Rockfish Season in Southern California

Rockfish Season in Southern California

In the pristine waters off the coast of Southern California, a thrilling fishing adventure awaits anglers eager to hook into the bounty of rockfish season, which starts April 1. Southern California offers a premier destination for anglers seeking the ultimate fishing experience. 

Understanding Rockfish and Their Habitat

From the vibrant hues of vermilion rockfish to the imposing presence of lingcod, each species offers a unique challenge and thrill for anglers. Rockfish are very particular to depth and water temperature. That’s why in areas further south such as San Diego, you will find them in depths of 100-500 ft consistently, but more north in areas such as LA and Ventura, they can be caught in much shallower waters.   Many species come with specific restrictions when it comes to catching them. Quillback rockfish, for instance, are now illegal to keep for conservation purposes, having been restricted last year, as well as the depth restrictions for catching them. Meanwhile, vermillion rockfish have a daily limit of 2. For the most part, others can be kept but at no more than 10 specimens a day. Consult the CA Fish and Wildlife site for specific details on rockfish and other species.

Essential Gear and Techniques for Rockfish Fishing

The most common approach in Southern California waters is to use a shorter rod (under 7ft) with a weight rating of 20-40lb line. The reel is typically a conventional reel with either a monofilament line (20-30lb) or a braided fishing line (30-65lb) with a leader. This is for nearly all approaches apart from slow-pitch jigging. For slow-pitch jigging, anglers use jigs that range from 80 grams up to 500 grams on slow-pitch rods that are similarly rated. The line is usually a braided fishing line ranging from PE .8 to 2.5 (15-40lb braid) with a fluorocarbon or monofilament leader of 20-40lbs. Consider exploring slow-pitch jigging, dropper loop fishing (both with artificial and live bait), lead head jigs with trailers, and yo-yo jigs. 

Top Rockfish Fishing Spots in Southern California

The Channel Islands, the Palos Verdes Peninsula, and the San Diego coast are considered prime hotspots for rockfish. These areas all provide abundant rocky reefs and underwater ledges that are favored habitats for rockfish. 

Tips for a Successful Rockfish Fishing Trip

Plan your rockfish fishing trip around favorable weather conditions and tidal patterns. The best times for fishing coincide with slack tides and periods of minimal current, allowing for precise presentations and better success rates. Watch wind conditions as well since higher wind gusts bring rougher conditions and more difficulties keeping your vessel at a desired location. Targeting rockfish requires patience and persistence, as these fish may require multiple attempts before taking the bait, so remain focused and attentive to subtle strikes and bites. Navionics in particular is a tool every angler/waterman should have to continue the hunt off the water. Take some time to map out your trip, search for spots you would like to try and keep up to date on conditions. 

Which cooler bag for Southern California Rockfish?

When it comes to picking a kill bag for your rockfish trips, it is important to take into account the size of the rockfish you are targeting as well as the amount of people you will have on board. 


We typically take the Fathom 3 for 1-2 people off the coast of San Diego. If we plan on keeping a few limits or have more than 2 people, we like to take the Fathom 4.