California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Marine Management News: October 2012

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Contributors to this issue

Staff Writers and Other Contributors
Travis Buck, Kathryn Crane, Aaron Del Monte
Peter Kalvass, Kristine Lesyna, Kirk Lynn
Bill Miller, Doug Neilson, Mary Patyten, Paul Reilly
Newsletter Editor and Designer
Mary Patyten



Depth Restriction Change in Southern Groundfish Management Area Protects Cowcod

by Mary Patyten, Research Writer

DFG reminds anglers that effective November 1, 2012 the depth limit is changing from 360 ft. (60 fm) to 300 ft. (50 fm) in the Southern Groundfish Management Area, from the California-Mexico border to Pt. Conception (34°27' North latitude).

This adjustment in depth limit was necessary to protect cowcod. DFG projects that the amount of cowcod caught this year will exceed the federal limit unless in-season action is taken.

"Allowable take limits for cowcod are the lowest of all the West Coast groundfish managed by the Pacific Fishery Management Council, and these low limits pose the greatest constraint to Southern California anglers and a significant challenge to fishery managers," said Paul Hamdorf, Acting DFG Marine Regional Manager. "Implementing a 50-fathom depth constraint is expected to keep cowcod impacts within allowable limits and maintain conservation goals, while still providing anglers with fishing opportunities through the end of the year."

While cowcod cannot be taken or possessed by sport anglers in California, they are incidentally taken on occasion when anglers are targeting other species. By limiting bottom fishing activity for target species to only shallower depths it is anticipated that incidental take of cowcod will be reduced.

Cowcod range in color from orange to pale pink. They are slow-growing and long-lived, as are most rockfish. This species is found primarily in depths greater than 50 fathoms in Southern California.

Cowcod are one of the largest rockfish species, reaching a length of 37 inches and weight of 29 pounds. When it was declared overfished in 1999, possession of cowcod was prohibited to facilitate rebuilding the stock. Since being declared overfished, DFG and the Fish and Game Commission have worked closely with the Pacific Fishery Management Council and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to implement protective measures for cowcod, including closing critical habitat (Cowcod Conservation Areas) and prohibiting retention in most fisheries.

For more information about cowcod, the groundfish fishery and groundfish fishery management practices, visit DFG's Groundfish Central website. Up-to-date sport fishing regulations are available on the Recreational Groundfish Hotline at (831) 649-2801 and on the DFG Marine Region website.

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Marija Vojkovich Retires, Paul Hamdorf Heads Up Marine Region

by Mary Patyten, Research Writer

On July 1, 2012 Marija Vojkovich stepped down as Marine Regional Manager, taking on part-time work for DFG. In her place, Assistant Chief Paul Hamdorf has stepped in as Acting Regional Manager.

Vojkovich originally took the position of Marine Regional Manager in 2007. In this position, she guided 148 employees and all activities involving marine habitat, fisheries and fishing regulations. "I have thoroughly enjoyed my 33 years with the Marine Region, and most especially the last five years as Regional Manager," she said.

During her career with DFG, Vojkovich coordinated with government agencies at all levels, non-government organizations and a diverse constituency. For the past eight years she has been serving for DFG Director Chuck Bonham as the State of California Principal Official on the Pacific Fishery Management Council which, among other things, recommends the dates and certain federal regulations for the annual salmon, groundfish and coastal pelagic species limits and seasons on the West Coast. Vojkovich will continue representing the Director on the Council, and will assist with the DFG's Strategic Planning process as the Marine Resources Advisor.

Assistant Chief Paul Hamdorf, now Acting Regional Manager for DFG's Marine Region, has been involved with enforcement of marine regulations since 1992. Paul worked for the Marine Region previously, when law enforcement reported directly to the regions, and has participated on Marine Region policy and procedure work teams. Hamdorf is a former member of the DFG dive team and has participated in numerous scientific projects using trawls, dive transects, longlines and traps to study various fish species. He brings to the region "different skills that may provide a slightly different perspective on marine issues," he said.

"I am a believer in the mission of the Marine Region, and look forward to helping out where I can," said Hamdorf. He expects to continue as Acting Regional Manager until a new, permanent regional manager is brought aboard.

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DFG Joins Forces with Universities, Organizations, Fishermen and Volunteers to Study Lobster

by Travis Buck, Environmental Scientist, and Doug Neilson, Environmental Scientist

In 2011 and 2012, DFG, the San Diego Oceans Foundation, San Diego State University and Scripps Institution of Oceanography teamed up with lobster fishermen and volunteers to tag and monitor thousands of lobster in Southern California.

