California Department of Fish and Wildlife

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Select a specific area of interest from the choices below.

Commercial Fisheries

Q. I operate a commercial passenger fishing vessel (CPFV) out of California but fish in Mexican waters. Am I required to submit Skipper's Logbook records for Mexico trips to California Department of Fish and Wildlife?

A. Yes! A CPFV vessel fishing Mexican waters under the authority of a Mexican sport fish permit is required to file individual declaration forms by each fisherman. These declarations serve dual purposes: they declare the fish were taken lawfully under a Mexican sport fish license and, secondly, that the fish are being declared as Mexican fish entering California.

An agreement between the Sportfishing Association of California and the California Department of Fish and Wildlifee allows the CPFV logbook to be used in lieu of individual declarations by each fisherman ONLY if the fish are legally taken and possessed under the Mexican fishing permits and where Mexican law is more restrictive.

In cases where California law is more restrictive (e.g., size of fish, seasons, and quantity), each fisherman must complete a declaration of entry, included in the 2015-2016 California Ocean Sport Fishing regulation book (see Fish and Game Code, section 2353).

Q. How does CDFW obtain data to generate an estimate of sardine biomass?

A. CDFW collects data by sampling the commercial fisheries catch to estimate information such as catch-at-age, sardine size, and maturity. We work with the National Marine Fisheries Service to produce estimates on larval density and egg production by participating in annual CalCOFI (California Cooperative Fisheries Investigations) sea-surveys. The egg production and larval density estimates are used, in turn, to estimate the number of adults it would take to produce those eggs, or spawning biomass. All the data are used in a stock assessment model that predicts next year's abundance through statistical forecasting. For detailed information on this process, please see the Stock Assessment and Fisheries Evaluation (SAFE) report on the Pacific Fishery Management Council's web page (

Q. Can I sport crab for Dungeness from a commercially permitted vessel?

A. Only with a valid CPFV license and only during the commercial season in the area you are fishing. No other recreational take of Dungeness crab is allowed from a commercially permitted vessel. In Districts 6 and 7 Dungeness crab vessels with a CPFV license may fish under the provisions of their CPFV license until the close of the recreational season.

Q. I have both a Rock crab permit and a Dungeness crab permit, when can I fish?

A. You are prohibited from setting trap gear for 30 days prior to the pre-soak of the area you are fishing. After the authorized presoak time you may set gear. You may retrieve gear upon the season opening.

Q. Can I take spare crab traps aboard my boat if I don’t use them?

A. No. You may possess up to six (6) derelict traps aboard your vessel. Derelict traps are traps that have been damaged, abandoned or otherwise found at sea while conducting normal fishing operations.

Q. Can I contract out for another vessel to set my crab traps?

A. You may contract for another "unpermitted" vessel to deploy your traps under the authority of §8280.7 of the Fish and Game Code.

Marine Fish & Invertebrates

Q. Are California saltwater fish safe to eat?

A. Refer to the current sportfishing regulations booklet for local health advisory notices for fish and shellfish, or contact the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), Pesticide and Environmental Toxicology Section (PETS) at (916) 327-7319 in Sacramento.

Q. Are the fish I catch in Santa Monica Bay or off Los Angeles Harbor safe to eat?

A. If the fish is highly migratory (spending relatively short periods in the Bay or Harbor), like salmon, California halibut, yellowtail, and white seabass, they are safe to eat. Deepwater fish such as lingcod and rockfish pose no problem. Fish that spend most of their lives in nearshore areas, such as white croaker, may absorb higher levels of contaminants present in the water. Consumption of croaker and other species from areas known for poor water quality should be limited. Specific area health advisory notices for fish and shellfish are listed in the California sport fishing regulations booklet. For more information on Southern California, contact the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project at (714) 755-3200.

Q. When is the annual mussel quarantine?

A. The California Department of Health Services prohibits sport harvesting of mussels for food from May 1 to October 31. The viscera are where the toxins for paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) tend to accumulate. Clams and scallops may be eaten during the quarantine period but the viscera should be discarded.

The quarantine does not apply to companies licensed by the State as certified shellfish harvesters. The Department of Health Services tests and certifies the shellfish from these companies to be free of toxins.

You can call the toll-free Biotoxin Information line before you take any shellfish, and find out sport harvest and quarantine areas for bivalve shellfish throughout California. Their phone number is (800) 553-4133, or (510) 540-2605 if you are in Alameda or Contra Costa counties.

You can also read the California Department of Public Health's FAQ on the annual mussel quarantine.

Q. Is it legal to remove some of the legs from Dungeness crabs and rock crabs and then release them?

A. It is neither humane nor legal to remove the chelipeds (pincers) from crabs before throwing them back. While it's true that most crustaceans do have some regenerative abilities to re-grow lost appendages (if they don’t get eaten first), it's questionable how long a crab will survive after having their walking legs and pincers removed. Crabs rely on their pincers for feeding and defending themselves against predators.

This practice is also illegal for a couple of reasons. Dungeness and rock crabs have size limits and measurements must be taken across the top of the carapace. By removing the legs and the pincers before tossing the rest of the crab back the person is making it impossible to determine if the crab was of legal size. "It is unlawful to possess on any boat or to bring ashore any fish upon which a size or weight limit is prescribed in such a condition that its size or weight cannot be determined (FGC Section 5508)”. In addition, “it is unlawful to cause or permit any deterioration or waste of any fish taken in the waters of this state (CCR Section 1.87)."

Chinook Salmon

Visit the California Ocean Salmon Seasons web page for information about ocean-going Chinook Salmon.

Red Abalone

Q. Why were regulation changes made for 2014?

A. The regulations were changed because dive surveys conducted by CDFW found abalone densities had dropped below trigger levels in the CDFW Abalone Recovery and Management Plan (ARMP). ARMP guidelines call for a reduction in catch if the average density of abalone at eight index sites in Sonoma and Mendocino counties falls below one-half abalone per square meter. The ARMP also mandates closure of individual sites which have fallen below one-quarter abalone per square meter. Abalone densities declined dramatically in Sonoma County due to fishing pressure and a harmful algal bloom which resulted in a large die-off of abalone at the end of August 2011. In 2012, average abalone density across index sites was below one-half abalone per square meter, and density at Fort Ross was below one-quarter abalone per square meter (see the 2012 fishery status update. On June 26, 2013, the Fish and Game Commission (FGC) decided to reduce the abalone catch according to ARMP guidelines and close the Fort Ross area. Details are available on the FGC website.

Q. What is the reason the start time was changed to 8:00 a.m.?

A. The 8:00 a.m. start time reduces the number of low-tide days people will be able to take abalone by rock picking (searching amongst rocks for abalone at low tide); a number of low tides in the spring are much earlier than 8:00 a.m. This regulation change originated from the concerns of wardens who were witnessing large numbers of fishermen coming each and every low tide and taking large numbers of abalone. People were removing numerous undersized abalone while trying to find legal ones. Because undersized abalone often do not survive being removed and returned, they are likely to die and the impact on the fishery is probably much greater than the estimated legal catch (over 200,000 abalone annually in recent years). Some people were also using the dim light before dawn to hide illegal activities. Wardens believe a later start time will ease their biggest concerns and the FGC decided to choose that option.

