Category Archives: Fisheries Management

Hunting in the Rut?

Mule deer in the rut

Mule deer in the rut

Question: You recently said it’s easier to hunt deer during the rut — where do you get your information? Have you compared the buck kill rates in states that allow deer to be hunted during the rut against the deer harvest in California? The buck-to-doe ratio in California is terrible. I don’t believe the deer kill in California would be any higher than in any states that allow the deer harvest during the rut. It is not that easy to hunt deer in other states during the rut. If that were true the deer kill would be huge in those states, rather than their average yearly take.

Also, why does the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) require that those hunters that do not harvest a deer in California must still call in or go online to report a non-harvest? If 260,000 licenses are sold and 50,000 hunters report a successful kill, why do the other 210,000 hunters have to report unsuccessful hunts? You already know simply by the successful hunters reports that the rest of the hunters were unsuccessful. What possible information can you gather by asking the unsuccessful hunters to verify an unsuccessful hunt? It is redundant information. (John M.)

Answer: Bucks in rut are much more vulnerable to all forms of predation — including by humans — because all they are interested in is mating and fighting, nothing else. They don’t even eat during that time period because they are so focused on the other activities. Plus, they are usually concentrated in certain places because rut hunting usually occurs on winter ranges for migratory deer.

According to CDFW Game Program Manager Craig Stowers, the reason we don’t do more is because most California deer hunters would prefer a chance to hunt every year instead of having to wait to be drawn for a buck hunt. Our stats show hunter success numbers for late season hunts are much higher than general season hunts, thus requiring fewer hunters in the field to reach harvest goals. To view all of the harvest reports posted online, please go to www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/hunting/deer/deerhunt.html.

It would make sense if the other states you are referring to are whitetail states where they are actively trying to reduce populations. That would explain why they actively hunt in the rut.

We ask the success questions because we need to determine more information than just how many deer are killed. We want to know why people were unsuccessful. For example, if they were unsuccessful because they didn’t even go hunting, we need to delete their information from the harvest results to give a true picture of success — those that don’t even try shouldn’t be included in the calculations. We ask other questions like days spent hunting so we can paint a better picture of the amount of time and money hunters spend — all factors we use to justify the continuation of hunting. It’s not just about figuring out how many deer are killed.


Chopped up carp chum?
Question: Is it legal for me to catch carp and then chop it up to use as chum when I go ocean fishing? (Chris S.)

Answer: Yes, carp can be legally used as chum in ocean waters. In inland waters, chumming is legal in only a few freshwater lakes and streams. For a list of acceptable waters, please check section 2.40 in the Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations booklet.


Is it illegal to have a trout on a stringer?
Question: I know that trout may not be maintained or possessed in a live condition in any container on or attached to any boat, but is it also illegal to have trout on a stringer? We like to keep our catch on a stringer and the stringer in the water to preserve the meat. We do not attempt to keep trout alive with the intent of changing out the smaller ones. We just enjoy a good fish fry. Thank you for any help. (Stas and Holly A., Buena Park)

Answer: Keeping your fish on a stringer in the water is perfectly fine. The fish cannot swim freely when on a stringer, and this method does help to keep them fresh until you’re ready for your fish fry!


Fishing for sanddabs
Question: When fishing for sanddabs, how many hooks can be attached to the line on a single rod? (Len P.)

Answer: You may fish for sanddabs with as many hooks as you like on a single rod, unless rockfish, lingcod or salmon are on the vessel or in possession, in which case special restrictions apply (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 28.65).

#  #  #

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.

Can Fin-clips Identify Different Trout Strains?

