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How Is Seafood Caught?

Monterey Bay is home to flourishing marine life, working waterfronts, and a coastal community that relies on our marine resources- including our local, sustainable seafood. Fishermen use a variety of catch methods to target seafood species because of their different depths, sizes, and behaviors. In addition, government regulations are designed to protect target species populations and help determine the gear type used. 

In this blog post, we’ll introduce you to the most widely used gear types in Monterey Bay. Please see our Products List to learn catch methods for each species we offer. Here at H&H we care deeply about the health of our oceans and our fishing community. Please do reach out if you have any questions or concerns. We’re here to help!

Rod & Reel

Hans Rod & Reel Fishing

Rod and reel fishing is exactly what you think it is. It's actually the gear that we've all had in our hands at one point in time—a fishing pole—although this method is much more technical. There are lots of benefits to this type of fishing method including a super low carbon input, low technology demands, and more safety in terms of bycatch (see more below). We don’t often think of this method being used in commercial fisheries. But, a large portion of our H&H seafood products—including white seabass and halibut--are actually caught by fishermen going out to Monterey Bay with simply a rod and reel.

  • Risk of Bycatch: Low potential If bycatch is caught, fish are often released alive.

Hook & Line

Hook and Line Method

Hook and line is an umbrella term that includes longline, troll, and rod and reel. In Monterey Bay, longlines are often used to catch groundfish, which includes sablefish (aka black cod), rockfish, lingcod, sole, and flounder. For bottom longlines , a fishing line is set up from a buoy that floats on the ocean surface and stretches all the way down to the seafloor. Along the lines are hundreds of baited hooks that “soak,” or are left in the water for a few hours or even an entire day. Deep dropping is another strategy used to catch fish that hang out in large groups at the ocean floor. Deep dropping is often distinguished from bottom fishing because it’s used at greater depths.

  • Environmental Impacts: There is potential for injury and entanglement.
  • Risk of Bycatch: In 2005, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) introduced regulations to reduce bycatch from bottom longlines by increasing gear and safety requirements, in addition to limiting fishing areas and seasons.

Purse Seine

Purse Seine Overview

Purse seines are names because they look like--you guessed it--a purse. Purse seines are set up on the stern (the back) of a large fishing boat while a smaller boat tows one end of the net that is dragged through the water like a curtain. Both boats work together to form a circle around schooling fish, often squid or sardines. Down at the bottom of the net, the purse line is closed like a purse string cinching closed. This ensures that no fish escape through the bottom (see photo).'

  • Environmental Impacts: Purse seines do not come into contact with the seafloor and therefore do not harm benthic (bottom dwelling) animals or marine habitat.
  • Risk of bycatch is minimal.

Scottish Seine

Scottish Seine

Scottish seines are a combination of nets and lines. They’re used to catch species of groundfish like sole, sand dabs, and flounder. Scottish seines are shaped like a triangle and are slowly dragged by boats along sandy ocean floors. This stirs up mud clouds and shepherds fish along the path of the net in a method known as “fly-dragging.” The net is never towed for very long and this type of gear can be operated by lower powered vessels to minimize fuel consumption.

  • Environmental Impacts: The Scottish seine method is widely accepted as environmentally friendly. The gear is only used on smooth sandy or muddy sea beds. It is not allowed where the ocean floor is rocky to avoid damage to the gear and destruction of the habitat.
  • Risk of Bycatch: The nets’ mesh size can be changed depending on what fish you are targeting. This helps to avoid bycatch. 


Surface Deep Drop Salmon Method
Surface Troll Tuna Method
Surface Tuna Method

Trolling is used mainly to harvest King Salmon and other surface species like Tuna. At its core, trolling is a fishing method that involves throwing lines with baited hooks or lures behind a boat and waiting for fish to bite. On larger boats, trolling is automated using hydraulic reels (“gurdies”) to pull in the lines. On smaller vessels, trolling can involve rods, reels and handlines. Trolling requires significant knowledge from fishermen. When targeting King salmon, for example, fishermen have to take into account local water and weather conditions to set up their lines. You can imagine this is difficult when you’re trying to target salmon and albacore, who can swim at depths of 500 feet. 

  • Environmental Impacts: Trolling minimal to no environmental impacts as this fishing method is quite good at targeting a particular species and does not touch the ocean floor.
  • Risk of Bycatch: Low risk of bycatch. If non-target species are caught though, they can be released quickly.


Trawl Method

A trawl is a type of net that is towed behind a boat to capture target species. This net is dragged either through the water column or along the seafloor. In Monterey Bay, trawling is commonly used to catch groundfish, which includes sablefish (aka black cod), rockfish, lingcod, sole, and flounder. This method is also used to catch our Gulf Shrimp but has a slightly different setup.

  • Environmental Impacts: Almost two dozen trawl-caught species are listed on the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch’s “Best Choice” or “Good Alternative” lists. The trawl fishery in Monterey Bay is also certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council, a leading authority in the fishing industry. 
  • Risk of Bycatch: Different mesh sizes are used to help minimize the risk of bycatch. Sea turtles in the shrimp fishery were once at risk of being ensnared in trawls. But recently, turtle excluder devices have been used to reduce bycatch and to allow turtles to escape nets.

Traps & Pots

Traps and Pots Method
Traps and Pots Method

Traps and pots are famously used to harvest crabs, but lots of seafood can be collected this way! In Monterey Bay, traps and pots are used to catch a wide variety of species: Dungeness crab, rock crab, sablefish (aka black cod), spot prawns, nearshore rockfish, and hagfish (aka slime eels). Traps and pots are usually attached by rope to buoys on the sea surface. They come in different sizes and shapes whether they’re rectangular or cone-like. Most often, pots and traps are baited so that target species are lured in and trapped until fishermen bring the gear to the sea surface.

  • Risk of Bycatch: The vertical lines running from the buoys to the pots or traps can pose a threat to sea turtles and marine mammals. However, there are ways to minimize bycatch whether it’s specialized traps or pots, gear modifications that allow an animal to break free, or reducing the number of vertical ropes used altogether.

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