Category Archives: Fishing

How to Fish the Lobster Opener?

California Spiny Lobster (CDFW photo by Derek Stein)

California Spiny Lobster (CDFW photo by Derek Stein)

Question: I know that lobster season opens at 12:00:01 Sept. 27, 2014. If the hoop wet time is a maximum two hours, can I drop my hoops at 10:15 p.m. Sept. 26, 2014 and pull them after midnight? (George G.)

Answer: No, attempting to take lobsters is “fishing” and so if you drop your hoop nets before the season officially opens, you will be fishing out of season. Lobster season officially opens during the first minute of the first day of the season (12:00:01 a.m., Saturday, Sept. 27). The two hour wet time requirement is designed to require the net to be checked every two hours once it is legally in the water. So this means that even if you legally drop your hoop nets in the water a second after midnight, they must be serviced by 2:00:01 a.m.!


Protocols for packing deer out?
Question: I am preparing for my deer hunt and planning to hike 2½ miles one way into a place to try to harvest my deer. If I am successful I will need to pack the animal back out by myself, and this may be an all-day sucker. If this animal is large enough, I am probably going to have to quarter it and hump it out. If this is the case, do I take the head and antlers out with the tag on them, then make successive trips back in, or how do people normally do this? I don’t want to take the head out and put it in the back of my truck, risking someone might take it, and then bring another load out and find I have no evidence. Do you have a suggested protocol I should follow? Thanks. (Rick L.)

Answer: Most hunters in your situation like to bring a small saw to cut the antlers and skull cap from the head as you are not required to keep the whole head of a deer you legally harvest. The law requires that upon taking a deer, you must immediately fill out the tag completely and attach it to the antlers (or ear if an antlerless hunt) and then keep it for 15 days after the close of the season. In your case, the antlers and skull cap could be placed in your locked car in a box or plastic bag until all your meat is hauled out. Depending upon the type of terrain and the size of the deer, many hunters either take out quarters of their deer, or elect to bone it out in the field.

You might also consider using a game-carrier with wheels so that you can keep your game with you at all times while packing it out. Any wildlife officer that contacts you during this process will likely want to check your tagged antlers, but wildlife officers understand that it isn’t always possible to carry the whole deer to your car in one trip.


Ocean salmon loophole?
Question: There has been a lot of discrepancy recently due to a bit of a loophole in the ocean salmon regulations. I have been given different answers by a number of people and would like to have it clarified. I live in Santa Cruz, and in the past few weeks there have been a lot of incidental salmon catches in shallow water while targeting rockfish or lingcod. Because it is entirely incidental catch, I don’t see a problem keeping it even though it was caught on a barbed hook. As long as it was of legal size and landed with a net, it should be ok. Of course, if you choose to keep it you would have to switch to salmon-legal gear, but until you did keep one, you can’t prevent one from slamming an iron as you’re reeling up. So basically, if I am targeting rockfish using the appropriate gear, and I catch a salmon while doing so, could I land it using the required net, and if it was 24 inches, keep it and then resume fishing with salmon legal gear? (Azure C., Santa Cruz)

Answer: You are incorrect about a loophole. It is unlawful to take salmon (north of Point Conception) with a barbed hook, period. No more than two single-point, single-shank barbless hooks shall be used and no more than one rod per angler when fishing for salmon or fishing from a boat with salmon on board. If an angler hooks a salmon while fishing for rockfish using barbed hooks, the fish must be immediately released.


Auto hook setter legal?
Question: I do a lot of fishing in lakes and the Delta. Can an auto hook-setter be used on local lakes and rivers? Please help! (Anonymous)

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.

Deer Hunting From My Porch?

California Mule Deer (CDFW photo)

Question: I have a house on five acres in Northern California and have some really nice bucks on my land. Every day they come within a few feet of my house and graze on my garden and plants. If I purchase an A Zone tag this year, can I legally shoot a deer on my land from my house or porch? My house is situated more than 200 yards from any other property or house and it is outside of the city limits. Thanks. (Brian T.)

Answer: Yes. The safety zone law prohibits shooting within 150 yards of any occupied dwelling without the permission of the occupant. As long as it is otherwise legal to discharge a firearm in this area (e.g. not in the city limits or not prohibited by county ordinance), then go for it!


