Category Archives: Fisheries Management

Can Friends Pay for a Friend to Fish for Them?

Travis Tanaka with a giant yellowfin tuna, 243 lb

Travis Tanaka with a giant 243 lb yellowfin tuna caught on a long range boat out of San Diego (Photo by Travis Tanaka)

Question: What if four people got together and all paid the boat fare so that one person in the group could take a long range fishing trip? Three of the people are not anglers. After the trip, all of the fish caught by the one angler would then be split evenly between the four people. Would this be alright or somehow considered selling of fish? (Doug S., Montebello)

Answer: Fish caught under the authority of a sport fishing license may not be bought, sold, traded or bartered (Fish and Game Code, Section 7121). This means if these people all helped pay the fare for another person to take a fishing trip with the expectation of receiving some of the fish caught back in return, that would be illegal. Anglers who lawfully catch fish may always give fish away to whomever they wish, but it is not legal for non-anglers to pay for another person’s trip with the understanding or expectation of receiving fish in return for that money.


Why can’t California hunters deer hunt during the rut?
Question: While watching hunting shows on TV, I see that most of them are hunting during the rut. Why can’t deer and elk hunters in California also hunt during the rut? (Terry C.)

Answer: It’s all about providing more hunting opportunities to more people. According to Game Species Conservation Program Manager Craig Stowers, seasons are set with certain harvest objectives in mind. Later in the season as the animals go into the rut (breeding period) they become more bold in their attempts to find a mate, and are thus easier to hunt. If the season was held during the rut, the hunter harvest success rate would be higher, and fewer hunters would be able to hunt before the harvest objectives were reached.

Hunter survey data shows most hunters simply want an opportunity to hunt. The archery and gun seasons begin in different zones around the state in July and August, respectively. By starting the season early and allowing it to run until late fall when the animals are just going into the rut, more hunters have more opportunities to participate.

In addition to regular season hunts, there are also several special late season hunts offered that are timed to take place during the rut. These are highly sought-after tags, though, and they are distributed only through the big-game drawing. Most of California’s deer hunting takes place well before the rut begins (general seasons are timed to close about a month before the rut gets started) for two reasons:

1)    Hunting during the rut greatly reduces hunter opportunity (hunting success rate is higher and so fewer tags can be issued to achieve the harvest objectives).

2)    To create the least amount of disturbance possible during this critical phase of their life cycle.

The bottom line is deer managers try to strike a balance between providing hunter opportunity and success while not exceeding harvest objectives.


Photo I.D. required when hunting or fishing?
Question: While hunting or fishing, besides carrying the appropriate license(s), do I also need to have photo identification in possession or can I leave it in my vehicle? (Gino A.)

Answer: You will need to verify you are the person holding your own fishing or hunting license. Though photo identification is not mandated by law, being able to identify yourself properly is. If you cannot appropriately identify who you are, you may see yourself in an extended contact with the game warden. If you’re getting cited for something, the game warden may have to take you to jail until you can be properly identified. The bottom line is even though the law doesn’t state you must have photo identification in possession, it would benefit you greatly to carry photo identification, so you may properly identify who you are to the game warden. One exception, commercial fishermen do have to carry photo identification.


Catching lobsters and crabs in crab traps?
Question: Is it legal to fish for both lobsters and crab at the same time using hoop nets for the lobster and a crab pot for the crabs? My concern is that when we return to harbor, a game warden may question which method was used to take which species. The crab pot is a Northern California type that is “soaked” for days and has escape ports. The hoop net is a basic hoop net. (Joel S.)

Answer: You may fish for lobsters and crabs at the same time but only with hoop nets or by hand. Crab traps are legal to use in the north but are illegal for sport fishermen to use south of Point Arguello (California Code Regulations Title 14, Section 29.80(e)). While most lobsters occur in Southern California below Point Arguello, for any that do occur north of this point, crab traps may not be used.

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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.

