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Saltwater Fishing Regulations

Saltwater Marine Fishing Regulations California Saltwater Fishing

General Provisions and Definitions

(Regulations seen in RED TEXT are new this year.)

All laws or regulations hereunder are either reproduced verbatim from the Fish and Game Code or from Title 14 of the California Code of Regulations (CCR), as adopted by the Fish and Game Commission under authority of the Fish and Game Code.

1.04. Anadromous Waters.

Anadromous waters are inland waters that are accessible to fish migrating from the ocean.

1.05. Angling.

Angling means take of fish by hook-and-line with the line held in the hand, or with the line attached to a pole or rod held in the hand or closely attended in such manner that the fish voluntarily takes the bait or lure inside its mouth.

1.14. Authorization for Taking Fish.

Fish, amphibians, reptiles, mollusks and crustaceans may be taken only in the amounts, only during the open season and only with the gear authorized and shall not be taken otherwise.

1.17. Bag and Possession Limit.

No more than one daily bag limit of each kind of fish, amphibian, reptile, mollusk or crustacean named in these regulations may be taken or possessed by any one person unless otherwise authorized; regardless of whether they are fresh, frozen, or otherwise preserved. Exceptions: See Sections 7.00, 7.50(a), 27.60(c), and 195, Title 14, CCR.

1.19. Barbless Hook.

A fish hook from which the barb or barbs have been removed or completely bent closed, or which is manufactured without barbs.

1.23. Bow and Arrow Fishing Tackle.

Such tackle must have the arrow shaft or the point, or both, attached by a line to the bow or to a fishing reel (includes crossbow).

1.32. Chumming.

Placing any material in the water, other than on a hook while angling, for the purpose of attracting fish to a particular area in order that they may be taken.

1.35. Closed or Closure.

Refers to waters or areas closed to all fishing unless otherwise authorized.

1.38. Closed Season.

That period during which the taking of fish, amphibians, reptiles, mollusks or crustaceans is prohibited.

1.39. Coastal Pelagic Species Defined.

Coastal pelagic species means any of the following: northern anchovy (Engraulis mordax), Pacific sardine (Sardinops sagax), Pacific mackerel (Scomber japonicus), jack mackerel (Trachurus symmetricus), and market squid (Loligo (Doryteuthis) opalescens).

1.41. Dates.

Dates of seasons and closures are inclusive.

1.42. Dip Net.

Webbing supported by a frame, and hand held, not more than six feet in greatest dimension, excluding handle.

1.46. Finfish Defined.

Finfish are defined as any species of bony fish or cartilaginous fish (sharks, skates and rays). Finfish do not include amphibians, invertebrates, plants or algae.

1.49. Highly Migratory Species Defined.

Highly migratory species means any of the following: albacore, bluefin, bigeye, and yellowfin tuna (Thunnus spp.); skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis); dorado (dolphinfish) (Coryphaena hippurus); striped marlin (Tetrapturus audax); thresher sharks (common, pelagic, and bigeye) (Alopias spp.); shortfin mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus); blue shark (Prionace glauca), and Pacific swordfish (Xiphias gladius).

1.53. Inland Waters.

Inland waters are all the fresh, brackish and inland saline waters of the state, including lagoons and tidewaters upstream from the mouths of coastal rivers and streams. Inland waters exclude the waters of San Francisco Bay and the waters of Elkhorn Slough, west of Elkhorn Road between Castroville and Watsonville. See Section 27.00 for the description of San Francisco Bay.

1.59. Limit.

Refers to daily bag limit and possession limit per person, or boat limit authorized in Sections 27.60(c) and 195, Title 14, CCR.

1.62. Minimum and Maximum Size.

No fish, mollusks or crustaceans less than the legal minimum size or greater than the maximum legal size (total, fork or alternate) may be possessed, except as otherwise provided. Total length is the longest straight-line measurement from the tip of the head to the end of the longest lobe of the tail. Fork length is the straight-line distance from the tip of the head to the center of the tail fin. Tip of the head shall be the most anterior point on the fish with the mouth closed and the fish lying flat on its side. Alternate length is the straight-line distance from the base of the foremost spine of the first dorsal fin to the end of the longest lobe of the tail. Unless otherwise provided, all fish, mollusks or crustaceans less than the legal minimum size or greater than the maximum legal size must be returned immediately to the water from which they were taken. (Note: See Invertebrate section for definitions of minimum legal size for mollusks and crustaceans.)