Can lakes set their own fishing regulations?
Question: The local municipal water district operates a nearby lake that is open to the public for fishing and day use. My question is regarding the regulations set for this lake. The maximum daily catch limit is lower than the limits the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) authorizes. Do they have the authority to do this? Who has the ultimate jurisdiction in this matter? (Roger S., Ojai)

Answer: Yes, this is perfectly legal for them to do. Private lake managers can be more restrictive than CDFW regulations but not less restrictive. It is their prerogative to impose more stringent regulations in the interest of better managing their individual waters than what the state requires for managing California’s fisheries statewide.

Sorry, I’m sure this isn’t what you’d hoped to hear. For further clarification, please contact your local game warden.


Trap and release squirrels and possums
Question: I live in a city in Southern California and have an avocado tree in my yard.  Squirrels and possums have been a big problem recently. Can I use a Havahart trap to catch them and then transport them to a more rural location a few miles away? (David S.)

Answer: Yes, most squirrels and possums can be trapped, but tree squirrels will need a depredation permit. When trapping wildlife, traps must be checked every 24 hours and the animals either dispatched or released in the immediate area.

According to CDFW Statewide Wildlife Rehabilitation Coordinator, Nicole Carion, squirrels and possums that have caused property damage can be trapped by legal means (Fish and Game Code, section 4180). All furbearing and nongame mammals that are legal to trap must be immediately euthanized or released (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 465.5(g)(1)).

Squirrels and possums should not be “relocated” from where they were trapped for many reasons, the most important being to prevent the spread of disease. It is illegal to release, introduce or transplant plants or wildlife (domestic or domesticated species) onto CDFW lands or waters (CCR Title 14, section 550(k)) and plants and animals or their parts taken elsewhere shall not be introduced, liberated, or placed on any National Wildlife Refuge (Federal Code of Regulations, part 27, section 27.52). It is also illegal to release an animal into a California State Park without written authorization from the District Superintendent Superintendent (CCR Title 14, section 431(a)).

Please be very cautious about trapping in the springtime because this is when wild animals have offspring. Trapped nuisance wildlife cannot be taken to wildlife rehabilitators. Although rehabilitation facilities can take in orphaned wildlife, the orphaned animals will have a much higher chance of survival if they are raised by their wild mothers. Often wild animals only take up residence somewhere temporarily during the springtime.

There are many humane options available for keeping out animals seeking shelter in homes and structures on private property. For more information on preventing wildlife access to human food sources, please visit our website at www.dfg.ca.gov/keepmewild/products.html.


How many abalone in the freezer?
Question: I have been an abalone diver for nine years now and always keep my abalone frozen in my freezer to enjoy until the next year’s harvest. I am hearing mixed messages about the rules now and am confused as to whether it’s legal to do that. I might have anywhere between one to 20 abalone in my freezer, all still tagged with the appropriate tag. Please confirm if it is legal to keep an overlimit of tagged abalone in my home. (Bill D.)

Answer: The limit is actually three abalone per day and in possession. This means that legally, one individual can have no more than three abalone in their possession (at the dive site, at home, in your vehicle, in your freezer, etc.) at one time.

You can still give away your abalone to friends or family members living in the same house with you. Each person may have no more than three abalone in their possession at any time.

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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.

Fish Parasites – Will Cold Smoking Kill Them?

(CDFW photo by Debra Hamilton)

(CDFW photo by Debra Hamilton)

Question: I recently caught a number of trout that had what I believe to be parasites called “Lernaea” attached to them in various places. I know after reading another posting from this column titled “Parasites and Trout” that these “are killed during cooking, effectively eliminating any possibility of infecting humans eating the fish,” but I am considering smoking them. Would these parasites pose any threat if the trout were cold smoked rather than cooked, or would the curing that takes place eliminate any threat as well? Presumably if they were hot smoked there would be no threat because the fish are then cooked. I appreciate any info you can provide. Thanks. (Keith R.)

Answer: First off, Lernea and other external parasitic copepods of fish are not transmissible to humans.

As far as fish brining and smoking (even hot smoking), according to Dr. William Cox, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Program Manager of Fish Production and Distribution, there are other parasites that warrant more serious consideration, such as anasakine nematodes and human tapeworms. These parasites are not reliably killed by brining, smoking or even freezing. The only way to ensure they are killed is to thoroughly cook your fish. Generally, we are not worried about those parasites in freshwater fish caught in California. But, nematodes are a concern and they are commonly found in saltwater fish of all species.

For any additional questions related to human health issues, please contact the California Department of Public Health www.cdph.ca.gov.


How are deer hunting zones determined?
Question: What is the history of the deer hunting zones in California and how were they formed and decided upon? I assume the decision on the zone boundaries, tag quotas, seasons, etc. involved the Fish and Game Commission, science gathered by wildlife biologists and land managers, the public, etc. When did the random drawing fund-raising tags for big game begin? (Travis B.)

