Category Archives: Firearms/Ammunition

Casting with a Potato Gun-Style Launcher

(CDFW photo by Sabrina Bell)

(CDFW photo by Sabrina Bell)

Question: Is it legal to use the “Sandblaster Baitcaster” in California? This device is supposed to be great for surf fishing from the beach. It uses compressed air to cast your bait up to 300 yards from shore. See it at their website, www.bunkerupfishin.com/. (Victor H.)

Answer: This line launching device is really just another form of the old “potato guns” that were popular for a while until they were outlawed in public areas. According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Lt. Dennis McKiver, potato guns are legal under federal law. Under state law, potato guns that use combustion (instead of compressed air) to launch the projectile are “firearms,” and one with a bore of over 0.5 inches is a destructive device.

Pneumatic potato guns like this one use compressed air and are legal as long as they are not used like a weapon (e.g. shot at a person, etc.), so this line launching device would be legal under state and federal laws. However, you should check for local city and county ordinances because some local governments prohibit use of any devices that propel projectiles, and if you intend to use this line launching device on any state beach, you may also want to consult State Parks.

As far as using it to cast a fishing line, nothing in the Fish and Game Code or its implementing regulations prohibit using this compressed air launcher as long as the fishing line is attached to a rod and reel, or a person is brave enough to hold the other end of line in their hands!


What to do when catching invasive fish species?
Question: What should we do when we catch invasive fish in local lakes? Specifically, Balboa Lake in the San Fernando Valley remains warm enough in winter to support some tropical fish. Certain aquarium fishes breed as well as survive in these waters. The problem now are Plecostomus (commonly found in home fish tanks to eat the algae) that have taken over the lake and the Los Angeles River.

A couple of us have caught over 200 since February in one little cove while fishing for carp. We were told by park personnel to kill them (seemed reasonable) but I wanted to make sure they are inedible so that we won’t get into trouble for wasting fish. Please advise. Thanks. (Bill S.)

Answer: From a biological standpoint, CDFW would like to see these invasive fish disposed of (killed) rather then placed back in the system. The law prohibits the waste of any fish taken in waters of the state (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.87). This regulation is intended to encourage people to eat any fish they kill, and to avoid needlessly killing fish. But, any lawful use of fish that are legal for sale by an aquarium or pet store would satisfy the requirements of this regulation, including their use as fertilizer for your garden.

Here’s something that might surprise you … Plecostomus are consumed by humans in some of their native Central and South American waters. Jackson Landers, author of “Eating Aliens: One Man’s Adventures Hunting Invasive Animal Species” includes a recipe for Plecostomus in this book.


Scuba diving for Dungeness crabs?
Question: In a recent column you said that you could not take Dungeness crabs on SCUBA. Did I read that correctly or were you referring to seasons? (Duanne S.)

Answer: I saidwhen Dungeness crab season is open, they may be taken by hand via SCUBA but divers may not possess any hooked device while diving or attempting to dive for them (CCR Title 14, section 29.80(g)).


Sale of pig mount … Is it legal?
Question: My brother harvested a pig about 20 years ago on a private ranch in California and had the head mounted. He wants to sell the mount, but doesn’t want to break the law and can’t get a definitive answer from anyone. Could you help? Thank you as always for your help! (Dave)

Answer: Your brother can give it away but cannot sell or trade it to anyone. With a few exceptions (that don’t apply to your brother), the law prohibits the sale or purchase of any part of a bird or mammal found in the wild in California. (Fish and Game Code, section 3039)


Is there a limit on sand crabs?
Question: Is it legal to catch sand crabs with a fishing license, and if legal, what is the limit? Can sand crabs be taken on all beaches of the state? (Gina N.)

Answer: Yes, it is legal to catch sand crabs with a fishing license statewide wherever fishing is authorized. The limit is 50 crabs per day and in possession (CCR Title 14, section 29.85(d)).