Elk Range in California

Rocky Mt Elk_Yellowstone_USFWS_Bauer_11440_102.3.18

Rocky Mt. elk from Yellowstone National Park were imported into California in 1966 and released in Kern County (U.S.F.W.S. photo)

Question: Why are there no elk in the central or southern Sierra Nevadas? It seems like ideal habitat comparable to that found in Colorado, but the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation doesn’t even show it as a historic range for elk. Is there some reason they could not and do not thrive in the high Sierras, or at least the foothills? (Nick C.)

Answer: It’s true that the historic range of elk in California did not include the Sierra Nevada range. According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Statewide Elk and Antelope Coordinator Joe Hobbs, historically tule elk were found in the Central Valley, coast range and the Sierra foothills, but did not occupy the higher elevation regions of the Sierra Nevada.

Previous studies suggest that the Great Basin, combined with the Sierra Nevada and Cascade ranges, served as a western barrier to the natural movement of Rocky Mountain elk (typically found in Colorado, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming and Montana).

Hobbs also says elk are slowly expanding in California and we have received reports of elk in various parts of the Sierra (Plumas, Sierra and even Tuolumne counties). Currently, California has three subspecies of elk. In addition to the tule elk of the Central Valley and foothills, Roosevelt elk are found in the north coast area and the coastal interior regions, and Rocky Mountain elk reside in northeastern California.

Although the Sierra does seem to be composed of habitat capable of supporting elk, historically this was not the case due to the topography of California. Tule elk were found in the Central Valley and coast range and evolved for utilization of these habitat types and not those found in the higher elevations of the Sierra Nevada. The Great Basin and various mountain ranges prevented the Rocky Mountain elk from dispersing into the western portion of the Sierra Nevada range.


Can female Dungeness crabs be harvested?
Question: May I keep female Dungeness crabs if they are of minimum size? (Larry A.)

Answer: Yes. Recreational crabbers may actually take either male or female Dungeness crab. Males reach a larger size, and thus often contain more meat. Many recreational crabbers let females go as a matter of conservation etiquette to help the population replenish itself. During the first half of the season, the females are often carrying eggs and are often under the size limit as well; they simply don’t reach the larger sizes males do. Only commercial crabbers are restricted from taking female crab.


Can non-hunters carry extra shells for waterfowl hunters?
Question: I have a question about the number of shells a waterfowl hunter may possess while hunting. Is it clarified in the regulations that only hunters are limited to no more than 25 shells in the field during the waterfowl season? If not, a non-hunter could then carry another 25 shells into the field for the hunter to use. (Rick S., Pleasanton)

Answer: Current Fish and Game Commission regulations restrict the number of shot shells that are permitted in the field on some refuges or wildlife areas. The ammunition restriction does not apply to all areas, but in the areas/refuges listed in California Code of Regulations Title 14, Section 551(a), the restrictions are twofold:

1) Hunters may not possess more than 25 shot shells while in the field (CCR Title 14, Section 551[q]); and,

2) Only persons with a valid hunting permit for that day are permitted to possess ammunition in the field (CCR Title14, Section 551[b][4]).

Therefore, a non-hunter cannot pack in extra shells for the hunter.


Hunting and fishing at the same time?
Question: Is it legal for me to hunt and fish at the same time? I would like to be on the boat or shore fishing with a shotgun beside me in case a duck or goose comes into range, and vice versa. If I am more serious about hunting that day, can I have a line in the water? Is this legal as long as I follow all the associated rules/laws? (Mike K.)

Answer: Yes

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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.

Bowfishing for Bullfrogs?