Q. Does the new rule mean that divers cannot enter the water prior to 8 a.m. if they are planning to take abalone?

A. The new 8 a.m. start rule means divers cannot enter the water with the implements to take abalone and start searching for or taking abalone before 8 a.m. They can enter the water early and wait without searching for or taking abalone until 8 a.m. For example, if it takes a diver 30 minutes to swim to a dive spot, he or she could enter the water with the implements to take abalone, swim to the dive site and wait until 8 a.m. before searching for or taking abalone. Rock pickers have similar restrictions; they can walk to the spot before 8:00 a.m. but they cannot search for or take abalone before 8:00 a.m.

Q. Can divers go spear fishing at the normal legal start time or take early morning photos, then switch over to abalone diving at 8 a.m.?

A. Yes, as long as they don’t have the means of taking abalone or are searching for abalone before 8 a.m. If their activities appear to a warden to be taking or searching for abalone before 8 a.m., they could be cited.

Q. Will the 8 a.m. start time prevent rock pickers from getting any abalone?

A. No, but the actual effect will vary each year because the timing of the tides changes each year. A number of good low tides will be too early in the morning to be useful for rock pickers but there will still be some good opportunities. For example, in 2014 there are several days with tides below -1.0 ft. after 8:00 a.m. in May and June.

Q. Why was the annual limit lowered to 18?

A. The lower annual limit was combined with the 8:00 a.m. start time by the Fish and Game Commission to reduce the abalone take to levels prescribed in the ARMP. Since the increased restrictions in Sonoma and Marin counties will likely cause a shift in fishing effort to Mendocino County, the lower annual limit will also help keep the overall catch from increasing in Mendocino County.

Q. Why are the annual limits lower in Sonoma and Marin counties?

A. Sonoma County sites which have been surveyed over the years have shown a greater decline in abalone density than Mendocino County sites. Lower annual limits were implemented for Sonoma and Marin counties to help prevent densities at those sites from further declines which could result in the sites being closed in the future.

Q. How far north does the Sonoma-Marin annual limit of 9 apply?

A. The Sonoma-Marin annual limit extends to the Gualala River, located between the community of Sea Ranch to the south (Sonoma County) and the town of Gualala to the north (Mendocino County).

Q. How will the Sonoma-Marin annual limit of 9 be enforced?

A. The site codes used on previous versions of the abalone card have been modified by adding a letter before the code numbers. All site codes within Sonoma and Marin counties now begin with the letter "S" and site codes within Mendocino, Humboldt, and Del Norte counties begin with the letter "N". Fishermen are required to include the "S" or "N" along with the number when recording the location code. An abalone card can have a mix of "N" and "S" records as long as there are no more than 9 "S" records and the total take does not exceed 18 abalone, the total number allowed per card starting in 2014.

Q. I was not aware of abalone regulation changes for 2014 until recently. How can I be notified in advance of possible regulation changes in the future?

A. Go to the FGC website and request to be put on the list to receive regulation notices for abalone.

Q. Where do I send my Abalone Report Card after the season ends, or after I am finished taking abalone for the season?

A. Please send your completed Abalone Report Cards to:

California Department of Fish and Wildlife
32330 N. Harbor Drive
Fort Bragg, CA 95437

You can also enter your report card data online. Cards or card data must be submitted to CDFW, even if the card holder did not take or even try to take abalone. All card data provides information necessary for annual take estimates.

Q. Are marine protected areas along the northern California coast closed to abalone fishing?

A. Some marine protected areas restrict the take of red abalone. All MPAs located north of the mouth of San Francisco Bay that allow the take of abalone are listed below:

MPAs That Allow Recreational Take of Red Abalone

For more information about California's marine protected areas, please visit the Marine Protected Area website.

Q. Why are tags now required for abalone?

A. The tags allow wardens to easily see that an abalone was taken legally and identify the abalone cardholder who took the abalone. This regulation will help to ensure that all abalone are taken within daily bag and annual limits and to show abalone were taken legally even in cases when they are given away. An instructional video on the new tagging and reporting requirements is accessible online.

Q. Can I give abalone to a traveling companion who does not have an abalone card and then take more abalone?

A. You can take up to three abalone in a single day but cannot possess more than three abalone at a time. If you eat or give away (also called "gifting") any of your three abalone, you can take more abalone the following day as long as the daily bag limit and possession limit of three abalone per person and the annual limit of 18 abalone per year are not exceeded. People who receive abalone as gifts are not required to have abalone report cards but the abalone must remain in the shell and tagged until being prepared for immediate consumption.

Q. Does everyone taking abalone now need to have an abalone report card?

A. Abalone report cards are required for everyone taking or attempting to take abalone. Abalone report cards (but not fishing licenses) are now required for people under 16 years of age and for those taking abalone on free fishing days. This regulation change will improve CDFW's accounting of abalone taken in the fishery.

Q. When must abalone tags be detached from cards and attached to an abalone, and must the abalone card be filled out at the same time?

A. For each abalone retained, the cardholder must record the date, time, and location of catch on both the tag and the card immediately after exiting the water or immediately upon boarding a vessel, whichever comes first. Persons using a non-motorized vessel such as a kayak or a float tube may wait until reaching shore to tag their abalone and record catch information on their abalone report cards. Tags must remain attached to abalone report cards until an abalone is being tagged. Tags separated from abalone report cards prior to immediate use are invalid. All tags that are not in possession must be accounted for by entry of a record on the abalone report card. Any tag that was lost or destroyed shall be recorded as such on the corresponding line on the abalone report card. Any tag that was inadvertently removed and is still in possession shall be recorded as void on both the tag and the corresponding line on the abalone report card.

Q. If I am diving, do I need to take the card with me on my dive?

A. Abalone report cards must be in the immediate possession of any person who is taking or attempting to take abalone, including divers.

Q. What can fishermen do to protect abalone populations?

  • Report illegal activities - call CalTIP (888) 334-2258.
  • Reduce fishing mortality (see below)
    • Detach only legal-sized abalone
    • Stop detaching when bag limit is reached
    • Avoid cutting abalone
    • Take care in returning undersized abalone - return it to the rock surface it was removed from
  • Know and follow all regulations
  • Take only what you need

Q. How do abalone reproduce?

A. The sexes are separate but have similar external appearance. The gonads are the prominent, crescent-shaped end of the internal organs. Ovaries are dark green and testes can be cream, light brown, light green or pinkish in color. Abalone release eggs or sperm through the open holes in their shells. For effective fertilization, abalone need to be within a meter of each other. When abalone are too far apart, their eggs do not become fertilized. Fertilized eggs develop into larvae which can be carried by currents for about a week. The larvae settle to the bottom and develop into very small versions of adults.