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Carrie Wilson is a marine environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. While she cannot personally answer everyone’s questions, she will select a few to answer each week in this column. Please contact her at CalOutdoors@wildlife.ca.gov.

Salmon Trolling vs Mooching

Don Mah with daughter Tiffany on her first fishing trip (Photo by Tom Mattusch)

Don Mah with daughter Tiffany on her first fishing trip (Photo by Tom Mattusch)

Question: When trolling for salmon between Point Conception and Horse Mountain, are treble hooks allowed on spoons or lures if they are barbless? Or does the two single point, single shank hook regulation apply as if I were bait fishing? The rules are clear regarding when you are not trolling, but they do not seem to elaborate on allowable gear when you ARE trolling. (Rick S.)

Answer: No, you may not use treble hooks for salmon in the area you describe. Only single barbless hooks may be used, and whether trolling or drifting with bait (mooching), you may only use two single barbless hooks per line. The law says, “No more than two (2) single point, single shank barbless hooks shall be used in the ocean north of Point Conception when salmon fishing or fishing from any boat or floating device with salmon on board.” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 27.80(a)(2)).

This section does not specifically address trolling or mooching, so it applies to all salmon fishing, including trolling or drifting with bait.


Trout limits while on multiday vacation
Question: My wife and I will be taking a two week vacation and plan to do a lot of trout fishing. Is our 10 fish bag limit the same as 10 fish possession limit? We will be out 10 days, and due to lack of ice in the remote area where we are going, we plan to can our daily limits of fish. Is there anything wrong with this?

I know people who fish and catch their limits daily, and then when they get home they process (can or smoke) the fish each evening in their homes. I know they possess more than a 10 fish limit, but is this legal? If so, why could my wife and I not do the same because when we are out camping in our RV, wouldn’t that be considered our second home? (Eric S.)

Answer: If the people you describe retain more than their allowed possession limits in any form, they are in violation. The law requires that each person may have no more than one legal possession limit in any form, whether it’s fresh, frozen, canned or smoked (CCR Title 14, section 1.17). Possession limits even apply in your home.

In most trout waters, the possession limit is the equivalent of two daily bag limits. There are also special brook trout regulations in many areas so you really need to know the body of water(s) where you will be fishing. Check out sections 7.00 and 7.50(a) in the 2014-2015 Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations to be sure of the limits you are allowed.


Lost Commercial Fishing Gear
Question: I have a question regarding what appears to be abandoned commercial fishing gear. My three dive buddies and I are all instructors and regularly find lost fishing gear snaring marine life. Generally, they are old lobster traps without any line or buoys still attached. Sometimes the traps still contain live lobsters in them. We have been afraid to touch them.

Can we release lobsters from what looks to be lost gear? Any help you can provide to help us understand what we can and can’t do, and under what rules, would be appreciated. We are tired of just swimming by them. (Randall Krueger, Visalia)

Answer: Thank you for contacting us. Lost fishing gear – both commercial and recreational – sits on the seafloor, gets caught on rocks, and can remain in the marine environment for years, harming habitats and continuing to catch fish and invertebrates.

You cannot keep the lobster caught in the lost traps, but you can let them go and leave the trap doors open so that they no longer trap marine life, then report the location of the lost gear to one of the following organizations.

If you are able, please report sightings of lost recreational and commercial fishing gear (even anonymous reports are accepted) by calling (888) 491-GEAR or visiting www.seadocsociety.org/california-lost-fishing-gear-removal-project/. You may also contact the Ocean Defenders Alliance at (714) 875-5881 or www.oceandefenders.org/.


150 yard safety zone around my own buildings?
Question: I live in a rural area. Can I legally hunt within 150 yards of my own residence? Can I hunt within 150 yards of anyone else’s if I have their written permission? (Jess K.)

Answer: Yes. These are safety zone restrictions but as long as there are no other local laws or ordinances that prohibit hunting or the discharge of a firearm, then you can hunt within 150 yards of your own residence or any other residence where you have obtained express permission of the owner or person in possession of the premises (Fish and Game Code, section 3004(a)).

