These highly sought after mollusks can fetch up $100 each on the poaching market and have serious regulations to help manage the population. This year brought some new changes for the sport harvest of abs. The season total went from 24 to 18 abalone per-person, per-year. The daily limit and bag limit remains at three per day.
An abalone punch card must be possessed by anyone taking them. Even youths under 16 years old and free fishing days that require no license, must possess an abalone punch card. The card is $22.17 this year and must be filled out upon immediate exiting of the water. This does not mean walk to your truck, dry off, and start filling out your card. You must do it right after exiting the ocean.
Harvest reports from 2000 to 2011 show an estimate of 250,000 abalone harvested each year. The length of the Red abalone must be 7 inches and they can only be taken north of San Francisco Bay to the Oregon border. Some areas are closed because they are Marine Life Protection Act closed zones, and Fort Ross is closed also. Additionally, only nine out of the annual 18 abalone kept may be harvested in the Sonoma Coast area. The remainder of the 18 abalone limit must be harvested outside this area.
The season started this year with rough weather and lots of rain water running out from rivers decreasing visibility for divers. Abalone must be taken without tanks, so people picking rocks and free-diving have to risk the elements to get these tasty mollusks.
The new regulations limit the take of abalone from after 8 a.m. to a half-hour after sunset. Abalone are a precious resource and help bring tourists to and campers to small coastal towns in northern California. Many families have traditions of camp trips and abalone feeds that have taken place for decades.
Each year several divers don’t return from their search and people should remain very careful and read the regulations and weather before heading out for abs.
- Mike Baxter has fished in the Monterey Bay Area since he was a boy and has been a licensed charter boat captain for more than 20 years. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He also hosts a fishing show on radio station KSCO (1080) from 8:06 to 9 p.m. Thursdays April through the end of August.