Bullfrogs can be taken by bow and arrow (CDFW Photo by Dave Feliz)

Bullfrogs can be taken by hand, hand-held dip net, hook and line, lights, spears, gigs, grabs, paddles, bow and arrow (including compound bows) or fishing tackle (CDFW Photo by Dave Feliz)

Question: In the regulations it says it’s legal to use bow and arrow to take bullfrogs. Does this mean we are also allowed to take them using compound bows? (J. Riggs)

Answer: Yes, compound bows are a kind of bow, so you can use them to take bullfrogs. Bowfishing for bullfrogs will also require you to have a California sport fishing license.  Amphibians may be taken only by hand, hand-held dip net, or hook and line, except bullfrogs may also be taken by lights, spears, gigs, grabs, paddles, bow and arrow or fishing tackle (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 5.05(e)). Since there are some protected frog species that may coexist with bullfrogs, please be sure you are correctly identifying your frog as a bullfrog, Rana (Lithobates) cataesbeiana, before releasing your arrow!


Taking a deer to a butcher across the state line?
Question: I live in Lake Tahoe on the California side, and hope to tag my first buck this fall. If I have a successful hunt, is it legal to take the buck to our favorite butcher who happens to be just across state line in Incline, Nevada? Or, would I need to find a butcher in California to help process the animal? (Scott Y., Lake Tahoe)

Answer: You will need to check with Nevada Department of Wildlife regarding their importation laws. Each state regulates importation of dead wildlife under its own regulations. California’s Fish and Game laws do not prohibit this, but when you bring the meat back into California, you will need to file a “Declaration for Entry” form. This form and all directions can be found at www.dfg.ca.gov/enforcement/entry-declaration.aspx.  


No deer tag, so what can we hunt?
Question: Half of our group drew tags for our favorite hunting zone and half did not. The unlucky ones will be helping with chores, fishing and hunting coyotes. Can we carry a rifle for coyotes while riding with the hunter with a tag? Many times we’ll drop the deer hunter off and then come back to pick them up, meanwhile calling coyotes to kill the time. Is it legal or would it be best to leave the guns at camp and separate the two activities? Thanks. (Mark)

Answer: This would be legal as long as the coyote hunters are clearly not attempting to hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill a deer. If your friends are hunting deer and you are hunting coyotes, it’s best to keep the two practices separate. This is especially true during deer season so the coyote hunters will not be mistaken by others to be deer hunting without a tag. In addition, as coyote hunters, you cannot engage in driving deer for your friends to shoot while in possession of a rifle because this is considered take of deer. Take is defined as to “Hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill, or the attempt to hunt pursue, catch, capture or kill.” If the coyote hunters are involved in any activity which results in the pursuit of deer, they would be in violation.

Keep in mind that coyote hunting methods are often not compatible with deer hunting, so wardens sometimes encounter hunters claiming to hunt coyotes when in fact they are deer hunting and trying to fill a friend’s tag. This is a significant problem in areas where drawing a tag is difficult, such as the X-1 zone, so the wardens are watching for this.


Fishing in isolated ponds
Question: As our creeks dry up, ponds are formed, with some of them at the road culverts. Is it legal to fish these ponds with a pole, by hand or a dip net? (Jeanne G., Portola)

Answer: In intermittent streams like you describe, what appear to be ponds are actually isolated pools. Although not apparent during the dry season, water may still be flowing, out of sight, under the streambed surface. This is often called “intragravel flow.” Because a creek is still a stream and not actually a pond or lake, the same regulations for the stream will still apply. Fish can only be taken from these waters under the regulations currently applicable for that stream, including seasons, limits, methods of take, etc. To view the current sport fishing regulations for inland waters, please go to www.dfg.ca.gov/regulations/ or pick up a copy of the booklet wherever fishing licenses are sold.


Are artificial fish scent attractants considered bait?
Question: Are products like artificial, scented fish eggs considered “bait” when it comes to areas where the regulations call for artificials only? My guess is they would be considered bait, but what about just plastic salmon egg imitations with no scent? Or, does scent play into the regulations at all? (Mike S.)

Answer: An artificial lure “… does not include any scented or artificial baits” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.11). This means attractants may not be applied to the lure while fishing in waters restricted for artificial lure use.

In addition, some people spray WD-40 on their lures. This substance contains petroleum and is specifically prohibited by law to be deposited or introduced into the waters of the state (Fish and Game Code, section 5650).

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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 Cal.Outdoors@wildlife.ca.gov.