1.63. Movement of Live Fish.

Except as provided in Sections 4.00 through 4.30 and 230, live fin fish may not be transported alive from the water where taken.

1.65. Multiple Hook.

A hook with two or more points.

1.68. Open Season.

That period of time during which the taking of fish, amphibians, reptiles, mollusks and crustaceans is authorized.

1.70. Opening Date and Bag Limit for Boundary Waters.

Waters, exclusive of their tributaries, on the boundary between areas or districts with different opening dates or limits shall open on the earlier date and have the larger limit unless otherwise specified.

1.72. Stream (Includes Creeks and Rivers).

A stream is a body of water that flows at least periodically or intermittently through a bed or channel having banks and that supports fish or other aquatic life. This includes watercourses having a surface or subsurface flow that supports or has supported riparian vegetation.

1.73. Salmon.

(a) Salmon includes Chinook, coho, pink, chum, and sockeye salmon.

(b) Any person in possession of a recreationally taken salmon with a missing adipose fin (the small, fleshy fin on the back of the fish between the back fin and tail) shall immediately relinquish the head of the salmon, upon request by an authorized agent or employee of the department, to facilitate the recovery of any coded-wire tag. The head may be removed by the fish owner or, if removed by the official department representative, the head shall be removed in a manner to minimize loss of salmon flesh and the salmon shall immediately be returned to the fish owner.

1.74. Sport Fishing Report Card and Tagging Requirements.

(a) Purpose. These regulations are designed to improve recreational fishing effort and catch information in some or all areas where the fisheries operate. Many of these species are of high commercial value, and therefore, additional enforcement mechanisms are needed to improve compliance with existing bag limits and other regulations, and to reduce the potential for poaching.

(b) Report card requirements apply to any person fishing for or taking the following species regardless of whether a sport fishing license is required:

(1) Salmon, in the anadromous waters of the Klamath, Trinity, and Smith river basins. Anadromous waters are defined in Section 1.04 of these regulations.

(2) Steelhead trout.

(3) White sturgeon.

(4) Red abalone.

(5) California spiny lobster.

(c) General Report Card Requirements.

(1) Any person fishing for or taking any of the species identified in this Section shall have in his immediate possession a valid non-transferable report card issued by the department for the particular species. See special exemption regarding possession of report cards for lobster divers in Section 29.91 of these regulations.

(2) All entries made on any report card or tag shall be legible and in indelible ink.

(3) A report card holder fishing with a one, two, or ten-day sport fishing license, may replace the expired fishing license without purchasing a new report card so long as the report card is still valid.

(4) Report cards are not transferable and shall not be transferred to another person. No person shall possess any report card other than his own.

(5) A person may only obtain one abalone report card and one sturgeon report card per report card period.

(6) Any report card holder who fills in all available lines on his steelhead, salmon or lobster report card shall return or report the card to the department pursuant to subsection 1.74(e) prior to purchasing a second card.

(7) Data recording and tagging procedures vary between report cards and species. See specific regulations in sections 5.79, 5.87, 5.88, 27.92, 29.16, and 29.91 that apply in addition to the regulations of this Section.

(d) Report Card Return and Reporting Requirements

(1) Report card holders shall return or report their salmon, steelhead, sturgeon, or abalone report cards to the department pursuant to subsection 1.74(e) by January 31 of the following year.

(A) Any report card holder who fails to return or report his salmon, steelhead, sturgeon, or abalone report card to the department by the deadline may be restricted from obtaining the same card in a subsequent license year or may be subject to an additional fee for the issuance of the same card in a subsequent license year.

(2) Report card holders shall return or report their lobster report cards pursuant to subsection 1.74(e) by April 30 following the close of the lobster season for which the card was issued.

(A) Any report card holder who fails to return or report his or her lobster report card by April 30 following the close of the lobster season specified on the card shall be subject to a nonrefundable non-return fee specified in Section 701, in addition to the annual report card fee, for the issuance of a lobster report card in the subsequent fishing season.

(e) Report Card Return and Reporting Mechanisms:

(1) By mail or in person at the address specified on the card. A report card returned by mail shall be postmarked by the date applicable to that card as specified in subsection 1.74(d)(1) or 1.74(d)(2).

(2) Online through the department’s license sales service website by the date applicable to that card as specified in subsection 1.74(d)(1) or 1.74(d)(2).

(3) If a report card is submitted by mail and not received by the department, it is considered not returned unless the report card holder reports his or her report card as lost pursuant to subsection 1.74(f).