(CDFW file photo by Roger Bloom, Heritage and Wild Trout Program)

(CDFW file photo by Roger Bloom, Heritage and Wild Trout Program)

Question: With trout season opening soon, I was thinking about how several years ago I ran across a way to identify what strain a Lake Crowley trout was based on which fins were clipped. Identify as follows: adipose only-Eagle Lake strain, adipose and left ventral-Kamloops (from Junction Reservoir), adipose and right ventral-Coleman, and ventral only-Kamloops or Coleman. No fin clips would indicate a natural spawn and not from a hatchery. And, what hatchery would these plants have come from? Possibly Hot Creek or maybe Fish Springs? I have talked to the driver planting catchables in Silver Lake and learned those plants came from the Fish Springs hatchery. Thanks for any info you can provide. (Ron A.)

Answers: In the mid-1990s, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) fisheries biologists applied fin clips to Eastern Sierra trout stocked in Crowley Lake to evaluate their performance, growth, return to creel, etc. The results were very interesting.

According to CDFW Fisheries Program Manager Curtis Milliron who conducted those studies, wild trout were unmarked and at that time both rainbow trout (RT) and browns constituted about 25 percent of the catch of all larger fish caught at Crowley. They did not substantially supplement the average size class, however. The marked trout came from both Fish Springs (Coleman strain RT and Eagle Lake trout) and from Hot Creek Hatchery (Kamloops strain RT).

Coleman strain fish were found to be caught most often by anglers while trolling, while Kamloops were often associated with nearshore angling. Eagle Lake trout (ELT) were found all over the lake, including feeding on large snails right on the lake bottom. Additionally, ELT outlived the other strains, and therefore greatly contributed to the “carryover” population, which are fish that do not get caught in the first year after being stocked and return to anglers at a much larger size.

By about 1999, Milliron discontinued the Crowley Lake trout strain studies but thinks some marked fish may have persisted in the lake for another five years, at most. Today, no similar studies are being conducted, and fin clips to identify the various strains of Eastern Sierra trout are no longer being applied. But, thanks to the findings of the studies, a management plan for Lake Crowley was created, and the lake continues to draw anglers back year after year as one of the most popular and productive trout lakes in the Eastern Sierra.


How many turkeys in possession?
Question: My buddy and I are going out of town on a three-day turkey hunt. If we both get a turkey each day (total of six) and get stopped by a warden on the way home, will we be legal? I heard that you can’t have more than one bird with you at a time, but the regulation states possession limit is three birds per hunter for the season. I want to make sure we are legal. Otherwise I will have to travel back and forth after each successful day and it’s about a two-hour drive each way. Thanks for any information you can give me. (Brent M.)

Answer: You do not have to return home after taking a bird on any one day. The daily bag limit for turkeys during the spring season is one bearded turkey per day and you can take three per season. You may have three bearded turkeys in your possession as long as you only take one per day.


Spearfishing rockfish and lingcod after dark?
Question: Can rockfish and lingcod be taken by spearfishing after dark? (Brian S.)

Answer: Yes, you may spearfish for rockfish and lingcod at night, except in San Francisco Bay (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 27.56).


Buying skulls from other states
Question: I found someone in Oregon selling a raw coyote skull. I own some flesh-eating dermestid beetles and am interested in buying the skull from them to clean off. Is it legal to buy raw (uncleaned) skulls from other states if it was obtained legally and not from California? I know you can’t purchase almost any part of California fish and game, but can we bring parts in from other states? (Anonymous)

Answer: Yes, as long as the animal was legally taken in another state and is properly imported with a “Declaration for Entry into California form,” then it can be possessed. The same goes for most species, but there are some exceptions, such as bears, mountain lions, and fully protected birds and mammals whose parts cannot be legally possessed in California (Fish and Game Code, section 3039). For a copy of the declaration form, please go to www.dfg.ca.gov/enforcement/entry-declaration.aspx. Remember that deer and other cervid skulls may not be brought into the state unless special rules are followed to prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease (see CCR Title 14, section 712).

# # #

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.

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.

#  #  #

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

#  #  #

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).

# # #

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.

What Defines Wanton Waste?