­Answer: California deer zones were originally developed in 1978 to reduce deer hunting pressure in certain areas of the state. Here’s how they came about.

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, there was a tremendous demand for lumber to satisfy a growing demand for housing. Timber harvest created large areas of early successional habitat upon which mule and black-tailed deer thrived. By the 1960s and 1970s, changing land use practices began to change the landscape. Fire suppression, grazing and commercial/residential development projects caused the loss or degradation of deer habitat. With the reduced areas of deer habitat (and land available for hunting), the result meant higher concentrations of hunters in certain areas.

As land use practices changed and deer habitat was lost, by the winter of 1966-67 significant decreases in deer numbers were also observed. These low deer numbers were likely due to a combination of factors including habitat loss and degradation, and severe winter conditions.

Harvest numbers continued to show a downward trend into the 1970s and it was during this time that CDFW began to implement more conservative deer hunting regulations. Fewer deer and intense hunter pressure (particularly on mule deer) required new conservation measures to sustain deer populations. To relieve hunting pressure on mule deer, the decision was made to go to a zone system.

In 1978, CDFW used the best available information (along with the public’s input) to establish hunt zones that reflected the biological needs of the state’s 81 deer herds and their associated habitats. Currently, California has 44 hunt zones with some designated as premium hunts available through a lottery system. The zone/tag quota system currently in place is the result of the changes that began in 1978.


Handing off?
Question: Can two people be in a boat (both with licenses) with one person diving and handing abalone to the other person on the boat? (Janet R.)

Answer: No. Abalone may not be passed to another person until they are tagged and recorded on the abalone report card. “Cardholders … shall not transfer any abalone from his or her immediate possession unless they are first tagged and recorded on the report card” (CCR Title 14, section 29.16(b)(1)). After they are tagged and recorded, the diver can give his or her daily bag limit of abalone to the other person, but the diver cannot take any more abalone that day.


Can mice be used as bait?
Question: Is it legal to use mice as bait for stripers and bass? (Chris M.)

Answer: Despite the fact that there are many artificial lures on the market that look like mice, real mice may not be used in inland waters. Only legally acquired and possessed invertebrates, mollusks, crustaceans, amphibians (except salamanders), fish eggs and treated and processed foods may be used for bait (CCR Title 14, section 4.00). In ocean waters, there are no restrictions on using mice as bait for stripers.

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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.

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).

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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.

Relocating Rescued Rattlesnakes

Rattlesnake (CDFW photo)

Rattlesnake (CDFW photo)

Question: I found and took home a dying Northern Pacific Rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus oreganus) after it became a victim of a wildfire. It’s now eating great and able to move fluently which is great and a job well done in my eyes. I’ve had it in captivity close to three weeks now. Is it okay to place it back into the wild (away from humans, of course)? (Daniel G.)

Answer: While we appreciate your desire to help injured wildlife, it is illegal for members of the public to rehabilitate wildlife without possessing a wildlife rehabilitation permit.

If you kept the injured rattlesnake near or with other captive reptiles at your house, the snake should not be re-released back into the wild due to the inherent danger of spreading disease into wild populations of rattlesnakes after release.

Wildlife rehabilitation is regulated in California to ensure animals are cared for and housed properly and that their reintroduction into the wild is done very carefully. Wildlife rehabilitators often give pre-release medical exams or observe wildlife patients for an extended period of time to evaluate the health of an animal prior to release. All rehabilitation facilities have a veterinarian of record who help them with medical issues and can help them assess whether an animal is healthy enough for release. Wildlife rehabilitators must return wildlife within three miles of where the animal originated and often work with the department to find suitable release sites.

We encourage you to find a wildlife rehabilitation facility that is willing to take the rattlesnake and go through the proper channels for its release. For a list of permitted wildlife rehab facilities, please go to www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/WIL/rehab/facilities.html .


Can cowcod caught in Mexico be imported to U.S. waters?
Question: If we’re fishing in Mexican waters and catch a cowcod, can we legally bring it back into a California port as long as we have all of the proper licenses and the Declaration for Entry form properly filled out? I’d just like to know for sure as we fish Mexican waters frequently targeting rockfish and I’d like to avoid a citation. (Jeff M., San Diego)

Answer: No. Cowcod may not be imported or even possessed in California regardless of where caught (Fish and Game Code, section 2353(a)(2)). Broomtail groupers and canary, yelloweye and bronzespotted rockfishes are also illegal to be possessed or imported into California under this regulation and under California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 28.55(b)(1), even if they were taken legally in Mexico.


