Category Archives: Freshwater Fishing

Hunting Big Game using Cell Phones and Radios?

Hunting while using the assistance of cell phones and radios is legal in California but many don't consider it ethical (USFWS photo)

Hunting while using the assistance of cell phones and radios is legal in California but many don’t consider it ethical (USFWS photo)

Question: Is it legal while hunting big game to have a spotter guide a hunter to the animals using cell phones or radios? (Frank H.)

Answer: While it’s illegal in some states, it’s not in California. In states where it is banned, it is because they believe using radios and/or cell phones while big game hunting is not an ethical method of stalking and hunting wildlife. Currently, California has no such law and so radios and cell phones are legal.

Black Cod – Sable
Question: We occasionally venture offshore for albacore later in the season and are wondering if it is legal to sportfish for black cod or sablefish in deep water. We are talking about 800 feet or deeper waters using deep drop gear. We see commercial fisherman out there long lining for these fish. (Peter C.)

Answer: What you describe is not legal. There are six Recreational Groundfish Management Areas along the coast of California (see page 9 of the 2015-2016 Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet). Depending on the management area, the depths range from approximately 120 feet to 300 feet. The only allowance for a recreational boat to possess groundfish, including sablefish/black cod, in areas deeper than allowed or closed to the take of groundfish, is when that boat is in transit with no fishing gear in the water (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 27.20(b)). There are a few species exceptions, like Pacific sanddabs, which is why the angler must carefully read the section pertaining to the management area where he/she will be fishing.

Slingbow modification
Question: I have a few questions regarding using slingbows in my area and possible changes to my method. I want to get into slingbow fishing since spearfishing in freshwater is illegal in my area (San Luis Obispo County). Is it legal here in this county? And if so, is it restricted to above the water’s surface or can I shoot fish underwater using snorkel and mask?

Second question … If it is legal to use a crossbow underwater, instead of using arrows, would it be legal to shoot carp with a Hawaiian sling shaft from a slingbow if it’s attached to a line or reel? If not, is it restricted to arrow use only? (Anonymous)

Answer: Using a slingbow or crossbow underwater would constitute spearfishing and would not be legal as spearfishing is defined as “the taking of fish by spear or hand by persons who are in the water and may be using underwater goggles, face plates, breathing tubes, SCUBA or other artificial underwater breathing device” (CCR Title 14, section 1.76).

A slingbow would only be legal as bow and arrow fishing tackle if the arrow is attached to the slingbow by a line or attached fishing reel (CCR Title 14, section 1.23). But, in San Luis Obispo County, all public lakes have ordinances prohibiting possession of bow and arrow fishing tackle on or along these water bodies. So a slingbow with attached line/fishing reel could only be used on private ponds or lakes and only for fish species listed under section 2.25 on page 15 of the current Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations booklet.

How to stop neighbors from leaving food and water for wildlife?
Question: What can be done legally to stop my neighbors from leaving food and water outside for animals? Raccoons and rats have invaded our homes and yards and are leaving unhealthy feces behind, tearing the fabric on our patio furniture and causing other problems. How can we get them to stop? (Sally S.)

Answer: Many people think they are helping wild animals when they provide food and water for them. However, all they are doing is luring the animals into conflicts with people living in the area. CDFW provides information about the inadvertent negative results on our website (search for “feeding wildlife”). You could start by educating your neighbor about the harm they are doing by providing them some of the information, and then hope that their heart is in the right place and they will stop. If the actions continue, some cities have passed local ordinances that make it illegal to feed wildlife, and CCR Title 14, section 251.1 makes it unlawful to harass wildlife (causing them to alter their normal behavior), which can include feeding them. Hopefully, educating your neighbors will preclude having to get law enforcement personnel involved.

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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

Bass Fishing Beyond Limits?

Bass anglers competing in a CDFW-permitted fishing tournament may keep fishing once five fish are in possession but must cull one of these immediately upon catching a sixth (Photo courtesy of RBFF Take Me Fishing)

Bass anglers competing in a CDFW-permitted bass fishing tournament may keep fishing once five fish are in possession but must cull one of these immediately upon catching a sixth (Photo courtesy of RBFF Take Me Fishing)

Question: I was reading one of your responses to a trout fisherman’s question regarding continuing to fish and practice catch and release after he had five trout on his stringer. The short answer was no, because “…catch-and-release fishing is not legal unless you’re still under your maximum bag limit.” I’m a bass fisherman and if that’s the case, it would seem to conflict with me culling fish once a limit is reached in a tournament. Are we violating the law? (Jim V.)

