Category Archives: Freshwater Fishing

Nesting Wild Mallards in My Backyard Pool?

Mallard pair

Mallard pair (ODFW photo)

Question: We have a pair of mallard ducks that seem to have taken up residency in our backyard pool and have laid eggs in the surrounding plants. I am afraid that if they hatch they will end up dead because of all the meat eating birds in the area. Why are they doing this? If I can get them to leave, where will they fly off to? I can’t seem to find any help in the town that I live in (Modesto, Calif.). I read your piece in the Modesto Bee and wondered if you had any suggestions of what I could do? (Richard, Modesto)

Answer: Unless ducks are marked with a transmitter, we can only speculate where they are headed. Most likely the ducks in your backyard are a drake and hen pair that need a safe place to build a nest. Backyard pools generally don’t have many predators so ducks often nest nearby them. Once the eggs hatch, they won’t want to hang out in the pool for long because there is no food in the water. At that point, you may want to open your backyard gate so the hen can walk her brood out to a nearby river or other water source.

Since waterfowl are protected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, you cannot catch and move them yourself. It is a state and federal violation to disturb the nest of any bird, and you can’t take the eggs or move the nest. You might try contacting a permitted local wildlife rehabilitation center to ask for advice, but wildlife rehabbers cannot possess healthy wildlife or relocate the juvenile ducks or their mother. They can only take the ducklings if they are injured or orphaned, and technically they cannot do anything about the situation you’ve described unless the ducklings become injured or orphaned.

If this happens again, try covering the pool and hazing the ducks away before they build their nest. Once the eggs are laid, a person is “technically” powerless to do anything to the nest or eggs.

For a list of permitted wildlife rehab facilities, please go to www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/WIL/rehab/facilities.html.


Are hooks with pinched barbs legal for fishing salmon?
Question: I was told that a barbed hook (circle or otherwise) which has had the barb “pinched down” with pliers is by law considered legal for salmon fishing. True or false? (Rick S.)

Answer: True. As long as it is pinched all the way down so there is no barb. It’s safer to just buy barbless hooks or grind off the barbs. Barbless hooks are defined as, “A fish hook from which the barb or barbs have been removed or completely bent closed, or which is manufactured without barbs” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.19).


Where’s the search authority?
Question: My friend and I disagree about a point of law. If a game warden sees that you are fishing, or have been fishing, or sees your rods and ice chests in the car, can he demand you open the car and open your ice chests? Can he demand you open the trunk also? I think this is fair because we have definitely been fishing and always have less than our limits, but my friend thinks it is an abuse of power to demand we open our trunk or car, which is our private property. If the game warden does have this right, what would happen if we refuse to comply? Thanks! (S. Love, Los Angeles)

Answer: Yes, any wildlife officer can ask for your consent to inspect a vehicle. Whether an officer has the authority to conduct an inspection when consent is not given depends upon the specific circumstances of the contact. Wildlife officers have extensive inspection authorities that are unique to their jobs. For example, it is a crime to refuse to show a wildlife officer “… all licenses, tags, and the birds, mammals, fish, reptiles or amphibians taken or otherwise dealt with under this code, and any device or apparatus designed to be, and capable of being, used to take birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, or amphibians” (Fish and Game Code, section 2012).

Also, wildlife officers are authorized to inspect all receptacles, except the clothing actually worn by a person at the time of inspection, where birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, or amphibians may be stored or placed (FGC, section 1006).


Fishing multiple rods from shore outside San Francisco Bay?
Question: I know that you can use as many rods and hooks as you want outside the Golden Gate, but can I use multiple rods to catch striped bass and halibut from the shore? I already know that only one rod can be used for salmon, rockfish and lingcod. I have heard if you have a striped bass or a halibut in possession, then only one rod can be used. Is this true? (Eddie H.)

Answer: No, that’s not correct. Outside of the Golden Gate, if you are fishing from shore for halibut and striped bass, you can use as many rods and hooks as you want. If you were to catch another species like salmon or rockfish, however, you would have to release it, as only one line may be used for these species.

