Category Archives: Freshwater Fishing

Ingenious or Illegal?

Red abalone from Santa Cruz Island (Photo by CDFW Marine Biologist Derek Stein)

Red abalone from Santa Cruz Island (Photo by CDFW Marine Biologist Derek Stein)

Question: I am going over abalone laws again for any details that I may have missed and I have one quick question.

Measuring devices: You must have a fixed-arm measuring gauge, capable of spanning an abalone’s shell. It is a violation to take an abalone when not in possession of a gauge, even if the abalone is legal-sized.Ab iron_gauge combo

As you can see in this picture, the gauge is part of the ab iron. Since it has a fixed-arm that is capable of measuring abalone, I assume this gauge is legal. I just wanted to confirm since I am hearing that people are being approached for this type of gauge. Thanks. (Jerry)

Answer: In order for this combination abalone iron / measuring gauge to be legal, it must meet the requirements of both a legal abalone gauge and legal abalone iron.

According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Lt. Dennis McKiver, the law says every person taking abalone “shall carry a fixed caliper measuring gauge capable of accurately measuring seven inches. The measuring device shall have fixed opposing arms of sufficient length to measure the abalone by placing the gauge over the shell” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.15(f)).

While the idea of carrying one device seems desirable, it is difficult to determine the absolute legality of this particular device from this photo alone. The important thing to consider is that a legal gauge must be “capable of accurately measuring” and the fixed opposing arms must be “of sufficient length to measure the abalone by placing the gauge over the shell.” If there is any question, the abalone fisherman should carry an additional legal abalone gauge with them.

All divers must carry an abalone gauge that measures seven inches and any abalone removed from the rock that measures seven inches or more must be retained (CCR Title 14, section 29.15(d)). Wildlife officers frequently find people trophy hunting with only nine or 10 inch gauges in their possession and they end up citing many of these individuals for high grading because they are detaching and replacing abalone that are less than nine or 10 inches, but are otherwise legal to take.


Slingbow for game hunting?
Question: Is it legal in California to hunt small and big game with a slingbow, provided it can cast an arrow legal for the game being hunted at least 130 yards? Referring to the California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 354, slingbows do have flexible material (the band), and a string connecting its two ends (of the band) as the nock, to satisfy the legal definition. (Jason L.)

Answer: These slingshot-style bows would not be legal because bows are defined only as longbow, recurve or compound bow (under CCR Title 14, section 354(a)). The slingbow falls under the definition of a crossbow (CCR Title 14, section 354(b)) “or cured latex band” and could be used for hunting under crossbow regulations.


Trout fishing with “dough balls”?
Question: While living back east, we used to use “dough balls” for trout. We made them out of corn meal, flour and water or fish meal, flour and water. Is this a legal bait for trout in California? (Mike)

Answer: Yes, processed foods may be used in California’s inland waters where bait is legal. Therefore, where bait is legal, dough balls would be legal.


Resident sport fishing license still legal after moving out of state?
Question: If I bought a California fishing license earlier in the year but then moved out of state, can I still legally fish with that resident license even if I now have an Idaho address? I’ll be coming back and forth during the year to visit family and am hoping this license will be good at least through the end of the year. (James F., Boise, ID)

Answer: Your resident California sport fishing license is valid through Dec. 31, 2014, even if you move out of state.

“Resident” is defined as: Any person who has resided continuously in the State of California for six months or more immediately prior to the date of his application for a license or permit, any person on active military duty with the Armed Forces of the United States or auxiliary branch thereof, or any person enrolled in the Job Corps established pursuant to Section 2883 of Title 29 of the United States Code (Fish and Game Code, section 70).

“Nonresident” is defined as: Any person who has not resided continuously in the State of California for six months immediately prior to the date of his application for a license or permit (FGC, section 57.)

Next year you will need to buy a nonresident sport fishing license to fish in California.

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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.

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.