Deer poaching (CDFW photo)

Hunters must make reasonable efforts to retrieve edible portions of game birds and game mammals. After an animal is harvested, no portion of the flesh usually eaten by humans can be left, either through carelessness or neglect, to go needlessly to waste. (CDFW photo)

Question: Is there a place in the regulations that talks about what I’ve heard hunters call “want and waste”? Can you point me in the right direction for the regulations if such a regulation even exists? The question comes up because my hunting partners and I often argue about what is and is not considered edible on a deer. Could I get a ticket because I do not eat the lungs or the liver or heart? Some people I know feel the ribs are not even worth eating. What is the definition of waste? I’ve heard someone say 30 percent can be left in the field but I’ve never seen what the regs say about the specifics of what you could possibly get a ticket for not taking home to eat. (Anonymous)

Answer: In California, hunters must make reasonable efforts to retrieve edible portions of game birds and game mammals. After a hunter has harvested an animal, the law requires that no portion of the flesh usually eaten by humans can be left, either through carelessness or neglect, to go needlessly to waste. Harvesting any deer and detaching or removing from the carcass only the head, hide, antlers or horns while leaving edible parts to needlessly go to waste, is deemed to be “wanton waste” and the hunter can be cited (Fish and Game Code, section 4304). The intent of the law is to prevent trophy hunting and to stop people from taking animals just for mounts.


Why are Dungeness crabs in San Francisco Bay protected?
Question: Why it is illegal to keep Dungeness crabs from San Francisco Bay? (Judy K.)

Answer: San Francisco Bay is an important Dungeness crab nursery area, so that’s the reason this area has always been considered off limits to the take of Dungeness crab by both sport and commercial fishermen.


Baited traps to catch bait fish?
Question: Can baited traps, such as a minnow traps, be used to catch surf smelts, anchovies or sardines to use as bait? I will be fishing in Southern California in Orange, Los Angeles or San Diego counties. (Jackson T.)

Answer: No. Baited traps can be used only for the take of shiner surfperch, Pacific staghorn sculpin and longjaw mud suckers in San Francisco and San Pablo bays and their tributaries, and in the open ocean and the contiguous bays of Mendocino, Sonoma and Marin counties. In addition, traps cannot be over three feet in greatest dimension. Any other species taken must be returned to the water immediately (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 28.80.)


Access rights through public land?
Question: Can someone hunt on a riverbank that is considered public land if the person entered through a legal public access or had been given permission by another property owner up river? Can the property owner down river run me out? (Anonymous)

Answer: If the riverbank is clearly public land and you accessed it legally, the landowner should not run you out. It is not legal for someone to interfere with a legal hunting activity (Fish and Game Code, section 2009.) The neighboring landowner should not run you out either unless you are on his/her land. Keep in mind that riverbanks and the beds of rivers beneath streams and lakes are often deeded to be “land” in California, and thus you may actually be trespassing. In addition, depending on the location, there may be local ordinances that would prohibit you from hunting in these areas. You might also check with the agency that has jurisdiction over the land or look up their regulations to make sure that hunting is allowed on the public land you are using. There is also the concern of game retrieval. While you may be able to access the river section, should the game you take land on private property that you do not have permission to be on, you could find yourself in a situation where you engage in either hunter trespass, or if you fail to retrieve the animal, waste of game. Both of these situations constitute citable offenses.


Picking seaweed
Question: Is it legal to pick seaweed along the Mendocino coast? (Raymond L.)

Answer: Yes. Generally, up to 10 pounds wet weight per day may be harvested per person (with no more than 10 pounds in possession at any time). Exceptions include the following prohibited species: sea palm, eel grass and surf grass. However, there are marine protected areas (MPAs) where the take of all living marine resources are prohibited (e.g. Point Cabrillo State Marine Reserve, Ten Mile State Marine Reserve, etc.), so be sure you are not in a restricted area before harvesting seaweed. For information about MPAs, please visit www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/mpa/.

#  #  #

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.