Hunting deer over water?
Question: I was having a conversation with my uncle the other day and we were discussing whether it would be legal to hunt over a horse or cattle trough. With the recent drought, I’m worried that the deer in our area aren’t getting sufficient watering holes. I have read the section on baiting in the Big Game Digest, but am under the impression that water is not considered bait. So our main question is, is it legal to hunt over a horse/cattle trough or any other type of man-made pool of water if there are no horses or cattle? (Tony S., Davis)

Answer: Although there are some specific exceptions, it is generally legal to hunt near cattle troughs or other sources of water. Keep in mind that many wild animals like deer will water before or after legal hunting hours.

In addition, it is NOT legal to hunt, camp or otherwise occupy for more than 30 minutes within 200 yards of wildlife watering places on public land within the California Desert Conservation Area, within 200 yards of guzzlers or horizontal wells for wildlife on public land, and within one quarter mile of five wells in Lassen County and one well in Modoc County is prohibited (CCR Title 14, section 730). “Wildlife watering places” are defined as waterholes, springs, seeps and man-made watering devices for wildlife such as guzzlers (self-filling, in-the-ground water storage tanks), horizontal wells and small impoundments of less than one surface acre in size.


Abalone dinner donations?
Question: If a non-profit organization puts on a dinner and only requests donations to attend, can a group of divers legally donate abalone to the organization to be used for the dinner? (Anonymous)

Answer: Yes, but only as long as the dinner is not advertised as being an abalone dinner and as long as paying for the dinner is optional. You may charge for the rental of the facilities, tables, chairs, etc. and charge for the plates, napkins, cups, etc. Abalone (like all sport-caught fish and game) cannot be bought, sold, bartered or traded.

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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.

Moving Turtles and Other Wildlife Due to Drought

Red-eared Slider - Trachemys scripta (CDFW photo by Dave Feliz)

Red-eared Slider – Trachemys scripta (CDFW photo by Dave Feliz)

Question: I live in San Luis Obispo and have a quick question regarding relocating three baby turtles. My wife and I have visited this small pond for quite some time, and due to the drought we are afraid that the turtles will die due to the pond getting smaller and smaller. We know that the California turtle is in danger to become extinct due to the red-eared turtle influx here in California. I need to know if I need a permit to move them off of state land. (Kevin M., SLO)

Answer: While it’s natural to want to help, moving animals is not only illegal, it is potentially detrimental, and your good intentions could have very bad consequences. According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Statewide Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Coordinator Laura Patterson, many animals, including some turtles, have a natural homing instinct and will not stay where they are transplanted. They may be carrying diseases or parasites that could impact the animals at the release site.

In addition, transplanted animals may be genetically different, and interbreeding with the existing population could produce offspring less adapted to local conditions. At the very least we know that in times like these with very limited resources, they will now compete with the animals already existing at the site, resulting in even worse overcrowding and potentially lowering survival and reproductive success even more than would have happened from the drought conditions.

By law you can take only non-native turtles with a California sport fishing license (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 5.6), but release into the wild or relocation of an animal (native or non-native) requires a permit from CDFW. In the case of aquatic turtles, the law says it is unlawful to place, plant or cause to be placed or planted, in any of the waters of this state, any live fish, any fresh or salt water animal, or any aquatic plant, whether taken without or within the state, without first submitting it for inspection to, and securing the written permission of, the department (Fish and Game Code, section 6400).

The situation you describe is very unfortunate, but all of California is experiencing a severe to exceptional drought, and many ponds and creeks have already gone dry or are expected to dry by summer’s end throughout the state. This is affecting the state’s wildlife, including many native species that are listed as endangered or threatened under state or federal law.


Abalone and scuba gear?
Question: If I’m out spearfishing with scuba gear, can I leave the scuba gear in the boat to also free dive for abalone? (Anonymous)

Answer: No. Sport divers are prohibited from using scuba or other surface-supplied air equipment to take abalone, and they cannot possess abalone on board any boat, vessel, or floating device in the water containing scuba or surface-supplied air. There is no problem transporting abalone and scuba gear together while on land. Divers working from boats, kayaks, float tubes or other floating devices who wish to use scuba equipment to spear fish or harvest sea urchins, rock scallops or crabs of the genus Cancer, will need to make a separate trip for abalone.