This project, whose formal title is the Baseline Characterization of California Spiny Lobsters, is one of 10 projects in the South Coast MPA Baseline Program funded by the Ocean Protection Council through California Sea Grant. The South Coast MPA Baseline Program is part of a larger effort in which DFG collaborates with the Monitoring Enterprise - a program of the California Ocean Science Trust - to develop and implement impartial, scientifically rigorous and cost-effective MPA monitoring along the California coast.

Divers, hoopnetters and commercial lobstermen who report tagged lobster play a vital role in this project. Tag recovery information helps scientists to examine current levels of lobster abundance, size composition of the population, movement and growth of individuals over time.

A unique identification code (tag number) and phone number or website is printed on most of the colorful plastic tags, which are inserted into the underside or back of the lobster. It is important to record:

  • Date
  • Location where the lobster was caught (GPS coordinates are best, but distance to a recognized landmark will work if you don't have GPS)
  • Carapace length of the lobster (to the nearest millimeter if possible)
  • Tag number

All four pieces of information—date, location, length, and tag number—are important to report from a tagged lobster.

Lobsters may be brought to the surface to measure. If the lobster is under legal size and is tagged, quickly record the number on the tag and immediately release the lobster. No undersized lobster, even if it is tagged, may be brought aboard a boat, placed in any type of receiver, or retained in any manner. Do not remove tags from any undersized lobsters.

To find out more about the project, visit the Ocean Spaces website. To report a lobster tagged with a blue, yellow, or green tag, please visit the San Diego Oceans Foundation website or call (619) 523-1903.

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Marine Management News Fish Identification Quiz!

by Mary Patyten, Research Writer

October 2012 MMN Fish Quiz Photo; Photo by E. Roberts

Welcome to the Marine Management News Fish Identification Quiz for October 2012! Here's your chance to show off your fish identification knowledge and win an official Department of Fish and Game (DFG) fish tagging cap. To qualify for the drawing, simply send the correct answers via e-mail to by November 30, 2012 correctly identifying:

  • The species of the fish pictured below (scientific name and an accepted common name), and
  • The daily bag limit, as found in the 2012-2013 Supplemental Fishing Regulations booklet.

Be sure to type "October MMN Fish Quiz" as the "Subject" of your e-mail. The winner will be selected during a random drawing from all correct answers received by November 30, 2012.

Biologists do not know a great deal about this species, but it is believed that their young enter the world in the late fall and winter. Females lay egg "nests" (sticky egg masses secured to suitable rocky habitat) and males are thought to guard the eggs while they develop. Juvenile fish settle into rocky habitat near shore.

This fish feeds on various sea worms, crustaceans, mollusks, fish eggs and small fishes. It ranges from the Bering Sea to Point Conception in Southern California, although it is rarely seen south of San Francisco. This species also occurs in the western Pacific Ocean south to Japan.

Rocky reef areas and kelp forests, especially those located on exposed coastlines, are the preferred habitat for this fish. It is believed that this species lives in relatively shallow waters off California, probably no deeper than 150 ft., guarding territories that are staked out when the fish reaches maturity at around 3 to 4 years of age. Divers have noted this fish may aggressively defend its territory by nipping at an offending diver's fingers.

This species has been aged to a maximum of 8 years (~12 in.) for males and 11 years (~22½ in.) for females. It has been known to reach two feet in length and around 2½ lb. This colorful fish has large skin flaps, known as cirri, over each eye.

Though it is often caught by recreational shore fishermen, sport and commercial landings are comparatively low. Little is known about the status of this species off of California.

If you think you know this species of fish, enter the prize drawing by sending an e-mail to DFG at by November 30, 2012 with the correct scientific and common name, and the daily bag limit as found in the 2012-2013 Supplemental Fishing Regulations booklet. Again, be sure to type "October MMN Fish Quiz" in the "Subject" portion of your e-mail.

Answers to the quiz and winner's names will be provided in the next issue of Marine Management News.

May 2012 "Mystery Fish": Pacific Halibut

Congratulations go out to Paul O. Daughenbaugh III of Newbury Park, California for correctly identifying last issue's mystery fish as a Pacific halibut, Hippoglossus stenolepis. The daily bag and possession limit for Pacific halibut is one fish, per CCR Title 14, Section 28.20(b).

Paul is a procurement specialist for an aerospace and communications RF amplifier manufacturer. He loves watching his children and grandchildren play soccer, and spends as much time as he can hunting, fishing, or camping with family and friends. Congratulations again, Paul!