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Carrie Wilson is a marine environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. While she cannot personally answer everyone’s questions, she will select a few to answer each week in this column. Please contact her at CalOutdoors@wildlife.ca.gov.

Turkey Hunting with Pellet Rifles?

Spring tom turkeys in Northern California (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Spring tom turkeys in Northern California (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: While watching some videos on YouTube about turkey hunting with a pellet rifle, I noticed a guy from northern California stating he was using a nitro piston Remington air rifle which is not constant air or CO2 powered as your regulations state they must be. I believe people are thinking that any pellet rifle that is .177 caliber or larger is all right to use. This guy has videos of multiple hunts in which he is using illegal equipment, thus couldn’t he be considered “poaching” or at least taking game with illegal equipment? It’s sad to see people that are not completely understanding of the rules and regulations, but it also angers me to see people shoot these birds with equipment they should not be using. (Rob G., Folsom)

Answer: Thank you for taking the time to contact us about this and the use of the pellet rifle. According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Chief Mike Carion, this topic was recently discussed among our law enforcement leaders, and the group’s consensus is that the regulation allows for “compressed air or gas.” Therefore, since the nitrogen-filled chamber is a compressed gas, it would meet the criteria of the regulations and therefore is not illegal.

This is another example of the regulations not being able to keep up with the advances in technology. We appreciate you bringing this to our attention and we will work to correct the writing of the language of these regulations.


Filleting halibut aboard my boat?
Question: If I catch a California halibut and want to fillet it aboard my boat and keep it as fresh as possible, what do I have to do? Someone told me that as long as I leave all of the skin still attached on one side, that would be legal. Is this correct? (Robert L., Long Beach)

Answer: Yes. For California halibut taken from or possessed aboard a vessel south of Point Arena (Mendocino County), fillets must be a minimum of 16 and three-quarter inches in length and shall bear the entire skin intact. A fillet from a California halibut (flesh from one entire side of the fish with the entire skin intact) may not be cut-in-half fillets. However, a fillet may be cut lengthwise in a straight line along the midline of the fillet where the fillet was attached to the vertebra (backbone) of the fish only if the two pieces of a fillet remain joined along their midline for a length of at least two inches at one end of the fillet (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 27.65(b)(6)).


How old to hunt in California?
Question: How old do you have to be to hunt in California? I know you have to be 12 to hunt big game, but are there any age limits to anything else? How old do you have to be to take the hunter safety class? (Zac S.)

Answer: A person must be 12 years old to apply for a big game tag and 16 to hunt bighorn sheep. There is no specified minimum age to hunt other game, but hunters must be accepted into and successfully complete the prescribed hunter education course. It’s up to the hunter education instructors as to what minimum age child they are willing to test, but most recommend 10 years old. The main thing is the child must be mature enough to successfully complete the hunter education course requirements and examination.


Bear spray
Question: What are the laws in regards to bear spray in the state of California? I moved from Alaska where it was almost necessary to carry bear spray as your first line of defense in order to eliminate the threat rather than resorting to a firearm. Can you please clarify what the law is here in California? I understand personal self-defense against humans is legal as long as its 2.5 ounces or less. But as far as bear spray I just don’t know the answer. I am concerned because I still have a can I brought from Alaska with me and would like to know if I am breaking any laws? (Paul P.)

Answer: Nothing in the Fish and Game Code or Title 14 regulations limit the amount of bear spray that may be possessed in California. However, depending upon the ingredients in the spray, there are likely Penal Code or Health and Safety Code provisions that apply. The use of bear spray is not allowed within National Parks found within California but is allowed in some parks in other states. CDFW recommends checking with the local sheriff’s office in the area you plan on carrying the bear spray.

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Carrie Wilson is a marine environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. While she cannot personally answer everyone’s questions, she will select a few to answer each week in this column. Please contact her at CalOutdoors@wildlife.ca.gov.