(f) Lost report cards.

(1) Any report card holder who loses his report card shall submit an affidavit, signed under penalty of perjury, in person to a department license sales office containing all of the following information:

(A) A statement containing the report card holder’s full name confirming that the originally issued report card cannot be recovered.

(B) A statement containing the report card holder’s best recollection of the prior catch records that were entered on the report card that was lost.

(C) A statement describing the factual circumstances surrounding the loss of the card.

(2) An affidavit for a lost report card shall be presented at a department license sales office, by the date applicable to that card specified in subsection 1.74(d)(1) or 1.74(d)(2) to be considered returned.

(3) Notwithstanding subsection 1.74(c)(5), any report card holder who loses his report card during the period for which it is valid may replace the lost report card by submitting an affidavit as described in subsection 1.74(f)(1) and payment of the report card fee and replacement processing fee specified in Section 701.

(A) Based on the information provided in the written affidavit for abalone and sturgeon report cards, the department shall issue only the number of tags that were reported unused on the previously issued report card.

1.76. Spearfishing.

The taking of fish by spear or hand by persons who are in the water and may be using underwater goggles, face plates, breathing tubes, SCUBA or other artificial underwater breathing device.

1.80. Take.

Hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill fish, amphibians, reptiles, mollusks, crustaceans or invertebrates or attempting to do so.

1.84. Titles and Section Numbers.

All titles and headings used in these regulations are a part thereof. All section numbers cited refer to these regulations unless otherwise specified.

1.87. Waste of Fish.

It is unlawful to cause or permit any deterioration or waste of any fish taken in the waters of this state.

1.88. Public Pier.

A public pier is 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 landmass 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.

1.90. Nearshore Fish Stocks, Nearshore Fisheries, Nearshore Waters, and Shallow Nearshore Rockfish Defined.

(a) Under the authority of Section 8587.1 of the Fish and Game Code, Section 8586 of the Fish and Game Code is made inoperative.

(b) “Nearshore fish stocks” means any of the following:

(1) black rockfish (Sebastes melanops),

(2) black-and-yellow rockfish (Sebastes chrysomelas),

(3) blue rockfish (Sebastes mystinus),

(4) brown rockfish (Sebastes auriculatus),

(5) cabezon (Scorpaenichthys marmoratus),

(6) calico rockfish (Sebastes dallii),

(7) California scorpionfish (sculpin) (Scorpaena guttata),

(8) California sheephead (Semicossyphus pulcher),

(9) China rockfish (Sebastes nebulosus),

(10) copper rockfish (Sebastes caurinus),

(11) gopher rockfish (Sebastes carnatus),

(12) grass rockfish (Sebastes rastrelliger),

(13) greenlings of the genus Hexagrammos,

(14) kelp rockfish (Sebastes atrovirens),

(15) monkeyface eel (Cebidichthys violaceus),

(16) olive rockfish (Sebastes serranoides),

(17) quillback rockfish (Sebastes maliger), and

(18) treefish (Sebastes serriceps).

(c) “Nearshore fisheries” means the commercial or recreational taking, possession, or landing of any species of nearshore fish stocks.

(d) “Nearshore waters” means ocean waters including around offshore rocks and islands extending from the shore to a depth of 20 fathoms.

(e) “Shallow nearshore rockfish” means a sub-group of rockfishes (genus Sebastes) including only black-and-yellow rockfish, China rockfish, gopher rockfish, grass rockfish, and kelp rockfish.

1.91. Federal Groundfish and Rockfish, Cabezon and Greenling (RCG) Complex.

(a) The species or species groups listed in subsections 1.91(a)(1) through 1.91(a)(12) constitute “federal groundfish” and are managed under the Federal Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan:

(1) “Nearshore Rockfish,” which means the following species of rockfish: black rockfish (Sebastes melanops), black and yellow rockfish (S. chrysomelas), blue rockfish (S. mystinus), brown rockfish (S. auriculatus), calico rockfish (S. dalli), China rockfish (S. nebulosus), copper rockfish (S. caurinus), gopher rockfish (S. carnatus), grass rockfish (S. rastrelliger), kelp rockfish (S. atrovirens), olive rockfish (S. serranoides), quillback rockfish (S. maliger), treefish (S. serriceps)

(2) “California Scorpionfish” (Scorpaena guttata)