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DFG and California Wetfish Industry Fly High to Count Pacific Sardine

by Kirk Lynn, Environmental Scientist, and Bill Miller, Environmental Scientist

In an effort to improve Pacific sardine stock assessments, DFG and the California Wetfish Producers Association (CWPA) have combined resources to count schools of sardine in southern California. This collaborative study tests the feasibility of using small aircraft to survey sardine and add to our understanding of the distribution of sardine throughout the Southern California Bight.

"These surveys will help DFG to manage this fishery in a sustainable manner and add to our limited understanding of sardine distribution throughout the Southern California Bight," said Michelle Horeczko, senior environmental scientist on the Coastal Pelagic Species Project. "Data from these surveys may also be used by West Coast scientists as part of a new effort to look at the full range of sardine data from Canada to Mexico."

Pacific sardine are a small schooling fish found in the upper layers of coastal temperate waters ranging from Baja California, Mexico to southeast Alaska. The species is managed by NOAA Fisheries through the Pacific Fishery Management Council, which uses a federal Coastal Pelagic Species Management Plan as a framework to manage Pacific sardine as well as other coastal pelagic species ("pelagic" means the species lives in the upper layers of open ocean waters). In 2011, Pacific sardine was the second largest commercial fishery in the state of California by volume, and sixth largest in value.

The use of small planes to find fish in the ocean is not new. Ever since the first sailor climbed into the crow's nest for a bird's eye view, fishermen have understood the advantage of height when scanning the ocean for fish. Spotter pilots have long been a resource to fishermen in locating commercially valuable fish such as swordfish and sardine.

Recent efforts by the sardine industry in the Pacific Northwest have demonstrated the usefulness of this technique off the coasts of Washington and Oregon, when applied scientifically. Since 2008, a consortium of industry members has successfully run an annual sardine survey using aircraft to photograph sardine schools along systematically spaced transects. Using software, the photographs are enhanced to make sardine schools stand out from the background and the area of each school is measured from the photograph. That area can be related to how many tons of fish are actually in the school to come up with an estimate of total biomass.

The southern California survey conducted jointly by DFG and CWPA builds upon techniques used in the Pacific Northwest. An experienced industry spotter pilot was contracted by CWPA to contribute expertise in identifying sardine schools from the air while flying transects in DFG's Partenavia P.68 survey plane operated by a DFG pilot. A DFG fisheries biologist was onboard to direct the survey and record data. An automated Nikon D-series camera system on loan from CWPA was mounted to the floor of the plane, and digital images of fish schools were collected along with transect data such as flight altitude, GPS location, and pilot observations of sardine schools. On the water, DFG biologists tested techniques to ground truth aerial identifications of fish by dropping a submersible camera on fish schools identified from the air to obtain visual underwater observations.

According to Kirk Lynn, an environmental scientist with the Coastal Pelagic Species Project and aerial survey project lead, "This joint project is an opportunity to use and adapt existing aerial methods to examine the specific patterns of distribution and abundance of sardine here in southern California."

NOAA Fisheries traditionally uses egg counts to estimate sardine abundance. This year, in addition to the egg counts, scientists plan to use a combined effort to look at the full range of sardine from Canada to Mexico using egg counts, hydro-acoustics, and aerial photography.

For more information about sardines and sardine fishery management, visit DFG's Coastal Pelagic Species/Highly Migratory Species website.

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Selected "Snapshots" of Current Marine Region Projects

by DFG Staff

Redtail surfperch

DFG Marine Region's Northern/Central California Finfish Research and Management Project initiated a study of the redtail surfperch (Amphistichus rhodoterus) fishery resource in northern California earlier this year. Redtail surfperch inhabit the sandy beach surf zone from roughly central California to British Columbia, and are an important component of the nearshore ecosystem. In northern California, they also sustain a small commercial fishery and are a popular sportfish on beaches throughout the region. Thus far, project staff has captured over 100 surfperch in Humboldt and Del Norte counties for life history studies. Staff collected biological information from each fish, including the removal of ear bones (which are used to determine age) and reproductive organs (which are used to determine when they mature). This information will be used to estimate growth rates, maximum age, and the age at which they become sexually mature – all of which are essential pieces of information for fisheries managers. This is the first time that life history aspects of this species have been studied in California since the 1970s. For more information on surfperch studies, please visit the project website.

New recreational fishing records

Two new recreational diving and angling records were logged into the books since May 2012. On June 30, 2012 Wesley Shum reeled in a 6 lb. 7 oz. grass rockfish (Sebastes rastrelliger) off Bean Hollow State Beach in San Mateo County to capture the state angling record for that species. In the diving records category, Dan Silveira speared a 37 lb. 0 oz. lingcod (Ophiodon elongatus) on Aug. 2, 2012 while freediving off Mendocino, to capture that species' state diving record. Congratulations to these new state sport fishing record holders! For more information about state recreational fishing and diving records, see the DFG Record Ocean Sport Fish Web page.

