One of my earliest fishing memories is a day I fished out of Santa Cruz at a local spot called “south rock.” We caught so many rock cod that I will never forget that day. I hope my children and their children have an opportunity like that to remember.
Maintaining and managing the rockfish population is a complex and important issue.
In the early 1900s, there was no limit on rockfish fishing in Monterey Bay. The impact was spread from slow-moving, plank-hulled charter boats to small commercial boats that fished with no electronics, along with hook-and-line techniques. The fishery evolved into a trawl-net commercial fishery that absorbed the majority of the fishery while not yielding a better product.
Today, the fishery has started changing, as heavy restrictions are imposed on commercial and sport fishing.
The sport-fishing regulations, which once allowed 15 rockfish and five lingcod per person while fishing in any depth of water, have shifted to today’s restricted regulations, which vary greatly by region.
The Monterey Bay is part of the Central Management Area, an area that runs from Pigeon Point to Point Conception. In these waters, anglers are restricted to two hooks and must fish in less than 240 feet of water (40 fathoms).
The 2012 rockfish season started May 1 and may remain open until Dec. 31, as long as the maximum number of allowable catches is not reached.
In this area, we are allowed 10 rockfish per person per day. We are not allowed to keep any canary, cowcod or yelloweye rockfish. Certain species are restricted by minimum size and maximum number within the 10-rockfish limit, as follows: bocaccio, 10 inches, two fish; cabezon, 15 inches, three fish; greenlings, 12 inches. In addition, anglers can take no more than two lingcod of 22 inches or larger.
The hope and concern is that the fishery is sustainable and properly managed.
The allowed number and size of fish may be appropriate, but some anglers wonder about having 100 percent of the impact in 240 feet of water or less.
The Monterey Bay has prolific canyon edges in 300-plus feet of water. These areas could be as much as 95 percent of our rockfish habitat and have an equal share of fish stocks. With the existing regulations, fishing there is off limits. The deeper water is more challenging to fish, because of the currents and distance from shore.
For this reason, some are worried that we are fishing only in the fragile shallow water, whereas being able to hook the deeper-water fish could spread the impact.
Cow cod and yellow rockfish are potentially at risk when caught in deeper water, because barotrauma causes them not to be able to be released.
There are many arguments and concerns about our rockfish population. It is good that people, including fishermen, are concerned. Hopefully, proper management is in place for the future of rockfish.
- Mike Baxter has fished in the Monterey Bay Area since he was a boy and has been a licensed charter boat captain for more than 20 years. Contact him at email@example.com. He also hosts a fishing show on radio station KSCO (1080) from 8:06 to 9 p.m. Thursdays through the end of August.