(3) “Shelf Rockfish” which means the following species of rockfish: bocaccio (Sebastes paucispinis), bronzespotted rockfish (S. gilli), canary rockfish (S. pinniger), chilipepper (S. goodei), cowcod (S. levis), dusky rockfish (S. ciliatus), flag rockfish (S. rubrivinctus), greenblotched rockfish (S. rosenblatti), greenspotted rockfish (S. chlorostictus), greenstriped rockfish (S. elongatus), harlequin rockfish (S. variegatus), honeycomb rockfish (S. umbrosus), Mexican rockfish (S. macdonaldi), pink rockfish (S. eos), redstripe rockfish (S. proriger), rosethorn rockfish (S. helvomaculatus), rosy rockfish (S. rosaceus), shortbelly rockfish (S. jordani), silvergray rockfish (S. brevispinis), speckled rockfish (S. ovalis), squarespot rockfish (S. hopkinsi), starry rockfish (S. constellatus), stripetail rockfish (S. saxicola), tiger rockfish (S. nigrocinctus), vermilion rockfish (S. miniatus), widow rockfish (S. entomelas), yelloweye rockfish (S. ruberrimus), yellowtail rockfish (S. flavidus)

(4) “Slope Rockfish” which means the following species of rockfish: aurora rockfish (Sebastes aurora), bank rockfish (S. rufus), blackgill rockfish (S. melanostomus), darkblotched rockfish (S. crameri), Pacific ocean perch (S. alutus), redbanded rockfish (S. babcocki), rougheye rockfish (S. aleutianus), sharpchin rockfish (S. zacentrus), shortraker rockfish (S. borealis), splitnose rockfish (S. diploproa), yellowmouth rockfish (S. reedi)

(5) “Sharks”, including only leopard shark (Triakis semifasciata), soupfin shark (Galeorhinus galeus), and spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias)

(6) “Skates”, which means big skate (Raja binoculata), California skate (R. inornata), and longnose skate (R. rhina), roughtail/black skate (Bathyraja trachura), Aleutian skate (B. aleutica), Bering/sandpaper skate (R. interrupta) and all other genera and species of skates in the families Arhynchobatidae and Rajidae that occur off California

(7) “Roundfish”, including only cabezon (Scorpaenichthys marmoratus), kelp greenling (Hexagrammos decagrammus), lingcod (Ophiodon elongatus), Pacific cod (Gadus macrocephalus), Pacific whiting (Merluccius productus), and sablefish (Anoplopoma fimbria)

(8) “Thornyheads”, which means longspine thornyhead (Sebastolobus altivelis), and shortspine thornyhead (Sebastolobus alascanus)

(9) “Federally Managed Flatfish”, including only arrowtooth flounder (arrowtooth turbot) (Atheresthes stomias), Dover sole (Microstomus pacificus), English sole (Parophrys vetulus), petrale sole (Eopsetta jordani), and starry flounder (Platichthys stellatus)

(10) “Other Flatfish”, including only butter sole (Isopsetta isolepis), curlfin sole (Pleuronichthys decurrens), flathead sole (Hippoglossoides elassodon), Pacific sanddab (Citharichthys sordidus), rex sole (Glyptocephalus zachirus), rock sole (Lepidopsetta bilineata), and sand sole (Psettichthys melanostictus)

(11) “Other fish”, including only ratfish (Hydrolagus colliei), finescale codling (Antimora microlepis), Pacific grenadier (rattail) (Coryphaenoides acrolepis) and all other genera and species of grenadiers in the family Macrouridae that occur off California

(12) All genera and species of the family Scorpaenidae that occur off California and not specifically listed in (a)(1) through (a)(4) or (a)(8) above

(b) “RCG Complex” means all species of rockfish (Sebastes), cabezon (Scorpaenichthys marmoratus), and kelp and rock greenlings (genus Hexagrammos).

195. Report of Fish Taken to be Made by Owner of Barge or Vessel for Hire and Boat Limits.

(a) Records required by Sections 7923 and 8026 of the Fish and Game Code shall be made on forms provided by the department entitled COMMERCIAL PASSENGER FISHING VESSEL LOG, CENTRAL AND NORTHERN CALIFORNIA, DFW 195A (02/13), or COMMERCIAL PASSENGER FISHING VESSEL LOG, SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, DFW 195B (02/13), see Appendix A, and hereafter referred to as logbook for purposes of this section. The logbook shall include the following information and be completed and available for inspection as specified in this section:

(1) A full and correct record of fish taken, including species or specified species groups, filled out before the trip is completed as provided in Section 190(b). The names used for designating the species of fish shall be those in common usage unless otherwise designated by the department.

