Popular rock cod fishery is open with rules changes

By: George deVilbiss/Special to Gold Country News Service
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Fishing for the wide variety of the ocean’s bottom-residing fish — rock cod — from your boat or a party boat has always been popular.

The reason is simple: The fish you catch and filet make for great eating, and there are countless ways to prepare the meat.

Many years ago, it was a year-round fishery. The limit at one time was 25. Today, the bag limit is 10.

Over time, studies revealed diminishing stocks of rock cod, at least in certain, popular regions.

So, the rules changed. Year-round opportunities ended and where you can fish was instituted.

Years ago, for example, boats would leave San Francisco and Bodega Bay ports and head for Cordell Banks. It was a long run and tiring boat ride of 30-plus miles.

But when you arrived, you loaded up on a variety of rock cod. The major problem was that you were dropping your lines as much as 300 feet.

You quickly learned you didn’t reel up when you knew you had only one fish hooked. You would wait until you thought all the hooks had a fish, which necessitated a great deal of reel winding to get the fish aboard.

In those days, you could use several hooks, so bringing up five or six bottom fish at a time was a reality. By the time the boat headed back to port, you had a sack full of rock cod and would be exhausted, arms aching from all the deep-water reeling.

Today, you can use a maximum of two hooks, and boats no longer head to Cordell or anywhere near that region. Fishing in waters that deep no longer is allowed.

While the rockcod fishery opened May 14, new 2011 rules and regulations adopted by the California Fish and Game Commission didn’t take effect until June 9.

If you don’t agree with the changes, don’t blame the Department of Fish and Game or the Fish and Game Commission. The changes they adopt conform to federal regulations, making all ground-fish regulations consistent for state and federal waters ranging from three to 200 nautical miles from shore.

Some of the changes include:

· A decrease of the lingcod minimum size from 24 to 22 inches;

· An increase of the bag limit of cabezon to three fish, within the 10-fish combined bag limit for rockfish, cabezon and greenlings.

There are numerous defined fishing zones from the Oregon-California border to Mexico. If you ride a party boat, it’s not something you’ll need to worry about, as they’ll be well versed as to allowable fishing dates.

If you haul your boat to the many ports along the coast, you would be well advised to check regulations before fishing for the federally managed ground fish.

All new ground fish regulations for 2011-12 will be included in the upcoming recreational fishing supplement and on the DFG’s website at

Current fishing
There has been a cool-down this week, which is good for anglers. By the holiday weekend, however, it looks as though the temperature will get toasty again.
Don’t look for much of a fishery this weekend. Holiday revelers will be out in force in the campgrounds and on the water.

And remember, Saturday, July 2, is a free fishing day when no license is required for any angler on any waters in the state.

Lake Amador: Knowing the heat soon will set in for good, they’re dumping about 600 pounds of trout into the lake every day to reduce their stocks before the stocking season ends. Two-pounders plus are a reality to fill your stringer.
Catfish are in spawning mode now, and a couple of 20-pounders have been checked in recently. Fish around the spillway area or the numerous coves and you could nail one of these big fish.

Lake Camanche: The warming weather trend has pushed the trout deeper, now being found at 30-35 feet. That mainly means downriggers. The best catching area means trolling around Hat Island or one of my favorite areas, the buoy line in front of the dam. Some people have been drifting or anchored drifting bait and catching while others putt-putt along trolling, hauling just about any small little flashy lure behind a small set of blades. Keep changing lures until you find what they want that day. What they chomped on yesterday they may not want today.

If you get on the water at the crack of dawn, use topwater gear for bass. The bite has been decent. Once the sun really gets on the water, work plastics around the rocky points and structure. Bass have been holding as much as 20 feet down.

New Hogan Reservoir: There’s been a steady striper bite. Some anglers cut the motor and drift with bait, such as shad, anchovy or a herring, down 10-30 feet. Others troll any of the variety of Rebels or Rapalas. The summertime fishing for stripers, however, can be tough at this lake during the day, as the lake is popular with the non-fishing, water recreating public. Early mornings or late afternoons on into dark you can do well on stripers.

Jenkinson Lake: This is a popular getaway spot at Sly Park for campers and is expected to be packed this weekend. The lake is so full it’s been in spill mode since December. Because there’s so much cold water still coming down the hill from snow melt, the trout fishery has remained good. The first and second dam areas have shown good bank-fishing opportunities, and even the campground area has kicked out trout. One troller, hauling a crawler behind a dodger down only 30 feet, nailed a five-pound brown trout.

Union Valley: The campgrounds are open, and both boat ramps are in full operation. The lake isn’t yet full, but a limit of kokanee to 14 inches is a reality. The small salmon aren’t in large schools but rather spread all over the lake. Just keep trolling, down 30 feet with your favorite kokanee rig, and you’ll get a limit. Be sure to tip the lure with a couple kernels of white, shoe-peg corn.

Contact George deVilbiss at