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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.

Casting with a Potato Gun-Style Launcher

(CDFW photo by Sabrina Bell)

(CDFW photo by Sabrina Bell)

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

Should Anglers Release Lingcod Females?

Lingcod (photo courtesy of Matt Elyash)

Lingcod (photo courtesy of Matt Elyash)

Question: Last year before the end of rockfish season, I went on a charter boat out of Berkeley. Some of the lingcod caught were females with eggs. When do lingcod spawn and can keeping these females hurt the fishery in the future? Should we as anglers release females like we do for striped bass? I’m glad to see the size limit dropped and the season longer, but I don’t want to be back to where we were before. (Jason Green)

Answer: Lingcod and other groundfish are federally managed. Harvest management plans and stock assessments take into account the removal of both males and females when setting quotas, so fishery managers do factor in the take of females, too.

According to the latest assessment, the lingcod stock has fully recovered from their overfished status. Lingcod don’t get the bends (no swim bladder), so females can be released if handled properly.

In northern and central California, the primary reason for the current closed seasons for lingcod in late fall, winter and spring for boat-based anglers is to protect mature females that have moved inshore to spawn, and to protect the mature males that guard the egg nests.

Lingcod are a species that if handled properly can often be successfully caught and released. However, unless regulations prohibit keeping the fish (e.g. bag and minimum size limits) or the angler is releasing all fish, if it turns out the fish has been improperly handled or is bleeding and may not survive, the fish should be kept. Releasing bleeding females that may not survive in order to keep males instead just wastes fish and is not a good conservation method.

Lingcod generally spawn from November through February. Females do take longer to mature and they grow to a larger size than males. By some estimates, males only grow to 24-26 inches. Females are legal to keep, so keeping an egg-laden female would be up to that fisherman’s personal ethics.

Bottom line … female lingcod are legal to take and so it’s up to the fisherman to decide whether or not they want to.


Can kids under 16 fish alone without a license and an adult present?
Question: Can children under the age of 16 fish without a license, and alone without a licensed adult present? (Jennifer P.)

Answer: Yes. Although no license is required, keep in mind that no matter their age, everyone who fishes must know what the fishing regulations are that apply to the type of fishing they are doing, and have the good judgment to abide by them.


Using SCUBA to photograph abalone divers?
Question: I would like to photograph abalone divers diving but I need to use an air tank to obtain the imagery I want. How can I go about this without getting in trouble with a game warden? (Andrew B., Salt Lake City, UT)

Answer: It is legal for you to photograph abalone freedivers while you are using a tank, as long as you observe a couple of regulations.

The use of SCUBA gear or surface-supplied air while taking abalone is prohibited (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.15(e)). Therefore, if you are using a tank while photographing abalone freedivers, you cannot assist them with taking abalone. You also cannot help them pop abalone off the rocks or spot abalone for them, or do anything else that could be construed as giving assistance in taking abalone.

In addition, under this section the possession of abalone is prohibited aboard a vessel that also contains SCUBA gear or surface supplied air. This means you will have to use a separate boat – you cannot board the same boat the abalone freedivers are using while you are using SCUBA gear.


What to do with a full-size Cheetah / Leopard mount?
Question: My uncle recently passed away and left me in charge of his estate. One of the items he left is a full size Cheetah/ Leopard taxidermy. Is it legal for me to sell it? If not what do you recommend that I do with it? (Michael C., Modesto)

Answer: You are allowed to give it away but you are not allowed to sell or trade it (California Penal Code, section 653o). You might want to contact a museum, service club or local school to see if they may have a use for it.


Crabbing overnight at the beach?
Question: I enjoy crabbing and want to go crabbing overnight at the beach. Is this legal? (Ann N.)

Answer: Yes, as long as the beaches don’t have any city, county or beach curfews, it is legal to go crabbing overnight from most beaches. (CCR Title 14, section 29.05(a)).

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