Dungeness crab

DFG is moving forward with the rulemaking process to implement a commercial Dungeness crab trap limit program as outlined in statute created by Senate Bill 369 in 2011. This program caps the maximum number of traps per vessel at 500, and allocates traps among the 600+ permitted vessels according to a tiered system, based on their historical catches. Presently, some of the largest vessels operate with more than 1,000 traps. The program is expected to become effective with the 2013-14 commercial season and will bring California in line with Oregon and Washington, states already operating with trap limit programs. For more information about the management of fisheries for California's invertebrate species, including Dungeness crab, visit the Invertebrate Management Project website.

California halibut

DFG Marine Region's Northern/Central California Finfish Research and Management Project staff in Belmont began a 3-year study this spring to determine size and age at first maturity, and reproductive characteristics of California halibut in San Francisco Bay. The study is funded by the Bay-Delta Sport Fishing Enhancement Stamp, which anglers were required to purchase to fish in San Francisco Bay and its estuaries prior to 2010. Size and age at first maturity have only been determined for halibut in southern California, and the fecundity (the total number of mature eggs produced per female, per year) has never before been estimated. To determine these life history characteristics, DFG is collecting halibut between 4 and 25½ in. long. On party boats, project staff collects halibut under the minimum legal size limit of 22 in. The Marine Science Institute of Redwood City is also collecting halibut (under a DFG-issued Scientific Collecting Permit) that are shorter than 25½ inches using a research trawl. Project staff removes the gonads to evaluate the halibut's gender and sexual maturity. Otoliths (fish "ear bones") are collected to determine age; length and weight are also recorded. Thus far, 29 halibut ranging between 7 and 25 in. have been evaluated. The project hopes to collect 300 halibut for the study. For more information on California halibut studies, please visit the project website.

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Get Hooked on the Marine Region and MLPA Websites!

by Aaron Del Monte, Marine Region Webmaster

For the latest information on fishing regulations, marine resources, and news affecting our California coastline, your first stop should be the Department of Fish and Game Marine Region website. This comprehensive information source currently contains well over 2,000 web pages and documents readily available to the public. If you are new to this website, we invite you to explore the valuable resources we have created. For those who have already visited the site, be sure to check back regularly, since new features, updates, and press releases are added every week. Here are some recent, noteworthy updates:

DFG Announces Changes to 2012 Ocean Sportfishing Regulations from Point Conception to the Mexico Border Effective Nov. 1: DFG is limiting fishing depths in the Southern Groundfish Management Area to reduce interactions with cowcod. DFG's action follows a recommendation made by the Pacific Fishery Management Council at its September meeting.

South Coast and North Central Coast MPA Guide Distribution Locations: Looking to pick up a handy MPA reference? These pages list businesses, DFG offices, and other locations that distribute DFG's Guide to the Southern California Marine Protected Areas and Guide to the North Central California Marine Protected Areas, which include maps, coordinates, shoreline boundary images, and regulations for MPAs.

California Spiny Lobster Fishery Management Plan: DFG is moving forward with the development of a fishery management plan for California spiny lobster, which supports important commercial and recreational fisheries and plays a key role in the southern California kelp forest ecosystem. These pages include documents and presentations from recent meetings.

Shellfish and Finfish Health Advisories: This page contains announcements from the California Department of Public Health and additional information regarding health advisories from consuming California finfish, shellfish and crustaceans.

Here are some of our most popular pages:

2012-2013 Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations Booklet: This is the 2012-2013 Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations Booklet (in PDF format) that was distributed in March 2012. The bookmarked PDF file features red bookmark headings which denote sections that have changed or are new for 2012. This page also contains the 2012-2013 Freshwater and Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations Supplement, distributed in June 2012.

California Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations Map: Going ocean fishing? This should be your first stop. Simply click the marine location where you plan to fish and you will access a compact list of sport fishing regulations for that area. The pages are printer-friendly, so you can print the regulations and take them with you on your next fishing trip. These pages are updated frequently, so you can be assured that they contain the most up-to-date information.

Invertebrate Management Project: The Invertebrate Management Project monitors and manages important commercial and recreational marine invertebrate fisheries occurring primarily in the nearshore environment of California's marine waters. These web pages contain expansive information about abalone, crabs, sea urchin, California spiny lobster and other marine invertebrates.

Calendar of Events: The Marine Region Calendar of Events contains information about events of interest to the public, including meetings, public events, and notable changes to ocean fishing regulations. Each listing includes a link to additional information.

