Category Archives: Freshwater Fishing

Do Surfperch Fry Count Toward the Daily Limit?

Barred surfperch give birth to live young from March through July. As few as four to as many as 113 young have been counted per female, but the average is 33. Each fry measures about 2.5 in. long at birth (Photo courtesy of Joe Donatini)

Barred surfperch give birth to live young from March through July. As few as four to as many as 113 young have been counted per female, but the average is 33. Each fry measures about 2.5 in. long at birth (Photo courtesy of Joe Donatini)

Question: In Santa Barbara a surf fisherman was seen last week eating baby perch squeezed from a gravid female. How do live fry from perch relate to a daily limit in possession if consumed? Also, if dead fry are expelled from a dying gravid female in an ice chest, do they count toward the daily possession limit of ten? If fish are consumed by surf fisherman while they fish is there a requirement to save the carcass to verify minimum size for species and daily catch limit? The surfperch babies squeezed directly into the upturned mouth is a bit disturbing and prompted me to pose these questions. Thanks. (Hills S., Ventura)

Answer: Disturbing, indeed. The law says the limit is 10 of any one species. Surfperch are livebearers and it is legal for a person to have fish still inside a livebearing species. Technically, fry are not considered individual fish until they are born, so they do not count toward the limit.

(Photo by Richard Gilliam)

Ken Oda fishes for surf perch (Richard Gilliam photo)

However, if the fry are outside the body, then they technically count as a fish. If a female expels fry in a cooler or boat and puts a person over the limit, please return the fry to the water immediately. This will keep you from being over limit and maybe even save a fry or two … or 40.


Shooting barnyard pigeons?
Question: What is the law when it comes to shooting common or barnyard pigeons? After discussing this with a number of friends and hunters, no one seems to have a definitive answer. Can you help? (Jeff S.)

Answer: Barnyard pigeons or “rock doves” are the feral progeny of domesticated pigeons, and their take is not regulated by the Fish and Game Code. While there is no limit for barnyard pigeons, don’t confuse them with bandtail pigeons or racing pigeons. If someone hunting barnyard pigeons outside the bandtail pigeon season accidentally kills a registered racing pigeon, they could be in trouble and cited with a misdemeanor (Fish and Game Code, section 3680). The chance of this happening is very low though.


Automatic fishing pole?
Question: Can a person use an automatic hook set fishing pole? It would be similar to the action of a mouse trap but with an electric latch that would be activated by the user of the pole holder via a push button switch. The electric latch would unhook and that would cause the pole to spring up and hook the fish. The pole holder would be attended to the whole time and the electric latch would have wires to a switch that a person would have in his hands to activate the latch when a bite is noticed, thus having it in hand and fully in control when the latch is released. Does this sound OK? (Roy D.)

Answer: Sure, give it a whirl! There’s nothing in the Fish and Game Code or Title 14 that prohibits the use of an automatic hook set fishing pole as you have described.


Felon as a hunting chaperone?
Question:My wife loves to hunt almost as much as I do. She especially loves duck hunting but is not confident enough to be out there on her own. The problem is I have a felony on my record which prohibits me from being in possession of a firearm. Can I legally just chaperone her as long as I don’t have access to the firearm? (Richard W.)

Answer: I think the answer lies with either your probation officer or the courts. California Fish and Wildlife laws do not address this issue. The best thing you can do is contact either your probation officer or refer to the court documents related to your case for information regarding any restrictions that may apply to you.


Slingbow for bowfishing?
Question: Is it legal to use a slingbow for bowfishing? (Leng M.)

Answer: Yes, a slingbow is legal to use to take a limited number of fish species in freshwater and the ocean. For fishing purposes, the arrow must have a line attached to be legal (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.23). In ocean waters, the slingbow can be used for skates, rays and sharks (CCR Title 14, section 28.95). In freshwater systems, the slingbow may only be used for certain species and in specific areas (CCR Title 14, section 2.25).

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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.

When Cattle Run Feral …

Feral cattle (photo from  Wikimedia Commons)

Feral cattle do not exist in Fish and Game regulations. To harvest them may constitute cattle rustling and land a person in jail with a hefty fine! (Wikimedia Commons photo)

Question: I know of people seeing feral cattle in a wilderness area where I hunt. The area is miles from the nearest maintained trail at elevations where bighorns are found. Rangers also confirm the cattle are feral, as in left behind by the ranchers who used to run cattle in the area. What are the laws regarding taking feral cattle in California? I know other states, such as Colorado, allow it year round, unregulated. (Stephen M.)

Answer: “Feral cows” do not exist in Fish and Game regulations because all cattle are considered domestic (not wild or feral) livestock and are someone’s property. California may have feral pigs but there is no such thing as a feral cow. Cattle all belong to someone until that right of ownership is relinquished, and ranchers do lease cattle grazing rights on public property.

It would be a felony to kill another’s cow without their permission (grand theft) and therefore unlawful for you to “harvest” cattle from the wilderness area, or any other place for that matter, without written permission. When cattle do gain access to a wildlife area, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has the authority to relocate them under the provisions of the California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 550(b)(16).

Bottom line … if you try to do this yourself, you may be arrested for cattle rustling and find yourself in jail for up to six months along with facing a hefty fine.