Most male red abalone start to reproduce when they are 4 inches in length and 5 years in age. Most females are reproducing at 5 inches in length and 6 years of age. Small females produce far fewer eggs than larger females; a 5 inch female produces about 300,000 eggs while females larger than 7 inches produce about 2,500,000 eggs. Although abalone produce large numbers of eggs and sperm, reproductive success is very sporadic. The last major successful reproductive period for northern California red abalone was probably in the late 1980's.

Q. Why are there so many empty shells in some areas?

A. Although there are many possible causes of death for abalone, a likely cause is carelessness while removing abalone or returning undersized abalone. Any time an abalone is removed from the bottom, there is a chance it could be fatally injured or unable to reattach safely. Fishermen can help preserve abalone populations by removing abalone only after they have confirmed to the best of their ability that it is legal sized. Abalone irons are designed to reduce the chances of injuring abalone, but the irons can still cause fatal wounds if used improperly. Foot cuts deeper than a half-inch are likely to cause death since abalone have no blood clotting capabilities. Cuts around the head are often fatal.

When sliding an iron under an abalone, the iron should be kept as close to the rock as possible to avoid stabbing the foot. Even abalone that are not removed from the bottom can sustain fatal cuts. In prying abalone off rocks it is important that the abalone iron handle is lifted away from the rock so that the tip of the iron does not dig into the bottom of the foot. An uninjured abalone can easily be killed by predators if it is not carefully returned to suitable habitat. Abalone placed on sandy areas or seaweed-covered rock surfaces will not be able to clamp down sufficiently to protect themselves from predators. Fishing regulations require undersized abalone to be returned to the same rock surface from which it was detached. Experienced abalone pickers can distinguish undersized abalone and do not remove them from rocks.

Q. How fast do abalone grow?

A. Abalone are relatively slow growing. Tagging studies indicate northern California red abalone take about 12 years to reach 7 inches but growth rates are highly variable. Abalone grow nearly one inch per year for the first few years and much slower after that. It takes about 5 years for red abalone to grow from 7 inches to 8 inches. At 8 inches, growth rates are so slow it takes about 13 years to grow another inch. Slow growth makes abalone populations vulnerable to overfishing since many years are needed to replace each abalone taken.

Q. Isn't disease a large problem with abalone populations?

A. Withering Syndrome (WS) was very significant in reducing black abalone populations in southern California. WS affects all California abalone species but there were so few abalone left by the time WS became widespread that its impact on most species cannot be accurately assessed. CDFW has found a few abalone in northern California infected by the rickettsial bacteria that causes WS, but no abalone has been found with the disease in this area. Department biologists found that WS is much more pronounced at higher temperatures and might not develop in abalone living in cooler waters. The cold waters in northern California may help protect abalone from developing the disease but WS has been found in abalone as far north as San Mateo County and the potential impacts of global warming could make WS a threat for northern California red abalone in the future.

Q. Can hatcheries help increase abalone populations?

A. Abalone hatchery efforts in southern California were not economically feasible. Caring for young abalone is expensive and abalone released from hatcheries had very poor survival rates. Some studies indicated that hatchery-reared abalone did not develop behaviors needed to avoid predators. Abalone from hatcheries can also pose a danger by spreading diseases or parasites. Abalone hatcheries have had problems controlling infestations of several diseases (including WS) and parasites. There is also the possibility that abalone outplanted from hatcheries could spread disease and parasites to native populations.

Q. Are abalone vulnerable to overfishing?

A. Abalone are easily overfished as was seen in central and southern California. They have slow growth, infrequent reproductive success, vulnerability to fishery-related injuries and poaching, and high mortality of young. They also need relatively high densities for successful reproduction. These factors limit the ability of abalone to withstand heavy fishing pressure. Great care will be needed to prevent the northern California red abalone fishery from joining all the abalone fisheries that have collapsed throughout the world.


Q. Do I need a license to catch grunion? What about if I just plan to observe a grunion run, and not catch any?

A. Anyone sixteen years old and older needs a valid California sport fishing license (including the ocean enhancement stamp) to catch grunion. You do not need a license to observe a run, but if you plan to interact with the fish in any way, even if you do not plan to keep any fish, you will need a license.

Q. Could you tell me where I can observe a grunion run in my local area?

A. While grunion can potentially spawn on any open, gently-sloping, sandy, wave-swept beach in southern California, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife does not recommend any particular beach over another because of changing safety conditions and local curfews. One of the best ways to find out which beaches have had recent runs is to call the state and county beach lifeguards who can often tell if spawning has taken place.

Q. How do I find out when the grunion are running?

A. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife produces an annual schedule of expected grunion runs, available at: This schedule is updated each January.

Q. Grunion are unusual and extremely interesting; I'd like to learn a little more about their life history. Can you recommend any additional online resources?

A. Take a look at our online booklet "The Amazing Grunion". You also might consider the chapter on the status of the grunion (PDF) resource in "California's Living Marine Resources: A Status Report". Finally, check out a website presenting grunion research, maintained by Dr. Karen Martin at Pepperdine University at:

Spiny Lobster

Brochure: Reporting Your Catch

Brochure: Reporting Your Catch

This brochure, Reporting Your Catch: California Recreational Spiny Lobster Report Card Program , contains a summary of information about the lobster report card as well as lobster fishery management. This resource outlines important considerations when preparing to fish for spiny lobster, including card deadlines and the new non-return fee.


Q. When did the requirement for filling out and submitting spiny lobster report cards go into effect?

A. Persons taking or trying to take lobster are required to possess, fill out and submit spiny lobster report cards starting September 27, 2008.

Q. How much does the spiny lobster report card cost?

A. The 2014-2015 spiny lobster report card costs $9.22 when purchased from CDFW offices, and $9.46 when purchased from other vendors.

Q. Where can I purchase a spiny lobster report card?

A. The spiny lobster report card should be available wherever you purchase your sport fishing license, including most tackle shops and some sporting goods stores, however some license agents may choose not to sell the card. You can also purchase spiny lobster report cards online.

An online list of CDFW license sales offices is also available.

Q. What is the purpose of the spiny lobster report card?

A. The purpose of the reporting requirement is to monitor recreational spiny lobster catch, fishing effort and the gear used in the recreational fishery. Although CDFW has considerable information about the commercial lobster fishery from landing receipts and logbooks, CDFW has very little reliable information on the magnitude of the recreational lobster catch and fishing effort.

Q. Do kids under 16 need a spiny lobster report card too?

A. Yes, if they are fishing for, taking, or assisting with fishing for spiny lobster.

Q. Is there a limit to the number of spiny lobster report cards I can buy?

A. No. Unlike abalone and sturgeon report cards, there is currently no limit on the number of lobster report cards one can purchase. Cards must be in the card user's name.

If purchasing cards for children under 16, provide the parent's ID, but children's names should be on their own cards. To purchase a license or report card for an adult who is not present, provide any previous license or other official document issued to the licensee, or the recipient's personal information (name, DOB, CDL or other ID number, etc).

Q. Am I required to have the spiny lobster report card in possession when I'm fishing for spiny lobsters?

A. Yes. All individuals must have a spiny lobster report card in their possession while fishing for or taking lobster, or assisting in fishing for lobster, including children under the age of 16. In the case of a person diving from a boat, the report card may be kept in the boat. In the case of a person diving from the shore, the report card may be kept within 500 yards from the point of entry.