Thank you for using the Marine Region website as a resource for news, information and regulations. We hope you will visit our site again soon!

The Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Website

The 1999 MLPA directed the state to design and manage a network of marine protected areas (MPAs) in order to, among other things, protect marine life and habitats, marine ecosystems, and marine natural heritage, as well as improve recreational, educational and study opportunities provided by marine ecosystems. This website contains up-to-date information about this exciting endeavor, including these popular resources:

South Coast Marine Protected Areas: California's new and improved Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) network in the south coast region (Point Conception in Santa Barbara County to the California/Mexico border) went into effect January 1, 2012. The south coast MPA network encompasses 37 new or modified MPAs, plus the pre-existing 13 MPAs and two special closures located at the northern Channel Islands. This page contains summaries of the regulations and boundaries for each MPA, plus links to maps.

North Coast Study Region: The MPA planning process has been completed in the north coast study region (California/Oregon border to Alder Creek near Point Arena in Mendocino County) and nineteen MPAs, one State Marine Recreational Management Area and seven special closures were adopted by the Commission. The north coast MPAs and special closures are not expected to go into effect before 2013.

MPA Mobile Website: This website allows anglers, divers and other ocean users to look up current information about MPA regulations and boundaries from personal computers, as well as smartphones and other portable Internet-enabled devices. Users can search for any current MPA by name or county, or by using the interactive map. Users can also find and track their current location via GPS and determine whether or not they are currently located within an MPA.

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New Option to Turn In Report Card Data Online

by Mary Patyten, Research Writer

DFG will begin to offer a new online harvest reporting service starting December 1 for abalone report cards, and January 1 for spiny lobster report cards.

To report online, just go to DFG's Online License Service page and search for your profile by entering your last name, date of birth and ID Number, which can be a driver's license number, a GO ID or other form of identification. When the system finds an exact match, it automatically logs the user on to their profile, where he or she can purchase a license or complete a harvest report.

Confirmation numbers will be provided to those who report online, so there will be no need to mail in the report card. Write the number on the report card and retain it for 90 days for survey purposes. Once a report card has been reported, it is no longer valid.

Please note: The law requires harvest data in a timely manner even if you were unsuccessful or did not hunt or fish. You can visit DFG's Harvest Reporting page for additional information on harvest reporting requirements.

Standard mail reporting is still available and can be done through the address printed on the report card.

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Creature Feature: California Sheephead

California Sheephead, Illustration by A. Bachar

California sheephead are uncommon north of Point Conception, but have been caught as far north as Monterey Bay. They are generally taken in rocky kelp areas near shore, in water from 20 to 100 ft. deep, although they do occur as deep as 280 ft.

Distinguishing Characteristics

This fish is a "protogynous hermaphrodite," which means that it begins life as a female, but then becomes a male in later life. Female: uniform pinkish red with white lower jaw. Male: Head and rear third of body black, mid-section red, lower jaw white. Males have a prominent, bulging forehead. Both sexes have unusually large, dog-like teeth.

Life History & Other Notes

Crabs, mussels, various-sized snails, squid, sea urchins, and sand dollars are typical food items for California sheephead.

Spawning takes place in early spring and summer. The young are brilliant red-orange, with two black spots on the dorsal fin and a black spot at the base of the tail fin. Pelvic and anal fins are black, trimmed in white. The young fade to a dull pink color when three to four inches long, and by the time they reach 6 to 8 inches long they have lost all spots and taken on typical female coloration.

California sheephead will take a variety of live and cut baits, such as anchovy or squid, fished on the bottom. Larger California sheephead may be taken using whole, live mackerel, also fished on the bottom. They are notable fighters on rod and reel.

Excerpt from the California Finfish and Shellfish Identification Book. Single copies of the book are available to California residents free of charge by emailing a request to

California Sheephead Quick Facts

Scientific name: Semicossyphus pulcher

Other common names: sheepie, goat, billygoat

Range & habitat: Monterey Bay south, but usually south of Pt Conception, in rock/kelp bed areas.

Length & weight: 3 ft and 36 lb

Lifespan: To 53 years

Diet & suggested bait: Feeds on crabs, mussels, snails, squid, sea urchin, sand dollar, sea cucumber. Try anchovy, squid or mackerel for bait.

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Upcoming Commission and Council Meetings

2012 California Fish and Game Commission Meetings


November 7
December 12

Los Angeles
San Diego

2012-2013 Pacific Fishery Management Council Meetings


November 2-7
March 6-11
April 6-11

Costa Mesa
Tacoma, WA
Portland, OR


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