Colorado River stamp no longer required?
Question: I hear that the Colorado River Stamp was discontinued for 2014. If so, what license or stamps do I need to fish in the Colorado River now? (Glenn U.)

Answer: Yes, the Colorado River Special Use Validation has been discontinued. California and Arizona have entered into an agreement for the reciprocal recognition of licenses to fish any portion of the Colorado River that is the boundary between California and Arizona. With a California sport fishing license or an Arizona sport fishing license, you can fish from either shore, or from a boat, in the portion of the Colorado River that makes up the California-Arizona boundary and connected adjacent water that is the boundary between Arizona and California. Anglers holding California sport fishing licenses abide by California regulations, and anglers holding Arizona sport fishing licenses abide by Arizona regulations. This agreement does not apply to canals, drains or ditches used to transport water for irrigation, municipal or domestic purposes.


When is it legal to shoot across water?
Question: In one of your Cal Outdoors answers you laid out the parameters of hunting from a boat. How can this be legal if you are not allowed to shoot across water? (Keith and Julie B.)

Answer: While it is illegal to shoot across a roadway, it is not illegal to shoot across water as long as the shooter is able to clearly see their target and can do so safely. Shooting from any “platform” which is not stable is unsafe, and discharging a rifle across a body of water is extremely dangerous due to the likelihood of the bullet ricocheting in an unintended direction. Shot shells do not present this danger to the same degree.


Taking non-licensed passengers along as observers while fishing?
Question: As an avid fisherman with a private vessel, I often take friends out hoop netting or fishing. Often these friends are perfectly happy to operate my boat while I tend the fishing line(s) or hoop nets. Do these companions need to have a fishing license as long as we follow the bag limits and limits on nets and lines in the water for a single fisherman? It is often a spur of the moment decision to go out, and sending my guest off to get a license for one or two hours of fishing is inconvenient at best. (Jack Z.)

Answer: You are welcome to take non-licensed passengers along to observe you while fishing or hoop netting as long they do not engage at all in any of the actual sport fishing activities. It is only in the commercial fishing industry where those who assist with the boat handling and other tasks need to have their own commercial fishing license.

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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.

Donating Fish to Charity for a Tax Deduction?

(CDFW file photo)

(CDFW file photo)

Question: In a recent column you said it is legal to donate excess fish from a multi-day fishing trip to a church or non-profit shelter as long as no compensation is received. What about a tax deduction? This way the guys with too many fish donate to the churches, the churches feed the hungry and the fisherman gets a deduction and doesn’t have to worry about dead fish to clean. Everyone wins! What do you think? (Dick L.)

Answer: Sorry, but while this might sound like a great idea, donated fish cannot be claimed as a tax deduction because you cannot assign a value to sport-caught fish. The best thing for anglers to do is to catch and keep only what they know they will actually use so that they don’t end up with excess fish to clean and donate.


Night fishing
Question: We love to fish for crappie and are wondering if it is legal to fish for them at night. I am not aware of any California lakes that allow night fishing using lights off of your boat. Is this legal, and if so, what bodies of water allow this type of fishing? Thanks for all of your weekly information (W. Yamamoto).

Answer: Night fishing for crappie is permitted by the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFW) as long as the lake where you plan to fish permits fishing at night (CCR Title 14, section 2.15). Some lakes prohibit night fishing for purposes of access control, safety or security reasons. You will need to contact the agency or concessionaire managing the lake to inquire about their policy.


Fishing from my private dock?
Question: I live right on the river and can fish from my backyard off my private dock. Do I need a fishing license? I heard if it is private property you do not need a license. (Eric)

Answer: What you heard was not correct. You do need a fishing license because it’s not a matter of where you’re standing, it’s a matter of the waters you’re fishing in. All rivers of the state are public waters, and all fish contained in those waters are public fish. Even if a stream or river runs through private property, all of the fish within those waters belong to the people of California, and thus a fishing license is required. The only places where you would not need a fishing license would be if you were fishing in a pond on private property that has no stream or creek water flowing into it or out of it. The water must be completely self-contained so that no fish from outside of the property can swim into it or swim out of it. The only other place where you can fish without a fishing license is on a public pier in the ocean (CCR Title 14, section 1.88).


Hunter Ed reciprocity between states?
Question: I took a hunter education class in Missouri and have a hunter’s safety card issued from there but recently moved to California and would like to hunt here. Do I have to complete another hunter ed course in California or can I just purchase a hunting license using my old card? (Steve H.)

Answer: No, California accepts hunter education certificates from other states as proof you have completed an approved course in the past. You can also present a previous hunting license from another state as proof to buy a California hunting license. But despite the fact you may not need to take a California hunter education class, you still may want to consider one. It’s a good idea for everyone to periodically update their knowledge with a refresher course and a review of the 10 commandments of handling a firearm. Our hunter education program is always improving and most people do benefit from a refresher. For a calendar list of more than 200 hunter education classes offered throughout the state, please go to www.dfg.ca.gov/huntered/classes.aspx).


Casting for squid?
Question: Is it legal to use a standard cast net to catch squid in the ocean or are only dip nets allowed? (Hai L.)

Answer: Hawaiian type throw nets or cast nets are legal to use to take squid if used north of Point Conception. In waters south of Point Conception, only hand-held dip nets are allowed (CCR Title 14, section 28.80).

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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.