Q. How do I fill out my lobster report card?

A. Instructions can be found on the card. Record the month, day, location, and gear code on the first available line on the card. When you are done fishing at that location, when you switch gear, or when you are done fishing for the day, record the number of lobster kept, then move to the next available line on the card. Use separate lines on the card for each location fished and each gear type used.

Q. What will CDFW do with the additional income generated from the sales of spiny lobster report cards? Will it be used for anything to do with lobster?

A. The funds can be used to support any CDFW project, including those specifically focused on lobster.

Q. Where and when do I submit the card once it's filled out?

A. Lobster report cards should be dropped off or mailed to the address specified on the report card by the deadline, which is also specified on the card:

California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Lobster Report Card
3883 Ruffin Rd.
San Diego, CA 92123

You can also report online. 2014-15 full season cards are due back to CDFW by April 30, 2015, and can also be reported online or mailed to the address above. There is a $20 non-return fee. Fishermen can avoid the non-return fee by returning their cards by the due date, or by sitting out one fishing season.

Q. Are there any additional restrictions not listed in CDFW regulations, concerning recreational spiny lobster take in specific areas?

A. You may want to check with local authorities (for example, the harbormaster in the area where you wish to take lobster) regarding any additional restrictions on lobster fishing in harbors, etc. Local authorities have the right to restrict certain activities in these areas in the interest of public safety. Such authorities cannot impose rules that are more lenient than state fishing regulations, but they may impose more stringent restrictions regarding access, for example, in certain high traffic areas if they have concerns about the public's well being caused by fishing activity in a given area.

Q. If I'm fishing for crab from a public pier and I'm NOT fishing for spiny lobster, do I still need the lobster report card?

A. If you're not fishing for spiny lobster, you do not need to purchase a spiny lobster report card. By the same token, if you catch spiny lobster while fishing for rock crab, you cannot keep spiny lobster if you do not have a spiny lobster report card in your possession.

Q. I'm a scuba diver and a kayak fisherman. I want to use a hoop net this season, and bring my scuba gear on the kayak at the same time. Another diver told me it was illegal to have more than one type of hunting device on the kayak (hoop net and scuba). Is this statement correct?

A. It is legal to carry hoop nets and scuba gear aboard your kayak when hunting for spiny lobster south of Yankee Pt. (Monterey County). Section 29.05(d) prohibits the use of scuba north of Yankee Pt. for all invertebrates except sea urchins, rock scallops and crabs of the genus Cancer. South of Yankee Pt. you can use and possess scuba gear and hoop nets simultaneously on your kayak when hunting lobster.

While scuba gear is not illegal to carry aboard a kayak, remember that it is currently illegal to use or possess any hooked devices while diving or attempting to dive for crustaceans. Spearfishing gear, specifically the spear, could be considered a hooked device. A game warden would make the final determination of this when checking your gear.

Even though you may intend to use a spear only for spearing fish and not as a tool to assist in persuading a shy lobster to come out of its cozy cave or crevice, you should probably do your spearfishing and lobster diving on separate dives.

Q. My son is 15 years old and will fish with me this year. We both have our report cards. Does he have to carry his own catch? Or can I be in possession of more than my legal 7 "bugs"?

A. Until you get the lobster home, your son will need to be in the immediate vicinity of his catch, so that if a warden stops you, your son's spiny lobster can be attributed to him via his spiny lobster report card (he must carry his report card). As long as you're together, there's nothing wrong with carrying his lobster for him.

For example, you and your son go hoop netting from a pier and have a cooler in which you place your combined spiny lobster catch. When you're done hoop netting you carry the cooler off the pier with your son walking next to you. You are stopped by a warden to whom you show your catch and both of your cards. Because two persons with two filled-out spiny lobster report cards are present to account for two limits of spiny lobster (it was a great night for hoop netting "bugs"!), the warden can see that you are following regulations, even though only one person is carrying all the lobster.

To be "in possession" of his catch, your son needs to be in the immediate vicinity-- walking down the pier with you, traveling home together in the car, etc., with the spiny lobster he caught fully accounted for on his spiny lobster report card.

Q. I have heard about a new spiny lobster brochure. Where can I find one?

A. You can find the new "Reporting Your Catch" brochure, which contains a summary of information about the new lobster report card as well as lobster fishery management, at select CDFW offices in coastal Southern California and online. Another brochure detailing California spiny lobster biology, regulations, and fishing is also available online (Note: Report card information in the older brochure is out of date -- report cards are now good for the entire lobster fishing season).

Q. How big and how old do California spiny lobsters get?

A. It is believed California spiny lobsters live 50 years or more. There are records of male California spiny lobster weighing over 26 pounds and attaining lengths up to three feet. Today, lobsters over five pounds are considered trophy-sized. More information on spiny lobster biology is available online.

Q. What is the minimum size limit for spiny lobster, and how do I measure a lobster?

A. The minimum size limit for California spiny lobster is three and one-fourth inches, measured in a straight line on the midline of the back from the rear edge of the eye socket to the rear edge of the body shell.

View a lobster measurement diagram online.
Reference Section 29.90(c) Title 14, California Code of Regulations (CCR).

Q. What is the daily bag limit for lobster? The possession limit?

A. According to CCR T14, Section 29.90(b), the daily recreational bag limit is seven lobsters per person. Additionally, Section 1.17 states that no more than one daily bag limit may be taken or possessed by any one person unless otherwise authorized (see Declaration for Multi-Day Fishing Trip, Section 27.15 T14, CCR), regardless of whether they are fresh, frozen or otherwise preserved. This means that if you have a limit of seven lobsters at home, you cannot go out and get more lobsters until the first limit is disposed of in some way (eaten, given away, etc).

Q. Am I required to have a lobster gauge when I go fishing for lobster? Can I use a tape measure or a ruler?

A. Every person while taking lobster (or other invertebrates which have a minimum size limit) shall carry a device which is capable of accurately measuring the size of the lobster. Due to the curvature of the lobster's carapace and the measurement method described above, a tape measure or ruler is not capable of measuring the size of the lobster accurately; a gauge with a fixed span works best. Reference Section 29.05(c) T14, CCR.

Q. When should I measure the lobster I catch?

A. Any lobster may be brought to the surface of the water for the purpose of measuring, but no undersized lobster may be brought aboard any boat, placed in any type of receiver, kept on the person or retained in any person's possession or under his direct control; all lobsters shall be measured immediately upon being brought to the surface of the water, and any undersized lobster shall be released immediately. Reference Section 29.90(c) T14, CCR.

Q. When does recreational lobster season start and end?

A. Recreational lobster season runs from the Saturday preceding the first Wednesday in October through the first Wednesday after the 15th of March. Here are the dates for the next 2 seasons:

  • Saturday, September 27, 2014 through Wednesday March 18, 2015
  • Saturday, October 3, 2015 through Wednesday March 16, 2016

Reference Section 29.90(a) T14, CCR.

