Suggested Limits?

Ken Jones

Staff member
Date: December 4, 2001
To: PFIC Message Board
From: stumpysez

Subject: “Suggested Limits”

Hi all, As an inexperienced angler, I have a hard time judging which fish are “keepers” when they are species with no size limits. Of course, I can use the Peterson’s guides to give me an idea of how big they CAN get, but that doesn't really tell me how big they usually get. I know, the species with no size limits are probably populous enough that if I take a few young ones, it's no big deal, but I also feel like it's a good idea to be respectful of the breeding stock even if they're not in crisis.

I was thinking it would be nice to have some of the “veterans” on this site to come up with “suggested limits” for keepers of various species. Obviously, it's nothing binding, but a person who is new to the area or who is just starting could get at least a rough guideline. And I know most of you probably don't have hard and fast rules about these things, so this may be a bit like getting someone to write down an old family recipe (how many teaspoons is a pinch?).

Perhaps “suggested limits” is too strong a term... it sounds prescriptive. “Personal limits”? Any takers? Give it some thought... I'm particularly interested in the different kinds of perch, but others would be useful, such various kinds of rockfish and flatfish with no size limits.

Name: Songslinger

If you see the perch picture I put up earlier (“Now That's Better”), you will notice some blue and white dinner plates. Their diameter is 10.5 inches. Thus, the biggest perch came in around 14 inches and the smaller ones are about 10 inches. Under that I usually don’t keep them because they don’t yield much meat and it seems a shame to butcher several little ones to get a meal. The four perch in the picture will easily feed me and my wife and son (with rice and veggies, of course). So, in my view, I don't need more than that. I may catch more, of course, but my personal limit is 4-5 perch. Moreover, I don't always keep fish. I plan dinner for the week in our household (yep, that’s right, I'm the cook), and if fish is not on the menu, then fish is not kept. Usually. It's hard to pass up a fat rockfish, ya know? But I do release (according to my logs) 80-85% of what I catch in a given year. Including striped bass! (And there is another personal limit: it’s rare when I go for the two allowed; one striper is enough for me.)

Halibut I don’t like much, so it’s easy to let them go. Flounder are excellent eating but unfortunately not as large as they used to be. I think a flounder over a foot long is keepable, but below that it’s senseless.

It does come down to a matter of choice and/or discretion when fishing for species with no size regulations. Again, you have to consider whether you will get any meat out of the fish. I carry a wire basket that stores my daily catch and keeps it alive, so I have a choice at the end of a session whether to release or keep a fish. For perch, if it is a “keep day,” then I want at least three good sized perch. Otherwise, back they go. Two flounder is workable. For rockfish, 12” is a good slot limit, and I like at least two nice ones.

One more thing, I don't keep spawning perch. (Or for that matter anything that is spawning.) I love fishing for spawning perch because you get great sizes and good numbers during the spawn, and they fight like hell on light tackle, but I really don’t like to cut open mamas with babies inside. Since I can’t always tell who is gravid and who is not, I release all perch in March through April. *********** All I Want Is A Fair Fight ***********

Name: lucy

Interesting idea. I’ve kind of got a rule that I don’t keep a fish unless it’s large enough to make a meal by itself. I like Songslinger’s idea of using a wire fish basket. That way, you can keep the fish you catch in the water and alive, and when you're done fishing, you can decide which ones to keep and let the rest go, alive and well. Now, if I can find a place that has those baskets...!

Name: pierangler8787

Good Idea! Its kinda like your God and the fish are at his gates and it is time for him to send them straight to hell, Or to heaven!; “Well, you little guys are cool so... you can go to heaven, but as for you O’ fat one, your going straight to hell!!!... MY DINNER PLATE!!!!” LOL Anyways, I don't believe that that’s how we are judged for heaven or hell. Just wanted to say that about the fish. P.S. I saw a couple at Wall-Mart a couple of times.

Name: castlebravo

I usually keep one or two small fish for cut bait on the next fishing trip. For dinner over a foot is ok. After I catch what I intend to eat I usually stop fishing.