(A) Form DFW 195A shall be used when the vessel is engaged in fishing north of Point Conception.

(B) Form DFW 195B shall be used when the vessel is engaged in fishing south of Point Conception.

(2) The owner/operator copy of the logbook shall be maintained and kept on the vessel for a period of one year, and upon request, shall be made available for inspection by any authorized representative of the Department.

(3) The numbered logbook shall be completed sequentially. A voided log shall have the word “Void” plainly and noticeably written on the face of the log.

(4) For months when no fishing activity occurred, a log shall be completed on the last day of the month with an entry made clearly indicating that no fishing activity occurred for the month specified by the owner/operator. All logs shall be kept and delivered to the department as specified in Section 190.

(5) A commercial passenger fishing vessel shall keep and submit logbooks whether or not the fishing trip involves paying or non-paying anglers.

(b) The owner(s) and/or operator(s) of each vessel required to obtain a license under Section 7920 of the Fish and Game Code shall post a notice in a prominent place on the vessel giving information to fishermen on license requirements, bag limits, and other pertinent information. This notice shall be furnished by the department.

(c) Both the vessel owner(s) and/or operator(s) shall be responsible for keeping accurate records and insuring the vessel is in compliance with sub-sections (a) and (b) above.

(d) All fishing activity records are confidential pursuant to Fish and Game Code Sections 7923 and 8022 and Government Code Sections 6276 and 6276.10.

(e) Boat Limits: When two or more persons licensed or otherwise authorized to sport fish in ocean waters off California or in the San Francisco Bay District, as defined in Section 27.00, are angling for finfish in these waters aboard a vessel licensed under Section 7920, fishing by these persons (to include vessel operator(s) and crew members where licensed to sportfish under their own individual limits) may continue until the passenger’s boat limits of those finfish are taken and possessed aboard the vessel as authorized under this section.

(1) For purposes of this section, the vessel operator(s) and crew members are not passengers and may not take fish towards obtaining boat limits for passengers except for casting, setting trolling gear, gaffing or netting fish, but may take fish during a fishing trip for their personal use only. Vessel operator(s) and crew members may assist passengers in other activities including, but not limited to, obtaining bait, chumming, baiting and untangling hooks and lines, identifying, dispatching, filleting, counting, bagging and otherwise handling fish taken by passengers. Upon completion of a fishing trip, the vessel operator(s) and crew members may only possess fish that are part of their own personal bag limit not to exceed authorized sportfishing daily bag and possession limits.

(2) Fish taken by operator(s) and crew members for personal use pursuant to (e)(1) above must be separated from fish taken under a boat limit and labeled in a manner that they can be identified as an individual operator’s or crew members fish. Operator(s) and crew members are also prohibited from giving all or part of their individual limit to any passenger during or after a trip.

(3) The authorization for boat limits aboard a vessel does not apply to fishing trips originating in California where fish are taken in other jurisdictions.

(4) A boat limit for a species or species group is equal to the number of passengers aboard the vessel that are licensed or otherwise authorized to sport fish in ocean waters off California or in the San Francisco Bay District multiplied by the individual daily bag limit authorized for a species or species group. For purposes of this section, the number of passengers shall not include the vessel operator(s) and crew members. It is unlawful to exceed the boat limit at any time.

(5) Prior to the departure on a fishing trip of a vessel that is licensed under Fish and Game Code Section 7920, the number of fishers, to include passengers, guests, operators and crew who will be fishing, shall be recorded under “number of fishers” on the logbook for that trip. In addition, the number of vessel operator(s) and crew members who will fish for that trip shall be recorded in the space to the right of the operator’s signature on the logbook.

(6) Upon completion of a sport fishing trip aboard a vessel reporting under this section, each licensed or otherwise authorized angler may not possess more than the daily bag and possession limits. For the purposes of this section, a fishing trip is completed at the time a person disembarks from the vessel and individual possession limits apply.

(7) Species for which no daily bag limit exists are not included in the boat limit.

(f) Where boat limits are provided for in this section, the vessel operator(s) and crew members may be cited for violations occurring aboard the vessel, including but not limited to violations of the following:

(1) Overlimits

(2) Possession of prohibited species

(3) Minimum size limits

(4) Fish taken out of season or in closed areas

(g) Boat limits are not authorized for sturgeon fishing and shall not apply to the take, possession or retention of sturgeon.