Q. When does recreational lobster season "technically" start - the actual time it opens?

A. Recreational lobster season opens at 12:00:01 AM on the Saturday preceding the first Wednesday of October and closes at 12:00:00 PM on the first Wednesday (night) after the 15th of March.

Q. What are the legal methods of take for spiny lobster? Can I use a "tickle stick" to coax a lobster from its hiding spot?

A. According to CCR T14, Section 29.80(a) and (b), spiny lobster may only be taken by hand or by hoop net. You cannot use any other devices to take or assist in taking lobster - this includes "tickle sticks" or other similar appliances used to coax a lobster from its hiding spot. For the legal definition of a hoop net, see CCR T14, Section 29.80(b)(1)in the annual California Ocean Fishing Sport Fishing regulation booklet.

Q. Can a sport fisherman use traps to take lobster? What about lobsters that are taken on hook and line while fishing for finfish?

A. No. As stated above, lobsters may only be taken by hand or by hoop net - traps may not be used. Lobsters that are taken incidentally on hook and line while fishing for finfish must be returned to the sea immediately. For the legal definition of a hoop net, see CCR T14, Section 29.80(b)(1) in the annual California Ocean Fishing Sport Fishing regulation booklet.

Q. How many hoop nets can I use on my boat?

A. According to CCR T14, Section 29.80(b) not more than 5 baited hoop nets may be fished by a person, not to exceed a total of 10 hoop nets fished from any vessel, regardless of how many people are aboard.

Q. How many hoop nets can I use while fishing from a public pier?

A. You may use up to two appliances (rod and reel, hoop net, etc.) while fishing from a public pier - two rods and reels, or 1 rod and reel and 1 hoop net, or 2 hoop nets. Reference CCR T14, Section 28.65(b)

Q. May I tail my legally harvested lobsters while still at sea or at the boat launch ramp?

A. No. Spiny lobsters shall be kept in a whole, measurable condition, until being prepared for immediate consumption. Reference CCR T14, Section 29.90(e)

Q. I heard about a Lobster Fishery Management Plan that is currently underway. Where can I find more information?

A. Visit the California Spiny Lobster Fishery Management Plan web page.

Q. I've captured a lobster with a tag attached to it. What should I do?

A. There are various programs that have tagged lobsters in southern California. A unique identification code (tag number) and phone number (or website) can be found printed on most tags, which are usually small colored strips of plastic inserted into the underside or back of the lobster. Researchers are interested in learning about the movement and growth of individual lobsters. It is important to record the date, location where the lobster was caught (GPS coordinates are best, but distance to a recognized landmark will work if you don't have a GPS), as well as the carapace length of the lobster (to the nearest millimeter if possible), and the tag number. All four pieces of information: date, location, length, and tag number, are important when reporting a tagged lobster.

In 2011 and 2012, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, San Diego Oceans Foundation, San Diego State University and Scripps Institution of Oceanography teamed with lobster fishermen and volunteers to collaborate on a project to tag and monitor thousands of lobster in southern California. Reporting tagged lobsters will assist this study in examining current levels of lobster abundance, size composition of the population, and movement and growth of individuals over time. For more information, or to report a lobster tagged with a blue, yellow, or green tag, please visit:

Lobsters may be brought to the surface to measure. If the lobster is under legal size and is tagged, quickly record the number on the tag and immediately release the lobster. No undersize lobster, even if it is tagged, may be brought aboard a boat, placed in any type of receiver, or retained in any manner. Do not remove tags from any short lobsters.

Marine Mammals

Q. How many sea lions and seals are there in California?

A. In California, one commonly sees California sea lions and Pacific harbor seals. According to federal population estimates (1995), there are approximately 161,000 to 181,000 California sea lions on the west coast. They give birth and breed primarily at the southern California Channel Islands from May to July. After the breeding season, adult males migrate north, some as far as British Columbia, Canada! In comparison, there are about 32,000 harbor seals along California's mainland and island coasts. Seals give birth and breed from February to May all along the California coastline. Unlike sea lions, harbor seals tend to remain in the same general area. Both populations are healthy and their numbers continue to increase. (California Marine Mammals online booklet)

Q. Can private individuals do anything to prevent sea lions from invading and fouling our docks and boats?

A. All marine mammals are protected and managed by the federal government, under the stewardship of the National Marine Fisheries Service (the State has no jurisdiction). The 1994 Amendments to the Marine Mammal Protection Act gave property owners and government officials the authority to protect private and public property by deterring sea lions, provided the acts do not result in serious injury or death to the animal. Recreational fishermen can deter sea lions from damaging their gear and catch, again provided that the acts of deterrence do not result in serious injury or death to the animal. Methods may involve preventing access, acoustic devices, seal bombs, boat hazing, spraying with water, or lightly prodding. One cannot break skin, or direct an act at the head or eyes of the sea lion, or direct acts at seal lions that are hauled out on rocks or beaches. Firearms, crossbows, spearguns, harpoons, javelins, arrows, spears, or other similar devices are prohibited. Relocating sea lions or offering them tainted fish or other consumables is also prohibited.

Q. We found a dead sea lion. Who takes care of it?

A. The disposal of the animal is the responsibility of the agency that manages the beach (either city, county, state or federal, depending on the area). Smaller animals, such as sea lions, seals, and dolphins, are usually transported to a landfill, or if the area is remote, they are buried on the beach. Whales may be towed out to sea. When a marine mammal washes up dead, agencies should first contact the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) who examine the animal for species, and determine the cause of death. Disposal of dead marine mammals is considered a "take" under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act, and must be reported to NMFS. Additionally, it is unlawful to take or possess parts of dead marine mammals without prior authorization from NMFS. To report a stranded or dead marine mammal, contact:

Justin Viezbicke
California Stranding Coordinator
National Marine Fisheries Service
501 W. Ocean Blvd Suite 4200
Long Beach, CA 90802
(562) 980-3230
(562) 506-4315 - Stranding Hotline

Sport Fishing

Q. Why are there so many regulations for sport fishing?

A. The complexity of the sport fishing regulations is due to CDFW's goal of providing the most fishing opportunities to sport fishermen, while meeting state and federal mandates to manage, protect, and restore marine fisheries.

Q. Am I required to display my sport fishing license outside of my clothing, above my waist?

A. This requirement has been repealed. Effective March 1, 2010 anglers no longer have to display their sport fishing license on their outer clothing above the waist, but their sport fishing license must still be in their possession while fishing. When diving from a boat or shore, divers may have their license on the boat or within 500 yards on the shore, respectively (Ref Section 7145).

Q. Is a fishing license required while fishing on a public fishing pier?

A. No; but it must be a public fishing pier.

FG§ 7153. Pier Fishing in Ocean
(a) A sport fishing license is not required to take fish for any purpose other than profit by means of angling from a public pier in the ocean waters of the state.
(b) For purposes of this section, "ocean waters" include, but are not limited to, the open waters adjacent to the ocean and any island; the waters of any open or enclosed bay contiguous to the ocean; the San Francisco and San Pablo Bays, with any tidal bay belonging thereto; and any slough or estuary, if found between the Golden Gate Bridge and the Benicia-Martinez Bridge.