Scouting with Scuba for Abalone?

(Photo by Derek Stein for CDFW)

Scuba divers cannot assist a free diver in any way when pursuing abalone (CDFW photo by Derek Stein)

Question: Is there any regulation prohibiting a photographer with scuba gear from also scouting out large abalone for a regulation-compliant abalone diver to take? Thanks in advance, and for all you do. (Dave C.)

Answer: The photographer in scuba cannot assist the free diver in any way. The action you describe falls within the definition of “take” under the Fish and Game Code and its regulations (see Fish and Game Code, section 86 and California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.80). Both the abalone diver and the photographer with scuba gear may be cited for violating CCR, Title 14 section 29.15(e), which prohibits the use of scuba gear to take abalone.


Ocean whitefish fillet size limit
Question: I noticed in the new ocean sport fishing regulations that ocean whitefish fillets are required to be a minimum length of 6½ inches long and retain the entire skin intact. However, there is no minimum size limit for the whole fish. Why is there a size limit on fillets but not on the whole fish? (Jim Martinez)

Answer: The reason is because previously in the regulations, the basses (kelp, sand and spotted) all had 12 inch minimum total lengths or 6½ inch minimum fillet lengths, and were required to retain 1-inch patches of skin still attached for identification. Ocean whitefish fillets looked so similar to the bass fillets that they too were required to measure a minimum of 6½ inches with skin attached to avoid confusion with the basses. This year though fishery managers increased the minimum lengths of the basses to 14 inches and the minimum fillet lengths to 7½ inches. Because there was no biological reason to increase fillet lengths on the ocean whitefish, scientists chose to leave their minimum fillet lengths at 6½ inches and to require all skin to be left on so that there still could be no mistaking ocean whitefish fillets with fillets of one of the three bass species.


Hunter Ed question regarding a someone with a felony
Question: My father-in-law is interested in big game hunting. Unfortunately for him, he has a non-violent felony conviction which bars him from possessing a firearm. This will allow him to only hunt via archery methods.

Does he still have to take the standard hunter safety course or is there a special class for archery only? I have a feeling he has to take the standard course even though all the firearms questions will have no bearing on his archery tackle pursuit. If he does take and pass the course, may he still hunt during the general deer season using a crossbow with me?

I pride myself on knowing CDFW law well, but this wrinkle throws me for a loop. He is a great guy who just made a bad choice more than 12 years ago. Now that I married his step-daughter and am such an avid hunter, he wants to get in on the fun, but only as the law allows. (Anonymous)

Answer: He will still have to take Hunter Ed, but he will have to find a class that does not use real firearms or have a live-fire requirement in the class. While signing up for the class or else at the very beginning of the class, your father-in-law should notify the instructor immediately of any firearms restrictions he may have. Then the instructor can determine how best to accommodate him during the class. For a list of available hunter education classes in his area, please go to http://www.dfg.ca.gov/licensing/hunting/.

Hunter Ed isn’t just about firearms. It includes all forms of hunting, hunter safety, conservation, ethics, etc. In most cases convicted felons are not restricted from using archery equipment or air rifles but he should check with his parole officer or the court to make sure the conditions of his case do not preclude using these methods of take for hunting.


Practicing spearfishing in rivers?
Question: I know it is not legal to spear fish in rivers. However, if I want to take my spear to the river to practice my technique with no intention of taking any fish, am I abiding by the law? (Zoe D., Trinidad)

Answer: Spearfishing is permitted in some rivers, such as those in the Colorado River District and the Valley District (as authorized under CCR Title 14, section 2.30) but primarily only for a few species of non-game fish. New this year, spearfishing for stripers is now legal in the Valley District. Even if just practicing your techniques, don’t forget your fishing license! Otherwise, the use and possession of a spear within 100 yards of any canal, river, stream, lake or reservoir is specifically prohibited (CCR Title 14, section 2.09).

#  #  #

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.