Shooting across a public road with a bow and arrow?
Question: The law says that you cannot shoot across a public road with a firearm or hunt within 150 yards of another home or building without permission, but what about archery? What about target shooting with archery? If there is no law in your community, or unincorporated area of a county that prohibits or limits use of archery, and you want to shoot archery for target practice, does the same distance law apply? (James S.)

Answer: The same rules for firearms apply to archery equipment in this case – you may not shoot across a road or within 150 yards of a neighbor’s home, barns or outbuildings – even if just target shooting (Fish and Game Code, section 3004). In addition to shooting across a roadway, this section also makes it unlawful for any person to intentionally release any arrow or crossbow bolt over or across any public roadway open to the public in an unsafe manner. Beyond this, different counties and communities may have more restrictive ordinances that they enforce so you should check with your local law enforcement office for this information.

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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.

Why Don’t Some Deer Shed Their Antlers?

Stag1

Deer that don’t shed their antlers are commonly called “stags”. This is usually the result of some kind of injury (or maybe deformity) of the testicles. Weird looking antlers can also result from injury to the antlers while in velvet. (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: I recently heard about a few Southern California bucks that seem to carry their antlers year round. One person I heard from insisted they were mountain biking and repeatedly saw the same deer in January and in May with a 4×3 rack. While I disagreed with the person telling me this, I admitted I am no biologist and didn’t know what they were seeing. Do some deer out here not shed their antlers? I was under the impression that even though nutrition, water and climate might affect when they shed, that deer always shed their antlers. Can you share some info or point us in the right direction to learn more about the antler shedding process here in SoCal? (Al Q.)

Answer: Deer that don’t shed their antlers are commonly called “stags”. This is usually the result of some kind of injury (or maybe deformity) of the testicles. Testosterone plays a role in both antler development and shedding, so injuries can really affect the types of antlers they have. Weird looking antlers can also result from injury to the antlers while in velvet … but those kind usually fall off normally and are replaced the next year with “normal” antlers.

So, this proves there are indeed exceptions to every rule — even biological ones!


Incidental take while spear fishing?
Question: What happens if a spearfishing diver spots a large fish and shoots and spears it without realizing until too late that it’s a giant (black) sea bass or another prohibited species? Then after the fish is speared and brought to the surface, the spearfisher identifies they have a fish they can’t take or possess and promptly returns it to the ocean. Has the spearfisher violated any laws?

A fisherman (angler) who catches a prohibited species while fishing for other species can argue that the take was unintentional/incidental. Could the spearfisher successfully make a similar argument? (Steve H.)

Answer: Spear fishermen are responsible for identifying their targets before they pull the trigger and can be held accountable for shooting a prohibited species. They are also responsible for ensuring that any fish they shoot meets the minimum size limit requirements for that species, again, before they pull the trigger.

A short lingcod or illegal giant sea bass, for example, is unlikely to survive after being shot by a spear fisherman who has the ability to select his target carefully; a short or illegal fish is much more likely to survive being hooked and released by an angler fishing from a boat, who cannot selectively target which individual fish he wishes to catch.

If a diver is unsure about the size or identity of the fish he/she’s aiming at, he/she should choose a different target. Shooting a fish that you’re unsure of could be illegal, and we believe that many spear fishermen would consider it unethical, as well.

All of these same principles also apply to hunters. No one with a rifle, shotgun, spear gun or even bow should pull the trigger unless absolutely 100 percent sure that their intended target is of legal size, species, gender, etc. An accurate (or even lucky) shot made, but with an error in judgment, isn’t worth the repercussions of breaking the very laws enacted to protect the state’s fish and game.


Why the health warnings for brown trout?
Question: In the fishing regulations there are safe eating guidelines for Donner Lake. I am trying to figure out why there are different recommendations for brown trout compared to rainbow trout. The guidelines suggest people eat only one serving of browns vs. seven servings of rainbows. Why? (Tim Worley)

Answer: The recommendations in our regulation booklet are from the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA). The recommendations are probably from actual studies done by OEHHA of mercury levels in edible flesh from these two species from Donner Lake.

According to Dr. William Cox, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Program Manager of Fish Production and Distribution, we do not plant brown trout in Donner and so those fish are essentially wild and older in the system. Therefore, they have been on natural diets and accumulating mercury from the naturally occurring insects and aquatic life that comprises their food chain.

CDFW does plant rainbow trout in Donner as part of what we call a “put-and- take” fishery. For most of their lives those fish are not eating natural feeds, and are generally not piscivorous like the brown trout, so they accumulate much less mercury. Humans, especially children and women of child bearing ages, need to limit their intake of mercury because it can have serious health effects, including death.

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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.