San Francisco and Mendocino California Recreational Groundfish ‘Offshore-Only’ Season and Northern ‘All-Depth’ Season Opens May 15
The recreational groundfish “offshore-only” season will open on May 15, 2023 in the San Francisco (Point Arena to Pigeon Point) and Mendocino (Cape Mendocino to Point Arena) Groundfish Management Areas (GMA) where, for the first time in over two decades, anglers can enjoy fishing for groundfish in deeper offshore waters. The new “offshore-only” season will be in effect seaward (away from land) of the 50 fathom (300 feet) Rockfish Conservation Area (RCA) boundary line, defined by a series of straight lines connecting specific coordinates. This change will provide access to healthy deeper water shelf (PDF) and slope (PDF) rockfish species and lingcod while prohibiting the take and/or possession of nearshore rockfish species (PDF), cabezon and greenlings.
Anglers are encouraged to learn nearshore rockfish species (PDF) and groundfish identification skills as retention or possession of nearshore rockfish species during the “offshore-only” season is prohibited. Take of bronzespotted rockfish, cowcod and yelloweye rockfish continues to be prohibited year-round in all areas and depths.
In the Northern GMA (California-Oregon state line to Cape Mendocino), the recreational groundfish “all-depth" season will be open from May 15 through Oct. 15 and will allow access to nearshore rockfish (PDF), cabezon, and greenling along with deeper shelf (PDF) and slope (PDF) rockfish species and lingcod. From July 16 through Dec. 31 the San Francisco and Mendocino GMAs will change to an “all-depth” season as well. The authorization to fish for groundfish in the offshore or “all-depth” seasons do not supersede state and federal marine protected areas or other special area closures. Anglers can view closed areas utilizing CDFW’s Ocean Sport Fishing Interactive Web Map.
Note that if you are leaving from a port in a closed or partially closed GMA, you may not be able to transit back with fish taken in an adjacent GMA. Per CCR T14 §27.20(b)(1)(A) and §27.20(c), when a species or species group is closed to take and/or possession in part of a GMA, that species or species group may be possessed aboard a vessel in transit through the part of the GMA that is closed if there is no fishing gear deployed in the water. However, that vessel cannot transit into another GMA if that entire GMA is closed to the take of the species or species groups that are in possession onboard the vessel, regardless of where the fish were taken or if fishing gear was deployed or not. For example, the Central GMA is open in all depths and all groundfish species may be taken and possessed in the area from May 1 through Sept. 30. From May 15 through July 15, the San Francisco GMA is open only seaward of 50 fathoms and per CCR T14 §27.35(b)(2)(B) the take and/or possession of nearshore rockfish, cabezon or greenlings is prohibited in the entire GMA. An angler may not legally take and retain nearshore rockfish, cabezon or greenlings onboard a vessel in the open Central GMA and then transit into the San Francisco GMA during this time. However, they can legally take and retain shelf and slope rockfish and lingcod in the Central GMA and then transit into the San Francisco GMA during this time. Between July 16 and Sept. 30, when both the San Francisco and Central GMAs have the same all-depth and groundfish regulations, anglers may fish and transit between GMAs.
Similarly, anglers should exercise caution if transiting between the Northern and Mendocino GMA. The Northern GMA is open in all depths and all groundfish species may be taken and possessed in the area from May 15 through Oct. 15. From May 15 through July 15, the Mendocino GMA is open only seaward of 50 fathoms and per CCR T14 §27.30(b)(2)(B) the take and/or possession of nearshore rockfish, cabezon or greenlings is prohibited in the entire GMA. An angler may not legally take and retain nearshore rockfish, cabezon or greenlings onboard a vessel in the open Northern GMA and then transit into the Mendocino GMA during this time. Between July 16 and Oct. 15, when both the Northern and Mendocino GMAs have the same “all-depth” and groundfish regulations, anglers may fish and transit between GMAs.
Regulations provide an exemption for divers and shore-based anglers from the boat-based season restrictions affecting rockfish and other federally managed groundfish and allows for year-round diving and shore-based angling.
All recreational GMAs in California are scheduled for up to five and a half months of “all-depth” fishing time in 2023. The 2023 fishing seasons for the GMAs are:
For more detailed information on the new 2023 recreational groundfish regulations visit CDFW’s 2023 Summary of Recreational Groundfish Fishing Regulations web page. For information on groundfish fishery science, management and other frequently asked questions, please visit CDFW’s Marine Region Groundfish web page.
CDFW photo by Edgar W. Roberts III.
James Phillips, CDFW Marine Region, (707) 576-2893
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 212-7352