California Salt Water Fishing Regulations

California Salt Water Fishing Regulations
The sunny Pacific Ocean coasts of California attract not just tourists and beach-goers, but also many amateur and sport anglers. The warm waters don't just make for great swimming, but are also a fertile habitat for hundreds of fish species, including rockfish, cod, tuna, bass and halibut. All salt water fishing is overseen by the California Department of Fish & Game. Learn the regulations that govern salt water fishing so you stay within the legal limits while on your next California fishing trip.

Fishing License

All anglers plying California's marine waters must possess a valid California fishing license issued by the state's Department of Fish & Game. Licenses can be purchased online (see Resources) or by mail. Licenses are valid from January 1 to December 31. As of 2009, an annual license is $41.20 for residents and $110.80 for non-residents. If you only plan to fish for only a few days, you can save a significant sum by purchasing a short-term fishing license. For example, a two-day license is just $20.75 for residents and nonresidents alike. According to the state's regulations, a resident is anyone who has lived in the state for six consecutive months.
State of California
License & Revenue Branch
1740 N. Market Blvd.
Sacramento, CA 95834
(916) 928-5805

Depth and Size Limits

Most types of fishing are limited to water that is less than 120 feet in depth. Exceptions include some types of sharks and most flatfish. In addition, the state imposes both catch limits and length limits. This helps to protect younger fish to ensure the longevity of the fish population, and also guards against overfishing. As of 2009, common fish such as bass have no limit. However, rarer fish such as some type of cod are limited to just two per person. In addition, most fish have to be a foot or more in length. However, these size and catch limits vary yearly according to the annual fishing census. Call California's Recreational Fishing Regulations Hotline at (831) 649-2801 to determine what the current limits are before embarking on your fishing trip.


If catching a fish that has a size restriction, ensure you are measuring correctly to avoid accidentally violating state regulations. When measuring, use a standard ruler and measure in a straight line from the tip of the fish's head to the fork of its tail.

Gear Restrictions

The state places restrictions on the type of gear that anglers use to fish in salt water. Typically, fish may only be caught by hand or by net. When fishing from public areas such as piers, individuals can only fish with a maximum of two rods, two nets or two hand lines. Exceptions include San Francisco Bay, where anglers may only use one line at a time. In addition, diving anglers can use spears and spear guns except in areas within 100 yards of the mouth of a freshwater stream.

Article Written By Josh Duvauchelle

Josh Duvauchelle is an editor and journalist with more than 10 years' experience. His work has appeared in various magazines, including "Honolulu Magazine," which has more paid subscribers than any other magazine in Hawaii. He graduated with honors from Trinity Western University, holding a Bachelor of Arts in professional communications, and earned a certificate in applied leadership and public affairs from the Laurentian Leadership Centre.

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