Q. What is the "RCG Complex"?

A. As defined in Section 1.91 of the annual Ocean Sport Fishing regulations booklet, the RCG complex means all species of rockfish (genus Sebastes), cabezon (Scorpaenichthys marmoratus), and kelp and rock greenlings (genus Hexagrammos). The sport fishing daily bag and possession limit for the RGC Complex is 10 fish in combination of species, with sublimits on some species.

Q. What is the bag limit for California scorpionfish (sculpin)?

A. The daily bag and possession limit for California scorpionfish (Scorpaena guttata), aka sculpin, is 5 fish per angler. The minimum size limit is 10 inches, with a minimum fillet length of 5 inches.

View a summary of the current California scorpionfish regulations.

Q. Why can't I fish for ocean whitefish during a rockfish closure?

A.Ocean whitefish are prohibited during a rockfish closure to prevent the incidental take (bycatch) of depleted species of rockfish (namely bocaccio). Data shows that these species are often taken by sport fishermen in conjunction with one another.

Q. Why is there a minimum fillet length requirement for ocean whitefish, but no minimum size limit for this species?

A.This is due to the similarity of appearance between whitefish and bass (barred sand bass and kelp bass) fillets, in order to prevent dishonest anglers from taking short bass (minimum size limit is 12 inches), filleting them and then claiming they are whitefish fillets. If you catch and choose to keep an ocean whitefish that may not meet the minimum fillet length (6 inches) once it is filleted, the best advice to avoid running into this problem is to keep the fish whole, or gutted, until you get home and prepare the fish for eating.

Q. How many fish total can I have in my bag and possession limit?

A. The general bag and possession limit of Section 27.60 states that no more than 20 finfish in combination of all species with not more than 10 of any one species, may be taken or possessed by any one person. Within this general bag limit of 20 fish with not more than 10 of any one species, special sublimits apply to many species. There are also many species that have no bag or possession limit. Refer to the ocean sport fishing regulations for complete information.

Q. Why are some fish like cabezon, greenling (sea trout), and sheephead closed to take in the middle of each year?

A. Some species of fish like cabezon, greenling (sea trout), and sheephead have a yearly statewide harvest quota. When this quota is reached the Fish and Game Commission suspends the take until the end of the year when a new yearly quota starts again. Sport and commercial fishing have different quotas for the same species of fish. If the commercial quota for a species is reached before the sport quota, the commercial season for that species may be closed while the sport season remains open until that quota is reached.

Q. How many fishing rods and hooks can I use when sport fishing in the ocean?

A. Any number of hooks and fishing lines may be used in all ocean waters and bays with the following exceptions:

  • You can only use one line with no more than three hooks while fishing in San Francisco and San Pablo bays between the Golden Gate Bridge and the west Carquinez Bridge.
  • When you are fishing from a public pier you can use only two rods and lines, two hand lines, or two crab nets, crab traps or other appliances used to take crabs.
  • When you are fishing for rockfish or lingcod or you have rockfish or lingcod aboard your boat, you can only use one line with no more than two hooks.
  • If you are fishing north of Point Conception for salmon or have salmon on board your boat, you can only use one rod and line with no more than two single barbless hooks (check current salmon regulations for other hook restrictions).
Ref. Section 28.65.

Q. What are the gear restrictions when fishing for salmon?


  • You can not use weights over four pounds unless the weight is attached to a downrigger and the fishing line releases automatically from the downrigger when a fish is hooked.
  • You can only use up to two single point single shank barbless hooks when fishing for salmon or you have salmon on your boat, even if you are fishing for something other than salmon.
  • If you are fishing for salmon with bait or have salmon on board and you are not trolling (drifting or mooching), you can use no more than two single point single shank circle hooks. If you are using two hooks for mooching with bait, the hooks have to be tied in place so they do not slide (hard tied), and the distance between the hooks must not exceed five inches measured from the top of the eye of the top hook to the inner base of the curve of the lower hook.
  • If you are salmon fishing or have salmon on board your boat when fishing for something else, you can only use one fishing rod and line.
Ref. Section 27.80

Q. If I go fishing for salmon and have salmon on board my boat, then I go fishing for rockfish and lingcod what are the restrictions?

A. Because you have salmon on board your boat, you are restricted to using only gear that is legal to take salmon. You can only use one fishing rod and line. You can only use up to two hooks and those hooks have to be single and barbless. If you put bait on your hooks the hooks have to be single barbless circle hooks. For example: You can fish with a single Scampi jig and a shrimp fly with the barbs pinched down or you can fish with two barbless shrimp flies and a weight. If you put on bait you can use two barbless circle hooks with or without attached lures. Ref. Section 27.80

Q. If I go fishing for rockfish and lingcod and have rockfish and lingcod on my boat and then go fishing for salmon, what are the restrictions; and what if I catch a rockfish or lingcod while I'm fishing for salmon?

A. Because you have rockfish or lingcod on board your boat and rockfish and lingcod cannot be taken or possessed in water deeper than 20 fathoms (120 feet), you are restricted to fishing for salmon in water less than 20 fathoms (120 feet) deep. The same thing applies if you are fishing for salmon and don't have rockfish or lingcod on the boat, but then you catch a rockfish or lingcod. If you are fishing in water deeper than 20 fathoms you cannot keep the rockfish or lingcod because they cannot be taken in water deeper than 20 fathoms. If you are fishing for salmon in water less than 20 fathoms, but you catch a rockfish or lingcod and keep it, you now are restricted to fishing for salmon in water less than 20 fathoms because rockfish and lingcod cannot be possessed while fishing in water deeper than 20 fathoms. Ref. Section 27.82.

Q. How many limits of fish can I legally possess when I have been fishing for multiple days; and can I possess more than one daily limit at my home?

A. No more than one daily bag limit of each kind of fish, amphibian, reptile, mollusk or crustacean may be taken or possessed by any one person unless otherwise authorized (see Section 27.15 and Section 27.80(e)); regardless of whether they are fresh, frozen, canned, smoked, or otherwise preserved. This includes in your home. Ref. Section 1.17.

Q. Can I give fish away to friends and family and do they need to have a fishing license for me to give it to them?

A. Yes, you can give fish away. The person you give fish to does not need to have a fishing license. A fishing license is only needed to take fish. You can still only take one daily limit, but you can give that limit away so that you can go fishing the next day and not be in possession of more than one daily bag and possession limit. So, if you have two people in your boat, car, camp or living in your home, you can possess two limits of fish in your boat, car, camp or home.

Q. What is the largest white seabass and California halibut ever taken in California? When are they mature, and how old do they get?

A. White seabass:

  • reported to 90 pounds,
  • 50% are mature by 28 inches, total length,
  • the oldest recorded white seabass was 16 years.

     California halibut:

  • reported to 72 pounds,
  • 50% of males mature by 9 inches, females by 18 inches,
  • the oldest recorded California halibut was a 30-year-old female.

Q. Where can I find a list of record size saltwater fish taken by angling or diving?

A. Contact any of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Marine Region offices, or call the Los Alamitos office at (562) 342-7184.

