The California Collaborative Fisheries Research Program, a partnership of fishermen, non-governmental organizations, and agency and academic scientists, developed protocols for monitoring marine protected areas in central California using hook-and-line and trap fishing gear. In the summer and fall of 2007, 2008, and 2009 the protocols were used to collect information about species composition, catch rates, and sizes of nearshore fishes in the Año Nuevo, Point Lobos, Piedras Blancas, and Point Buchon State Marine Reserves, and corresponding co-located reference sites. A total of 115 surveys, employing hook-and-line methods, were conducted from 2007 – 2009; 47 in the fall of 2007, 48 in the summer and fall of 2008, and 24 in the summer and fall of 2009, in and near the Año Nuevo, Point Lobos, Piedras Blancas and Point Buchon marine protected areas. A total of 68 trap fishing surveys occurred in and near the Año Nuevo, Point Lobos, Cambria, and Piedras Blancas marine protected areas; 43 in 2008 and 25 in 2009. During these surveys, all caught fishes were identified, measured, tagged with external T-bar anchor tags, and released at location of capture. A total of 12 Commercial Passenger Fishing Vessels, 4 commercial trap-fishing vessels, and 415 volunteer anglers spent a total of 1,121 hours fishing with hook-and-line gear, and 3,445 hours fishing with trap gear. This combined effort resulted in a total catch of 26,262 fishes, which were comprised of 42 species. Of the total catch 22,551 fishes were tagged and released. Out of the fishes released with tags, 119 were recaptured and reported to our offices with information about the location of recapture. The ten most frequently caught species were similar among marine protected areas, and the composition between paired marine protected areas and reference sites is more similar than among marine protected areas, indicating that the reference sites chosen are well-suited for comparisons with associated marine protected areas. Catch and biomass rates for most species were higher in marine protected areas than in reference sites, indicating habitat differences existed prior to the establishment of the MPAs. When differences in mean lengths of fishes were detected, the lengths were most often greater in marine protected areas than in associated reference sites.