Updated Freshwater Sportfishing Regulations

New freshwater sport fishing regulations which take effect on March 1, 2021, aim to simplify and streamline the laws regulating inland fishing while maintaining and protecting California’s fisheries. The package of updated regulations was adopted by the California Fish and Game Commission in October 2020. It was the largest regulatory inland sport fishing package in the Commission’s history. 

“The underlying goals were to reduce the complexity of inland sport fishing regulations, increase regulatory consistency and remove regulations that are no longer biologically justifiable,” said California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Inland Fisheries Program Manager Roger Bloom. 

Major changes include: 

  • Separate regulations for inland trout (non-anadromous waters) from those for steelhead and salmon (anadromous waters) to make it easier to understand the bag and possession limits, 
  • Replacement of district regulations with statewide regulations separated for trout, and 
  • Standardize and consolidate ”special fishing” regulations. 

CDFW held a series of community meetings in 2018 and 2019 at locations across the state to publicly introduce and discuss proposed changes to simplify statewide inland sport fishing regulations. CDFW proposals and recommendations from the public were then vetted at the January and March 2020 Wildlife Resources Committee meetings. 

Anglers should review the changes as they affect most of the inland trout waters in California. Updates to the regulations can be found both at wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Inland and wildlife.ca.gov/Regulations.

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Media Contacts: 
Ken Paglia, CDFW Communications, (916) 825-7120

CDFW Transitioning to Electronic Hunting and Fishing Regulations Booklets in 2021

As part of a broader effort to go paperless, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is transitioning to a digital format for its 2021 hunting and fishing regulations booklets and Big Game Hunting Digest. Booklets will no longer be printed and shipped to license agents or customers but electronic versions of the booklets will continue to be available online.

“Not only is this shift best for the environment because of the reduction of many thousands of short-term paper booklets being produced, the cost to print and ship the booklets is significant,” said CDFW Wildlife and Fisheries Division Deputy Director Stafford Lehr. “Another benefit is that the money saved by going paperless will be redirected to fish and wildlife conservation.”

The transition to paperless regulations booklets follows a two-year effort to reduce the number of hard copy booklets printed and shipped to license agents and is consistent with the governor’s directive to reduce paper usage.

As in previous years, digital booklets are available at wildlife.ca.gov/Regulations and can be downloaded as PDFs to your computer, cellular phone or other electronic device. Hunters and anglers are encouraged to download the digital booklets to their mobile devices and familiarize themselves with the digital format prior to hunting and/or fishing trips.

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Media Contacts: 
Ken Paglia, CDFW Communications, (916) 825-7120

Special Post-Season Waterfowl Hunt Weekend Reserved for Veterans and Active Military Personnel Feb. 13-14

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will reopen and staff nearly two dozen of the state’s most popular waterfowl hunting areas to welcome veterans and active military personnel for a special hunt weekend Feb. 13 and 14.

The first Veterans and Active Military Waterfowl Hunting Days take place the second weekend in February throughout the Balance of the State, Southern San Joaquin Valley, and Southern California waterfowl zones on both private property and public land for eligible hunters.

Species and daily bag limits are the same as the regular season with the following exceptions: Brant are not open to take and geese are not allowed to be taken in the Balance of State Zone on these days.

In addition to a valid California hunting license, California duck validation, federal duck stamp and Harvest Information Program (HIP) validation, any person participating in these hunts must possess and present upon demand verification of eligibility. Acceptable verification includes: a Veteran ID Card, military ID card for active duty personnel, or a state-issued driver license or ID card with veteran designation. Qualifying veterans are those defined in Section 101, Title 38, of the United States Code. Absence of verification may subject the hunter to citation.

Among those public areas reopening for Veterans and Active Military Waterfowl Hunting Days: The Little Dry Creek Unit of the Upper Butte Basin Wildlife Area, Colusa National Wildlife Refuge, Delevan National Wildlife Refuge, Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, Sutter National Wildlife Refuge, Grizzly Island Wildlife Area, Gray Lodge Wildlife Area, Kern National Wildlife Refuge, Los Banos Wildlife Area, Mendota Wildlife Area, Merced National Wildlife Refuge, San Luis National Wildlife Refuge, North Grasslands Wildlife Area, San Jacinto Wildlife Area, Volta Wildlife Area, Wister Unit of the Imperial Wildlife Area and Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area.

A wildlife area pass is required to hunt on Type A and Type B state-operated wildlife areas and national wildlife refuges during the hunt weekend. These items are not available for sale at hunter check stations and must be purchased ahead of time. All 2020 Type A and Type B Wildlife Area Season Passes and Type A One and Two-Day Wildlife Area Passes will be accepted during the hunt weekend. A Type A or Type B Season Pass is required to hunt on Type B Wildlife Areas.

As of Feb. 1, overnight camping is once again allowed on state-operated wildlife areas and federal refuges reopening for the Youth Waterfowl Hunting Days Feb. 6-7 and the Veterans and Active Military Waterfowl Hunting Days Feb. 13-14. Please check with the individual property for entry procedures, specific details and other regulations.

Waterfowl hunters are strongly encouraged to review the 2020 CDFW Wildlife Area Operational Changes due to COVID-19 webpage prior to visiting any state-operated wildlife area or refuge in order to understand all required health and safety practices in place to help protect visitors and staff. Waterfowl hunters are further advised to check with the individual property they are planning to hunt for specific entry procedures, details and other regulations.

