 through December 31, 2021 these species may be taken at any depth.

Refer to the California Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet 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 table 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 (YouTube) (Hexanchus griseus) and link opens in new tab or windowsevengill 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 (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 booklet 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 table 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 booklet 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 table of groundfish regulations.

View additional groundfish information.

  Pacific Halibut

The recreational fishery for Pacific halibut (Hippoglossus stenolepis) is open as of May 1, 2021 and will continue until November 15, 2021 or until the quota is reached, whichever is earlier. The daily bag and possession limit for Pacific halibut is one fish, with no minimum size limit. When angling, no more than one line with two hooks attached may be used. For complete regulation information, see current ocean sport fishing regulations. For further information about Pacific halibut, please visit the CDFW Pacific halibut web page.

  California Halibut

The recreational fishery for California halibut (Paralichthys californicus) remains open year-round. The daily bag and possession limit is three fish north of Point Sur, Monterey County. The minimum size limit is 22 inches total length.

  Surfperch

The recreational fishery for surfperch (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)

  Sturgeon

The recreational fishery for white sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus) remains open year-round. The daily bag and possession limit is one fish that must be between 40 inches and 60 inches fork length. The annual limit is three (3) sturgeon per person.

Short or oversized sturgeon must be released unharmed immediately; note that white sturgeon greater than 68 inches fork length may not be removed from the water prior to their immediate release. No snare may be used to assist in taking sturgeon. Only one single barbless hook may be used on a line to take sturgeon. The sturgeon must voluntarily take the bait or lure in its mouth. No sturgeon may be taken by trolling, snagging, or by the use of firearms. Sturgeon may not be gaffed, nor shall any person use any type of firearm to assist in landing or killing any sturgeon. Any person fishing for sturgeon shall have in their possession a non-transferable Sturgeon Fishing Report Card and complete it in accordance with California Code of Regulations Title 14, Section 27.92.

Green sturgeon (Acipenser medirostris) may not be removed from the water, taken, or possessed at any time. Green sturgeon must be released immediately without being removed from the water.

  Tunas

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

  Pacific Herring

The recreational fishery for Pacific herring (Clupea pallasi) is open year-round. Ten gallons of Pacific herring may be taken per day (approximately 100 lb. or 520 fish). No specialized measuring device is required.

  Dungeness Crab

The recreational fishery for Dungeness crab (Metacarcinus magister) is open from November 7, 2020 through July 30, 2021. The daily bag limit is 10 crab, and the minimum size limit is 5¾ inches. Recreational crabbing is not allowed from vessels licensed for commercial Dungeness crab fishing.

Review crab measurement methods (PDF) and the current California Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet for more Dungeness crab fishing information. To check for in-season closures due to domoic acid, call the CDFW Domoic Acid Fishery Closure Information Line at (831) 649-2883.

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

  Rock Crab

The recreational fishery for all rock crab species, including red crab(opens in new tab) (Cancer productus), yellow crab(opens in new tab) (Metacarcinus anthonyi) and brown crab (Romaleon antennarium) is open year-round, statewide. The daily bag limit is 35 crab, and the minimum size limit is 4 inches. Review crab measurement methods (PDF) and the current California Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet for more rock crab fishing information.

Although rock crab season is normally open year-round, the season was closed in 2016 north of Pigeon Point, San Mateo County due to high levels of domoic acid in the crab. The season fully reopened on November 1, 2016, however the California Department of Public Health still recommends that consumers not eat the viscera (internal organs (guts), also known as "crab butter") of crabs caught from two areas: 1) from the Mendocino-Humboldt county line to Cape Mendocino, and 2) from the Humboldt Bay north jetty to the California-Oregon border.

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

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

  Mussels

NOTE: The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has issued its annual quarantine on the collection of mussels(opens in new tab) intended for human consumption. The quarantine is usually in effect from May 1 through October 31 each year.

The recreational season for California sea mussel(opens in new tab) (Mytilus californianus) and bay mussel (Mytilus trossulus) remains open year-round. Currently, mussels should only be collected for non-consumptive uses (for example, fish bait). 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(opens in new tab) to prevent human cases of paralytic shellfish poisoning and domoic acid(opens in new tab) 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 CDPH's toll-free Shellfish Information Line at (800) 553-4133 or check CDPH's recreational bivalve shellfish advisory interactive map(opens in new tab). You can also review CDFW's Finfish and Shellfish Health Advisories web page.

  Clams

NOTE: The razor clam fishery is open in Del Norte County only. Razor clams may not be taken in Humboldt County due to continued high levels of domoic acid in razor clams there.

During the open season, clams may be taken from one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset. Each person must dig only their own limit of clams. Each person is required to keep a separate container for their clams and not commingle with clams taken by another person. Hydraulic pumps may not be used to take clams, and may not be possessed anywhere clams may be taken. It is unlawful to be on any clam beach with any instrument capable of being used to dig clams during the closed night time hours.

Review ocean sport fishing regulations for size limits, bag limits, seasons, and other regulations that apply for various species of clam.

  Kelp

The daily bag limit on all marine aquatic plants for which the take is authorized is 10 pounds wet weight in the aggregate, except that 25 pounds of herring eggs on kelp may be collected. No eel grass, surf grass, or sea palm may be cut or disturbed at any time.

  Other Species

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

Closed Fishing Seasons

Ocean Salmon

The recreational fishery for ocean salmon (PDF) (Onchorynchus spp.) is closed as of August 10, 2020 from the California-Oregon border to the 40°10’ line in Humboldt County, and is expected to reopen on June 29, 2021(opens in new tab). More information is available on the CDFW Ocean Salmon Seasons web page.

  Red Abalone

The recreational fishery for red abalone (Haliotis rufescens) is closed until April 1, 2026. For more information about red abalone, visit the Invertebrate Management Project web page.

Groundfish - Additional Information

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 angling 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 species or group of species 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.

Marine Protected Areas - Additional Information

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 California Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet, and at your local CDFW office.You can also pick up an MPA brochure at your local CDFW office. Information about California MPAs is also available on the MPA map app.


California-Oregon Border to 40°10 N. Latitude (near Cape Mendocino)
Note: Map shows state marine protected areas.

Additional Resources

2021-2022 Ocean Sport Fishing Regulation Booklet (PDF)

NEW Rockfish Conservation Area Maps
Includes California’s Rockfish Conservation Area waypoints and lines. This new series of 38 detailed regional maps depict the coastal, island and offshore areas that are open (or closed) to groundfish fishing in 2021.

Visit our Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations web page for sport fishing regulations, fish identification resources, how-to videos, maps, and other useful fishing information.

cell phone Try our Ocean Sport Fishing Interactive Web Map on your next fishing trip! This new resource is designed to help you visualize sport fishing regulation boundaries, including marine protected areas and groundfish conservation area depth restrictions, on your mobile phone. After you have used this new web mapping application, please take a minute to help us make it better by completing this user survey(opens in new tab). We want to hear from you, so please tell us what you think!