Name: Corbinaman1

Barred Perch Size Limits. That is a good idea Songslinger to release gravid female perch in March/April. I almost always catch/release perch, but have eaten them before. There is no size limit to them, but if I were to keep them, I would keep the bigger ones (around 9 inches or so). They seem to be pretty abundant... consist of about 80% of my surf-fishing catch.

Name: mola joe

Excellent post, stumpysez. It’s an issue that is not at the forefront of most novice anglers, and to a large degree, the average fishermen as well. Just catching fish is pretty much the goal when just starting out, and to give as much thought on this subject as you project in your post, says a lot about you. Catching fish, killing fish, keeping limits, or releasing fish has all been touched on before, and as we've seen in the past, can be a very touchy subject. It really boils down to each persons own personal views, and there’s no way everyone can agree on an issue like this. Some, like myself, fish more for fun than to put food on the table, but others feel it’s a wasted trip if no fish are brought home. We all love to catch fish, so it doesn’t take much to figure out that if everything is kept, all of us will suffer down the line with depleted fish stocks.

Some fish are considered more sacred than others, no two ways about it. People feel guilty about killing a mama perch that you can actually see carrying young, but feel nothing taking a fish loaded with eggs. I can remember the perch derbies when I was a kid back in the ‘60s, and hundreds of large female perch were killed just about every weekend during the spawn. Did it hurt the population, maybe. Barred perch stocks are not as they were back then, but they do seem very healthy. I think a good rule is to keep what you and your family can eat fresh, and don’t try to feed the neighborhood. A keeper fish to one person may be way to small to others. Keeper is the key word here, there's just no set guidelines unless set by Fish and Game. Most fish that have set size limits are going to be big enough to eat, so most are kept. Other than perch who bear live young, it’s pretty hard to tell if fish are spawning unless you know the set time periods in which the fish you’re catching do so. Go fishing, have fun. If you want to keep a fish, or two, or three, do it, as long as they are of legal size. As you become more involved in the sport, your guidelines will set themselves. Tight Lines!!

Name: Red Fish

Interesting... When I was a kid in the 70’s , I once saw a guy with a stringer of 21 perch. I said, “how many do you have.” He replied, “21, a limit.” I said, "there’s a limit on perch?" He was the only one I every witnessed to get that many by himself from Berkeley Pier on one outing. I have not seen a catch like that from Berkeley since and the rubberlip perch are nip or non-existent now. I don't know whether it’s due to over-fishing or that environmental conditions have changed drastically, i.e., much less mussels on the pilings, water conditions.

Name: carlos

I saw some Asian guy last year at the Berkeley Pier catch 20 perch and he kept fishing but he released the rest; he was using grass shrimp.

Name: baitfish

Mola Joe and Slinger hit the nail on the head! Generally conservation comes with experience. Not too many think about the need to save something when they don’t know it might be a problem to take it. The more I fish, the more I release. As Joe said, try to only keep what you are going to eat fresh. As soon as that fish goes in the freezer and gets covered with that bag of frozen vegetables, it can easily be forgotten until you see it later after it has a nice coating of freezer burn and is now useless. But if you are looking for a rule of thumb, keep what you can make a single meal out of for your family with as few fish as possible.

You also want to try to keep the fish in the middle size area. What I mean by that is develop a slot limit for yourself that fits within the DFG laws. For Calico Bass I would try not keep a fish smaller than 12” or larger that 18” this way you are within the limit of the law, 12” plus you are releasing the larger/older fish to the breading stocks to maintain the fishery.

I am sure most of us have had their days of wasted fish, that is part of learning. The important part is that you learn that a wasted fish is a waste of life. Just know you are doing your part to keep the fishery alive and healthy for your Great Grandchildren.:) Adam, Will work for fish!

Name: stinkyfingers

Don't you love it? I love it how Mola related that part about how it’s nice to see people take it upon themselves to impose additional discipline to their habits. CHEERS!

Name: baitfish

If everyone could do that then there would not be a need for a DFG and we could rest easy that fishing will be great. Too bad that isn’t reality. But I am glad that there are some people who are starting this way.:). Adam, Will work for fish!