Below are general COVID-19 safety guidelines to reduce the risk of exposure to the virus in the outdoors:

  • Stay Local: Stay close to home during this pandemic period. If you or anyone in your household is feeling sick, please remain at home and plan your trip for another time. 
  • Plan Ahead: The ongoing pandemic response continues to be dynamic. Prior to leaving home, check to ensure your destination is open, if parking is available and what visitor guidelines may be in effect.
  • Stay Safer at Six Feet: No matter the recreational activity, maintain a physical distance of six feet or more. Those camping together should only include people within your immediate household. This means no guests or friends, and no gatherings or parties.
  • Keep Clean: Be prepared as not all services may be available. Restrooms may be unavailable or closed. Bring soap/hand sanitizer. Please pack out all trash.

Stay Covered: The state requires you to wear a face covering when you cannot maintain a physical distance of six feet or more. Individuals must have a face covering with them at all times.

Media Contact:
Peter Tira, CDFW Communications, (916) 215-3858

Photo:
Bill Self of Dublin is an Air Force veteran, retired educator, and lifelong California sportsman. He and his fellow veterans along with active military personnel will enjoy an extra weekend of duck hunting Feb. 13 and 14 during California’s first Veterans and Active Military Waterfowl Hunting Days. Photo courtesy of Edward Lee.

New Recreational Groundfish Regulations For 2021

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) announces that multiple changes to the recreational groundfish regulations will take effect in the new year.

CDFW worked closely with recreational stakeholders to develop the following changes, effective January 1, 2021. See CDFW’s summary of recreational groundfish regulations for Management Area boundary definitions.

  • Elimination of sub-bag limits for black rockfish, canary rockfish and cabezon within the 10-fish Rockfish, Cabezon, Greenling (RCG) complex daily bag limit.
  • A new sub-bag limit of five vermilion rockfish within the 10-fish RCG complex daily bag limit.
  • The Rockfish Conservation Area (RCA) boundary will increase to 30 fathoms (180 feet) in the Mendocino Management Area during the regular open season (May 1-October 31).
  • The RCA boundary will increase to 50 fathoms (300 feet) in the San Francisco Management Area during the open season (April 1-December 31).
  • The RCA boundary will increase to 100 fathoms (600 feet) in the Southern Management Area during the open season (March 1-December 31).
  • For consistency with federal regulations, the legal method of take for California scorpionfish has been updated such that no more than two hooks and one line may be used when angling for this species.
  • The ‘All Depth’ fishery in the Northern and Mendocino Management Areas will continue each November and December, unless modified by an in-season action.

The new regulations were adopted by the California Fish and Game Commission in mid-October and the Pacific Fishery Management Council in July. Anglers should check CDFW’s website for the current regulations before fishing for groundfish and are advised that regulations printed in the 2020-21 ocean regulations book will be out of date starting January 1, 2021.

The 30, 50 and 100 fathom depth contours are defined by straight lines connecting the waypoints as adopted in the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 50, Part 660, Subpart C.

Many of these changes were made in response to the outcomes of recent stock assessment science. Populations of yelloweye rockfish and cowcod, which were declared overfished in 2002 and 2000 respectively, are increasing faster than anticipated and the cowcod population was declared rebuilt based on the 2019 stock assessment.

“The good news for 2021 is groundfish populations are rebounding,” said CDFW Senior Environmental Scientist Caroline McKnight. “Of the eight stocks that were declared overfished in the early 2000s, all but one, yelloweye rockfish, has been declared rebuilt today. The improved status of these species allows fishery managers to recommend management measures that provide additional fishing opportunity, including access to deeper depths that have been off limits to anglers for more than a decade.”

The implementation of a new five-fish sub-bag limit for vermilion rockfish within the 10-fish RCG complex daily bag limit may come as a surprise to some anglers. Recreational catch of vermilion rockfish has increased significantly in recent years, but stock status information is dated. While a new stock assessment for vermilion rockfish is planned for 2021, the results won’t be available for use in management until 2023. In the interim, the new five-fish vermilion rockfish sub-bag limit has been implemented as a precautionary measure to slow catches.

Take and possession of bronzespotted rockfish, cowcod and yelloweye rockfish remain prohibited statewide.

For more detailed information on the new 2021 recreational groundfish regulations and to stay informed of in-season changes, please call the Recreational Groundfish Hotline at (831) 649-2801 or visit CDFW’s summary of recreational groundfish fishing regulations for 2021. For background information on groundfish science and management, please visit CDFW’s Marine Region Groundfish webpage.

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Media Contacts:
Melanie Parker, CDFW Marine Region, (831) 649-2814
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937

California’s National Forests Temporarily Close Due to Wildfires; Hunters and Recreational Users are Urged to Stay Away

On Wednesday, Sept. 9, the U.S. Forest Service announced the temporary closure of all national forests in California due to unprecedented and historic fire conditions. These properties are closed to the public, effective immediately, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is urging hunters to follow the order and keep away.

“We know that hunting opportunities will be impacted throughout the state, but no hunting opportunity is worth a human life,” said Chief David Bess, Deputy Director and CDFW Law Enforcement Division Chief.

California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 708(2)(b) prohibits CDFW from refunding deer tag application fees, but refunds may be issued for select elk, pronghorn antelope and bighorn sheep tags. Additionally, some premium deer, elk, pronghorn antelope and bighorn sheep tags may be returned to CDFW with a request to have preference points reinstated and one preference point awarded for the species for the current hunt year. Tag return and preference point eligibility requirements and additional information may be found on CDFW’s website.

CDFW will continue to monitor and close areas as needed. National forests and evacuation zones will remain closed until authorities allow them to re-open. Because the situation is rapidly changing, CDFW strongly encourages hunters to use the following links to research closures and open areas prior to leaving for any hunt:

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Media Contact:
Peter Tira, CDFW Communications, (916) 215-3858