Q. Who do I contact regarding a saltwater fish that might be a record size, and what do I need to do to document it?

A. Contact any California Department of Fish and Wildlife Marine Region office that works with marine species. You will need to have a Department biologist verify the species, the weight must be taken on a certified scale (such as at a supermarket meat counter), and a photograph must be taken. Department offices have the application forms and can identify the fish. For more information contact the Los Alamitos office at (562) 342-7184.

Q. I caught a weird saltwater fish, who can help me identify it?

A. Contact any California Department of Fish and Wildlife Marine Region office. They will either help you with the identification or find someone close to you who can identify it. You can also send your question, with a digital picture of your fish, to

Note: Your questions sent to, and CDFW's response, may be posted on the Internet or published in periodicals to help others with similar questions. If you do not wish your question to be used in this manner, please indicate this in your email.

Q. Why are there so few corbina today as compared to several years ago, and where do these fish go in the winter?

A. Recent indicators show corbina populations are improving, based on juvenile fish sampling. As for the disappearance of corbina in the winter, they may be seeking warmer water by moving further south or into embayments, or perhaps offshore. Unfortunately, movement patterns of corbina are not well understood.

Q. Why isn't there a minimum size limit on sport-caught rockfish?

A. Many rockfish species will not survive if caught in deep water and returned to the ocean. Because of changes in internal pressure after the fish is hooked and retrieved from great depths, there is physical trauma to the gas bladder and other internal organs. Minimum size limits would not be an effective management tool for most species of rockfish because of this reason. Bocaccio have a minimum size limit of 10 inches to protect juvenile fish that are sometimes caught in large numbers in shallow water by pier and shore-based anglers in central and northern California.

Q. Why isn't there a size limit on mako sharks? I only see small ones being caught.

A. Most of the mako sharks caught off Southern California are small (under 4 feet) because the Southern California Bight is part of a juvenile shark nursery area. The adults live in different habitat, either far offshore or in very deep water. Many shark populations are known to segregate by size, an adaptation thought to keep young sharks from being preyed upon by larger relatives. A size limit restricted to adult mako sharks would effectively shut down the recreational fishery because of the scarcity of large fish in Southern California waters. So far, there is no supporting biological information to show conservation benefits from a minimum size limit on mako sharks. Currently, the allowable take is two (2) mako sharks per person per day, within the twenty fish per day limit.

Q. Why are bocaccio still a species of concern when we are now seeing so many of them in Southern California and they appear to be well on their way to recovery?

A. Many anglers have said that bocaccio are abundant in Southern California, and it's true that anglers are currently seeing many bocaccio. This is because 1999 was one of the more successful spawning events for bocaccio. Hopefully those fish will survive to spawn themselves.

On the other hand, while the 1999 event was good, NMFS scientists tell us that it was not as good as they thought when they established harvest levels in 2000 for the next three years. Scientists use complex, state-of-the art computer modeling programs to determine the overall health of the fishery. Information including catches (both commercial and sport), the age of fish caught, abundance measures of larval bocaccio and research (fishery independent) fish are all used in these models. The Secretary of Commerce has accepted these analysis methods as appropriate and they are the tools used to guide management decisions. All indications are that more stringent management measures are needed.

Q. I have a lot of questions about sport fishing licenses. Where can I go for information?

A. CDFW's License and Revenue branch maintains a FAQ page with frequently asked questions about sport fishing licenses here.

Pier and Shore-Based Sport Fishing

Q. Where and when can I fish in the ocean without a fishing license?

A. Anyone 16 years and older must have a fishing license to take any kind of fish, mollusk, invertebrate or crustacean in California, except for persons angling from a public pier for non-commercial purposes in ocean or bay waters. A public pier is defined in the sport fishing regulations as a publicly owned man-made structure that has the following characteristics: is connected, above the mean high tide, to the main coastline or to the land mass of a named and charted natural island; has unrestricted free access for the general public; and has been built or currently functions for the primary purpose of allowing angling access to ocean waters.

Additionally, publicly owned jetties or breakwaters that are connected to land, as described above, that have free unrestricted access for the general public and whose purpose it is to form the most seaward protective boundary of an ocean harbor are public piers. Jetties, breakwaters, promenades, sea walls, moles, docks, linings, barriers and other structures that are not the most seaward protective boundary of an ocean harbor, are not public piers.

Even though a license is not required on a public pier, all other regulations (including minimum size, bag limits and seasons) apply while fishing from a public pier.

If you are in doubt about whether or not a license is needed to fish a particular location, the best way to avoid a potential citation is to purchase a license or find another spot to fish where you are sure that a license is not required.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife offers two "Free Fishing Days" per year to encourage new and lapsed anglers to participate in this great outdoor tradition. On these dates, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife waives the normal licensing requirements; all other fishing regulations, such as bag and size limits, gear restrictions and fishing hours remain in effect, however. To find out the dates for this year's Free Fishing Days, visit the CDFW License and Revenue Branch website

Q. Do I need an ocean enhancement stamp while fishing from a public pier?

A. No. An ocean enhancement stamp is required when fishing anywhere in the ocean south of Point Arguello (Santa Barbara county) where a fishing license is required. This stamp is not required to fish from a public pier.

Q. While fishing from a public pier without a fishing license, am I allowed to go down onto the beach to land a big fish that I hooked on the pier?

A. No. A fishing license is required when fishing everywhere except for a public pier. Even if you hooked the fish on the pier and only came down onto the beach to land the fish, you would need a valid license to avoid a potential citation. Purchasing an annual fishing license will make this a non-issue; or you may want to buy a pier net to help you land bigger fish from the pier.

Q. How many rods can I actively use while fishing from a public pier?

A. You may use no more than two rods and lines, two hand lines, or two nets, traps or other appliances used to take crabs. Species-specific gear restrictions (such as for rockfish, lingcod and salmon) do apply when fishing from a pier.

Q. How many rods can I actively use while fishing from a public pier inside San Francisco bay?

A. On public piers in San Francisco and San Pablo bays between the Golden Gate Bridge and the west Carquinez Bridge, you may only use two lines, two hand lines, or two nets, traps or other appliances used to take crabs. Species-specific gear restrictions (such as for rockfish, lingcod and salmon) do apply when fishing from a pier.

Q. How many rods can I use while fishing from the shore where a fishing license is required?

A. Any number of hooks and lines may be used to take finfish in all ocean waters and bays except in San Francisco and San Pablo bays between the Golden Gate Bridge and the west Carquinez Bridge, where you may only use one line with no more than three hooks. Species-specific gear restrictions (such as for rockfish, lingcod and salmon) do apply when fishing from the shore.

Q. How many rods can I actively use while fishing from the shore inside San Francisco bay?

A. While fishing from the shore in San Francisco and San Pablo bays between the Golden Gate Bridge and the west Carquinez Bridge, you may only use one line with no more than three hooks; you may also use an unlimited number of crab traps. Species-specific gear restrictions (such as for rockfish, lingcod and salmon) do apply when fishing from the shore.

