Northwest Fisheries Science Center

Nearshore Fixed Gear

Sector Description

The U.S. West Coast nearshore groundfish commercial fleet operates from northern Oregon to southern California. Vessels participating in this fleet range in size from 10 to 50 feet, with an average length of 25 feet. A variety of fixed gear including hand-lines, cable gear, fishing poles, and pots is fished. Gear is set and retrieved multiple times a day and catch is generally landed on a daily basis. Most catch is delivered to the live fish market, necessitating careful handling of retained fish. Vessels retain only the portion of their catch that is marketable and permitted to be landed. The portion of catch that is not marketable or prohibited from landing is discarded at-sea. Fishers may discard certain size fish or dead fish to maximize the value of their landed catch.

Regulations for the nearshore fisheries are set by both the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) and the states. The Pacific Fishery Management Council sets harvest guidelines for groundfish species. Several fishing area closures designated in federal groundfish management apply to the commercial nearshore fixed gear fisheries. In addition to regulations set by the PFMC, each state manages its nearshore fleet independently by issuing state regulations on the cumulative trip limits of nearshore species in their state waters. Cumulative trip limits specify an amount of fish (by weight) that can be landed during a particular time period, usually a two-month period. Often, cumulative trip limits set by the states are more restrictive than the federal limits. Limits for the nearshore fisheries are small; generally between 100 to 2,000 lbs every two months.


The State of Washington does not allow commercial fishing within its territorial waters (0-3 miles from the coastline) and therefore a nearshore commercial fixed gear fleet does not operate in Washington.


Oregon’s nearshore commercial fixed gear fleet typically fishes in shallow water (< 30 fathoms) and targets species such as black rockfish, blue rockfish, china rockfish, copper rockfish, quillback rockfish, grass rockfish, cabezon, and greenlings. Oregon’s nearshore permitting process assigns permits to vessels. Oregon issues black/blue rockfish permits for the landing of black rockfish and blue rockfish. These permits can have an additional nearshore endorsement, which allows landing 21 additional Oregon designated nearshore groundfish species. State nearshore management employs minimum size limits for many nearshore species, as well as two month cumulative trip limits and annual landing caps (maximum landed weight in a 12 month period). In 2004, Oregon began requiring that nearshore fishers complete a vessel logbook.


California state nearshore fixed gear management designates four geographic zones along the coastline. The state of California issues two permits for fishing within nearshore waters: a shallow nearshore species permit and a deeper nearshore species permit. The permits are assigned to an individual person and can only be used in the one regional management area specified on the permit. Fishers can either have a single nearshore permit (deeper or shallow) or hold both types of permits. A trap endorsement can also be tied to a shallow nearshore permit to allow for the use of trap gear when fishing for nearshore species.

The deeper nearshore permit is required for landing black rockfish, blue rockfish, brown rockfish, calico rockfish, copper rockfish, olive rockfish, quillback rockfish, and treefish. The shallow nearshore permit is required for landing black-and-yellow rockfish, cabezon, California scorpionfish, California sheephead, china rockfish, gopher rockfish, grass rockfish, greenlings, and kelp rockfish. Lingcod is also commonly targeted with shallow nearshore permit species. Most live fish landings consist of species in the shallow nearshore group. State nearshore management employs minimum size limits for many nearshore species and two month cumulative trip limits. A limit on the number of hooks per vessel or line also exists for certain areas. In 2005, California instituted a voluntary nearshore logbook program.

Selection Process

From a sampling standpoint, the WCGOP divides the nearshore fixed gear groundfish fleet into three components: Oregon black/blue rockfish, Oregon black/blue rockfish with a nearshore endorsement, and California nearshore. Separate selection lists are compiled for Oregon permits as the two groups are subject to different landings limits and thus might differ in fishing behavior. In all cases, state-issued nearshore permits are selected for observation using stratified random sampling. First, the WCGOP determines the amount of time (based on available resources) it will take to observe a fleet; this is termed the selection cycle. Selection cycle length varies due to changing priorities and observer resources.

Due to the large number of state permits in these fisheries, criteria were developed to reduce the selection lists to those permits that are the most active in each sector and to vessels that have sufficient space to carry an observer. This increases the probability that the vessels selected will be actively fishing and observable, thereby increasing the probability of obtaining observations in all geographical and temporal strata.

Selection lists for the two Oregon nearshore fixed gear components are developed based on permit information from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the PacFIN database. The following criteria are applied:

The selection list for the California nearshore fixed gear component is developed based on permit information from the California Department of Fish and Game and the PacFIN database. The following criteria are applied:

WCGOP sampling strata consist of groups of ports along the U.S. West Coast. State nearshore permits are assigned to a port group based upon the location of the previous year’s landings. Within each port group, permits are randomly selected for coverage during a two-month period, which coincide with two-month cumulative trip limit periods. After the entire fleet has been selected, a new selection cycle begins. This selection process is designed to produce a logistically feasible sampling plan with observations throughout the entire geographic range. Based on this design and WCGOP funding, the program cycles through the fleets with California and Oregon state nearshore permits every year.


In some cases, vessels whose permits are selected for a specific period are not covered by an observer during that period or are not covered on all trips during that period. A trip could be waived from observer coverage due to observer availability, a safety issue that can be fixed in a relatively short period of time, or vessel space issues that arise when an extra person is aboard. A longer selection cycle waiver allows the vessel to fish without an observer during all trips taken during the selection cycle. Selection cycle waivers are given when a vessel has a serious safety concern that can not be easily remedied or if vessel space is too limiting to safely carry an observer.

Some vessels might receive a coverage period waiver, which allows a vessel to fish all trips during that period without an observer. Coverage period waivers are given for a variety of reasons including observer availability and vessel safety. If a vessel is given a coverage period waiver for a specific two- month period or sablefish season, the vessel is added to the selection list for the next year (LE sablefish-endorsed) or two-month period (LE non-sablefish-endorsed). Vessels continue to be added to subsequent selection lists until either an observer covers them or until the selection cycle ends, whichever comes first.

Further information on state nearshore fixed gear regulations can be found at:

Nearshore Fixed Gear Reporting

Year of data Year of release Description Format
2010 2011 Data from nearshore sector Excel
2009-2010 Oct-10 Data Report and Summary Analyses of the U.S. West Coast Nearshore Fixed Gear Groundfish Fishery full report (pdf)
2008-2009 Oct-09 Data Report and Summary Analyses of the U.S. West Coast Nearshore Fixed Gear Groundfish Fishery full report (pdf)
2007-2008 Oct-08 Data Report and Summary Analyses of the West Coast Nearshore Fixed Gear Fishery full report (pdf)
2006-2007 Nov-07 Data Report and Summary Analyses of Fixed-Gear Fisheries in Waters Less than 50 Fathoms full report (pdf)
2004-2006 Feb-07 Data Report and Summary Analyses of Open Access Fixed-Gear Fisheries in Waters Less than 50 Fathoms full report
2003-2004 May-05 Data Report and Summary Analyses of Open Access Fixed-Gear Fisheries in Waters Less than 50 Fathoms full report