Boat based-ocean anglers are being fed some changes to fishing regulations that are in some cases a bit hard to digest.

Rockfish regulation changes have the greatest impact because rockfish serve as the main staple of our Santa Barbara Channel and Channel Islands fish diet.

We are lucky have some of the most robust rockfish populations anywhere up and down the coast. These fish are well-managed for sustainability, and we benefit both recreationally and commercially.

Going after rockfish is the sure-fire way to take home a bag of tasty and healthy fillets. Even when we fish for glory species like white seabass, halibut, yellowtail, and calico bass, we often stop at a deep structure spot and pull up some yummy rockfish for the dinner table.

Season and depths are major change factors in the 2023 regulations pertaining to nearshore and shelf rockfish. Of all of them, the one you may be most familiar with is red snapper (vermilion rockfish). Because it has such a fabulous reputation for being delicious, many species of rockfish are sometimes labeled as red snapper. More recently, the term pacific rockfish has become accepted and valuable.

Previously the rockfish season has been March 1 through Dec. 31. For 2023, however, the season is April 1-Dec. 31, or one month shorter. This means we have to wait an extra full month to get our season going, which makes it difficult for sportboats like Stardust and Coral Sea at Santa Barbara Landing, and for private boat anglers like grandpa or grandma taking the grandkids out for an adventure.

Depth restrictions are another change item for 2023. We have been dealing with depth restrictions such as no deeper than 600 feet due to concerns over populations of cowcod (the biggest of the rockfish species here locally).

Now that their population is recovered, the new regulations will be any depth from April 1 through Sept. 15. Then from Sept. 16 through Dec. 31, ,the rule is no rockfish may be caught in less than 300 feet. Interestingly, cowcod still cannot be kept.

Anglers are now using deep-release devices, which allows us to release a fish at depth where they are not affected by barotrauma. Since we are using these nifty devices, fisheries managers know we can safely release cowcod, which live in deep water.

Shore-based anglers have none of these season or depth restrictions. These folks will have an advantage during part of the year when they are the only ones who can fish. I will be teaching evening classes on shore-based fishing, followed by a course on freshwater fishing.

The shore-based saltwater classes begin Jan. 25. To sign up for it, visit and click on “How to Register for fee-based classes.” Registering will give you a student ID number. Keep that number because it will allow you to register for the class.

After registering, find the Search box and enter 24763 which is the class ID. The search takes you to a page where you can sign up. If you are already registered in the system, just login and search for the class ID, 24763.

The next series of classes will be freshwater fishing, so lakes, streams and rivers. To sign up for it, go to the same website and enter 24764 for the class ID. See you in class.

Capt. David Bacon, Noozhawk Columnist

— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit to learn more about the organization and how you can help. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.