New 2024 Rockfish and Lingcod Limits for Homer
The Alaska Board of Fisheries voted unanimously to reduce rockfish and lingcod bag limits for Lower Cook Inlet and the North Gulf Coast during it’s meeting in Homer on November 30, 2023.
2024 regulations for fishing rockfish out of Homer will be 3 rockfish per day, 6 in possession per angler. Of those 3, one may be a non-pelagic rockfish, such as a yellow eye.
2024 regulations for fishing lingcod out of Homer will be 1 lingcod per day, 2 in possession per angler.
Combined, the reductions are the largest cuts in bag limits in the history of Homer sport fishing.
Anglers were previously allowed to retain 5 rockfish per day, of which one could be a non-pelagic variety, and 2 lingcod above 35 inches in length. The length requirements for lingcod retention did not change.
Cutting the lingcod limit in half is expected to reduce the catch by 15-20 percent, according to data from Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
The Board’s unanimous vote to reduce rockfish limits was in support of Proposition 19, introduced by the Homer Fish and Game Advisory Committee (Homer AC). The Homer AC is made up of 15 locals who make recommendations ahead of meetings of the Alaska Board of Fisheries (BOF).
Board members declined to take up 3 other rockfish proposals — including one from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and another introduced by the Homer Charter Association — that would have reduced angler bag limits to 4 rockfish per day, 8 in possession.
The reductions were proposed due to increased pressure on rockfish stocks in Lower Cook Inlet and the North Gulf Coast over the past several years. Those are areas fished by boats launching out of Homer, Anchor Point, Seldovia, and others on the Lower Kenai Peninsula.
According to data from local ADF&G managers, the average size and age of black rockfish, specifically, has declined in recent years as sport fishing pressure on the species has increased substantially. Black rockfish account for about 71% of all rockfish takings in the area.
In 2023 an ADF&G emergency order cut rockfish bag limits to 3 per day, 6 in possession for Lower Cook Inlet and the North Gulf Coast areas. But that order was temporary. The vote from the BOF made the 3-rockfish daily limit part of state fishing regulations. It will likely not be reconsidered until the Board takes up issues for the area again in 3 years.
ADF&G area manager Mike Booz said that lingcod harvest rates were considered sustainable based on department data, but that ADF&G supported reducing the bag limit to 1 due to what they expect will be increased pressure on the fish due to other sportfishing restrictions, such as reduced bag limits for rockfish and day-of-the-week closures for charter halibut fishing. There is also a chance that another ADF&G emergency order in 2024 could cut bag limits for king salmon, as it did for peak months during the summer of 2023.
The Board of Fisheries declined to reduce commercial limits for rockfish and lingcod. During discussion, board members said that increased pressure on the fish populations were coming from the sport fishing sector and they did not want to penalize commercial fishermen.
ADF&G noted that there are some shortcomings in data related to rockfish populations. There is no data on rockfish stocks in the area. Instead, samples are collected at the dock, from charter logbooks, and from voluntary surveys private anglers can complete.
ADF&G staff said they hope to continue to refine rockfish data collection methods and come back to the Board of Fisheries in 3 years with a more comprehensive management plan for Lower Cook Inlet and the North Gulf Coast areas.