By: Parimal M. Rohit
MONTEREY – With the prospect of recreational and commercial anglers exceeding the annual catch limit for sculpin, state officials have shut down a fishery for bottom-feeding rockfish for the remainder of 2014.
The sculpin fishery was shut down just after midnight on Nov. 15.
“Based on recent catch estimates from the sport fishery and landing receipt totals from the commercial fishery, [Fish and Game] projects that the 2014 annual catch limit (ACL) for California sculpin will be exceeded unless the fishery is closed,” the California Department of Fish and Game said in a statement.
According to the most recent data released by state officials, an estimated 110 metric tons of California sculpin have been taken through the first week of November, about seven metric tons shy of the annual catch limit for 2014.
The annual catch limit of 117 metric tons for 2014 was set by federal officials.
State law allows the Department of Fish and Game to shut down any fishery whenever the annual catch limit is exceeded or “expected to be reached.”
“Although fishing for rockfish and other ground fish will remain open in Southern California through the end of the year, [Fish and Game] urges individuals to avoid fishing in areas where California sculpin are known to occur. If taken, sculpin should be immediately returned back to the water to minimize injury and mortality,” according to an official statement issued by state officials.
One angler said shutting down the sculpin fishery would help repopulate the species and allow enough of them to grow into legal size.
“I think the shutdown will do the fishery some good, the poor sculpins barely get to legal size and get taken by some of these boats. It’s not uncommon to go to the dunes and catch 7seven to eight babies before landing a legal,” said Jeff To. “The sport boats smacked [scorpionfish] pretty hard this year since the bass bite never really showed up, unfortunately it was very much either sculpins or rockfish for all the nearshore boats.”
California sculpin are generally found close to the Southern California coastline and are oftentimes reeled in by pier fishing anglers. State officials hail the species as an important one for commercial and recreational fisheries.
Sculpin are also the most venomous member of its species here in California, with its exterior capable of puncturing holes through human skin.
Bottom-dwelling marine fish have been managed by fishery plans as early as 1982.