Q. If I have two rods and lines in the water on a public pier, can I also put a baited hoop net in the water?

A. No, you may use no more than two rods and lines, two hand lines, or two nets, traps or other appliances used to take crabs.

Q. Can I have more than two rods with me while I'm on a public pier?

A. Yes, as long as you are actively using no more than two rods at any one time.

Q. Can I keep a crab or lobster if I catch it on a hook with bait?

A. No, hook and line is not a legal method of take for crustaceans. Any lobster or crab taken on hook and line shall be returned to the water immediately.

Q. Do I have to use barbless circle hooks while fishing with a lure for salmon in the ocean from a public pier?

A. Yes and no. Hooks attached to lures must be barbless, but they do not have to be circle hooks. You must use barbless circle hooks when fishing with bait in the ocean from a public pier for salmon.

Q. Can I use two rods while fishing for salmon in the ocean from a public pier?

A. No. Salmon may be taken by angling with no more than one rod in ocean waters north of Point Conception.

Q. Is the monkeyface prickleback (eel) considered rockfish, and included in rockfish seasonal and emergency closures?

A. No. The term "rockfish" in the sport fishing regulations refers to members of the genus Sebastes. While the monkeyface prickleback is considered a "nearshore fish stock" under Section 1.90 of the regulations, it is not a nearshore rockfish, or any other kind of rockfish.

Research & Resource Management

Q. Why does the California Department of Fish and Wildlife attach tags to fish?

A. Biologists tag fish for many reasons, including:
   1. To follow fish movement over time and to ascertain migration patterns.
   2. To discover habitat preferences for fish at different ages, or reproductive stage.
   3. To determine how fast fish grow.
   4. To get information on fish mortality and population size.

Each species has a unique life history so researchers must tag individuals of the species in which they are interested. Since the return rate for most fish tagging projects is 5% or less, many fish must be tagged in order to gather meaningful information.

Q. What is the difference between an external Floy-tag and a coded-wire tag?

A. An external floy-tag is a plastic filament two to three inches long, usually with a "T" base on the end that is inserted into the fish. The "T" anchors the tag into the dorsal muscles or bones of the fish to keep the tag in place. A colored sleeve on the filament contains printed information regarding who to contact when the tag is recovered. The coded-wire tag is a tiny piece of stainless steel wired, injected just under the skin on the head of the fish or into the snout (nose). The wire, commonly called CWT, is etched with a binary code to cross reference the origin of the fish and other information. A metal detector is used to find CWTs in the fish. Often times hatchery produced salmon and white seabass have code-wire tags inserted before they are released. The Sport Fish Research Project in Long Beach, at (310) 590-5117, encourages people who take legal size white seabass to retain the head and contact the Project to determine the presence of a CWT.

Q. What should I do if I catch or find a tagged fish?

A. Record the date and location where caught (or found), the length of the fish and the tag number (if present). Each numbered tag has a unique serial number on it, and usually the phone number or address of an agency to contact. Anglers should release any sub-legal size tagged fish, or tagged fish taken during a closed season, after recording the tag number and carefully measuring the total fish length. Do not remove the tag from a fish that will be released.

Q. Do marine fish hatcheries increase the number of fish for fishermen?

A. For decades salmon hatcheries have been producing fish which contribute to ocean and river salmon populations. California has nine hatcheries that collect eggs from returning adult salmon. The eggs are fertilized, incubated, and the juvenile fish released to the wild. The only marine hatchery now in production is in northern San Diego County. It is producing annually about 100,000 juvenile white seabass at this time, and will eventually produce about 400,000 per year. Each of the white seabass are tagged in order to determine the hatchery contribution to the ocean seabass population.

Marine Life Management Act

Q. What is a "fishery management plan?

A. A fishery management plan is defined as a document that describes the nature and problems of a fishery along with regulatory recommendations to manage the fishery. In essence it is a planning document that contains all the necessary information to make informed decisions on sustaining marine resources while allowing harvest opportunities. Under the MLMA, fishery management plans will provide:

  • Biological information about the marine resources under consideration
  • Habitat needs and issues
  • Through the MLMA, the Legislature delegates greater management authority to the Fish and Game Commission and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife
  • Harvesters and their habits
  • Conservation and management measures already in place
  • The ecological role of the resource
  • The environmental effects that might have to be considered
  • The most appropriate management tools
Q. What is the "Master Plan"?

A. The Master Plan is literally a "road map" to how California fisheries will be managed. Specifically, the Master Plan will include: a prioritized list of fisheries in need of fishery management plans; a process for how the public may be involved in developing fishery management and research plans; a description of the essential fishery information that will be needed to effectively manage the top priority fisheries; and a process of how these various plans will be amended or revised. The Master Plan is a first step in making clear and explicit, the complex process of fisheries management.

Q. How is the public going to share in the responsibility of managing the living marine resources of California?

A. One of the changes the MLMA set into motion was to make the regulatory planning and decision-making process more open to the public. The Act instructs CDFW and Commission to "involve all interested parties, including, but not limited to, individuals from the sport and commercial fishing industries, aquaculture industries, coastal and ocean tourism and recreation industries, marine conservation organizations, local governments, marine scientists and the public." To achieve this mandate several communication tools are being employed:

  • The MLMA Evaluation Advisory Committee was created to advise the California Department of Fish and Wildlife on implementation of all aspects of the MLMA. The Advisory Committee is composed of appointed representatives from the recreational and commercial fishing communities, the conservation and environmental community, and the scientific community.
  • The California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Fish and Game Commission have made the regulatory process more accessible to their constituents by holding public meetings at several locations across the state and during hours more encouraging to public involvement.
  • CDFW and the Fish and Game Commission are using the Internet to inform more of the public about meetings and management activities in the marine environment. By making information more accessible and timely, the public may become better informed and enter into management discussions early in the processes.

Q. How has the Marine Life Management Act changed the responsibilities of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Fish and Game Commission?

A. Prior to the passage of the MLMA in 1998, the responsibility for managing most of California's marine resources harvested by commercial fisheries lay with the State Legislature, while the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Fish and Game Commission managed the recreational fisheries and those commercial fisheries that had catch quotas that changed periodically. Management of commercial fisheries under this division of responsibility was complicated, piecemeal, and oftentimes untimely, with necessary regulatory changes only occurring after much political deliberation and approval by both the Assembly and the Senate. In addition, this division of authority often resulted in laws and regulations that were inappropriate for the sustainability of the resource. The MLMA transfers permanent management authority to the Fish and Game Commission for the nearshore finfish fishery, the white seabass fishery, emerging fisheries, and other fisheries for which the Commission had some management authority prior to January 1, 1999.

Marine Life Protection Act

Read FAQs on the Marine Life Protection Act website.

CDFW Marine Offices and Other Information

Q. Where are all local California Department of Fish and Wildlife Marine Resources offices located?

A. There are several office locations along the coast of California.

Q. How do I find out when the next good low tide is, or how low the tide will be?

A. Most boating and tackle stores have inexpensive or free tide-books. Otherwise check the tide predictions in the daily newspaper for the area you are interested in, or check with this handy Tide Information website.