California Anglers Allowed to Keep Canary Rockfish

After species declared overfished in 2000, population rebuilt to healthy levels
canary rockfish in California
The yellow tinge, slightly forked tail and the light color along the lateral line identify this species as a canary rockfish. Anglers in California may now keep one fish per day. Bill Doster / Sport Fishing

For the first time in 18 years, anglers fishing California ocean waters will be permitted to retain canary rockfish, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW).

Canary rockfish — one of more than 50 species of the bass-like genus Sebastes that inhabit the Pacific Ocean — was declared overfished in 2000 under the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan, which is administered jointly by the federal Pacific Fishery Management Council and CDFW.

The population rebuilt to healthy levels quicker than anticipated based on a combination of conservation efforts and restrictive management, the CDFW indicated in release dated February 7, 2017.


“We are pleased to offer new opportunities based on the improved stock status of canary rockfish.” said Marci Yaremko, CDFW state/federal fisheries program manager. “Sweeping changes were made to help rebuild the stock — prohibiting retention, shortening fishing seasons, closing deep-water fishing areas and encouraging widespread use of descending devices to improve survival for released fish. These sacrifices are finally paying off.”

The daily bag limit for canary rockfish will be one fish per angler for 2017. The CDFW has publish an online guide to identifying canary rockfish, as this species can be difficult to tell apart from its close cousin, the popular vermillion rockfish.

The California rockfish season is set to open over the new few months, with state coastal regions opening on a staggered timetable:

  • Northern — Open May 1 through Oct. 31 in 30 fathoms (180 feet) or less; Nov. 1 through Dec. 31 with no depth restriction
  • Mendocino — Open May 1 through Oct. 31 in 20 fathoms (120 feet) or less; Nov. 1 through Dec. 31 with no depth restriction
  • San Francisco — Open April 15 through Dec. 31 in 40 fathoms (240 feet) or less
  • Central — Open April 1 through Dec. 31 in 50 fathoms (300 feet) or less
  • Southern — Open March 1 through Dec. 31 in 60 fathoms (360 feet) or less

The CDFW has kept in place the prohibition on retention of three species of rockfish, including cowcod, bronze-spotted rockfish and yellow-eye rockfish. The agency has also reduced the 2017 daily bag limit for lingcod to two fish from three in 2016, with a minimum size of 22 inches.

Read more about the history of rockfish regulations in California and how conservation efforts have helped the population of some fish species.

For more information on the changes to regulations, visit the CDFW website.