Government scientists have recovered fist-size nuggets of valuable minerals from the ocean floor off northern California, it was disclosed yesterday.

The S.P. Lee, a government research vessel, found nuggets of metallic sulfide in 11,000 feet of water last week while exploring the Gorda Ridge, about 170 miles off the northern California coast, a U.S. Geological Survey announcement said.

"We have to wait for further studies to determine the extent and quality of the deposits," Interior Secretary Donald P. Hodel said. He said metals were found within the 200-mile zone in which the United States claims exclusive economic rights.

Hodel said his department will be working with California and Oregon officials in a special task force to consider the issues raised by the discovery.

Similar nodules of metallic sulfide recovered elsewhere on the ocean bottom have been found to contain concentrations of zinc, copper and other valuable metals.

Hodel said the samples recovered "are the most positive evidence yet for a significant metallic mineral resource potential within the Exclusive Economic Zone."

The zone was declared by President Reagan two years ago and extended U.S. offshore rights to 200 miles, similar to the claims of some other nations.

The S.P. Lee is operated by a task force including scientists from Oregon State University, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the USGS and Interior's Minerals Management Service.