Answer: You are correct that is most cases once an angler reaches their bag limit they cannot continue fishing. However, a special provision has been made for California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW)-permitted and approved bass fishing tournaments to allow black bass anglers only during the tournament to keep fishing once five fish are in possession (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 230). They must cull one of these fish immediately upon catching a sixth in order to never be in possession of more than five bass at one time.

Harvesting barnacles attached to floating driftwood?
Question: I read your answer recently about how barnacles cannot be harvested in the intertidal zone. Is there a way of legally obtaining Gooseneck barnacles to eat? When I’m way out in the ocean on a boat, I often see floating logs, driftwood and other debris. If it has been floating for a long time, more often than not I will find there are a large number of Gooseneck barnacles attached to the submerged side. Since they are not being taken from the intertidal zone (1,000 feet of shore), would they be legal to take? (Joe K.)

Answer: Yes, if the barnacles are attached to floating logs or driftwood, it would be legal and the limit would be 35 (CCR Title 15, section 29.05(a)). The only problem now is that for much of the debris off our coast that has been in the water long enough to have large numbers of Gooseneck barnacles, there could be health concerns if the wood originated in Fukashima, Japan, due to the possibility of contact with radioactive materials. You’d want to carefully consider how badly you want to harvest those barnacles!

Hunting with a depredation permit
Question: I have several related questions regarding hunting. If I have a pig depredation permit, can I legally carry a firearm and a bow while hunting deer during the archery season? Does the person who helps me with my pig problem need a hunting license? Lastly, is there an expiration date on a depredation permit? (Bill)

Answer: When deer hunting during an archery season, you may not possess a firearm of any kind.

Regarding the pig depredation permit, if you are listed as one of three allowed designated shooters on the permit, you may remove property-damaging wild pigs under conditions listed on the permit. All depredation permits have an expiration date listed on them. Someone “assisting you” with the depredation permit should also be listed as a designated shooter. No hunting license is required for a person authorized under a depredation permit. The person assisting you has to be at least 21 years old and may not have a conviction of wildlife law in the past 12 months.

Bringing a stuffed polar bear mount into California?
Question: A relative of mine owns a stuffed polar bear which is currently located in Idaho at my uncle’s house. I have another elder relative who would like to take it but is not able to drive that far to pick it up so he asked me to do it. However, I am concerned because I’m not sure about the laws and regulations for this kind of thing for simply picking it up in Idaho and bringing it to California. What are the laws and am I able to do this? (Andrew M.)

Answer: So long as you comply with the declaration requirement in Fish and Game Code, section 2353 and have no intent to import or possess the polar bear for commercial purposes, you are not prohibited from transporting it into California. Importations for commercial purposes, possession with intent to sell, and the sale within California of any part of a polar bear is prohibited (Penal Code, section 653o). In addition, the sale, purchase or possession for sale of any bear or bear part in California is prohibited (Fish and Game Code, section 4758).

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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

Fishing With Glitter May Bring More Than Big Fish

CDFW photo by marine biologist Derek Stein

(CDFW Photo by Marine Scientist Derek Stein)

Question: I have been studying up on different methods of spear fishing while free diving and have read about the use of “glitter” as an attractant for bait fish. I have an idea to sprinkle glitter in the water so that when the bait fish come to investigate, the large game fish will follow and be caught as they attack the bait fish!

What are your views and the legal ramifications of this method? I understand chumming is not legal for taking game animals in our state, but the use of artificial lures is. With my idea the game fish would not be chummed by this method but instead just attracted by the collection of bait fish. If this method actually works, would it be legal? (Theodore G., Stockton)

Answer: You have an innovative idea there. Unfortunately, even if your plan to lure unsuspecting fish to you by sprinkling shiny, sparkling glitter in the water were to work, you could be cited for doing so. Placing glitter in the water is littering and is prohibited under Fish and Game Code, section 5652.

The activity you describe would be considered chumming and chumming is defined as “placing any material in the water, other than on a hook while angling, for the purpose of attracting fish to a particular area in order that they may be taken” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.32). Chumming in the ocean is allowed (as long as the chum is not considered to be litter), but chumming in freshwater is typically not permissible except in specific areas and for certain fish species (see CCR Title14, section 2.40).

Prohibited from retrieving deer from private property
Question: I recently shot a doe with my A31 tag in Los Angeles County (Archery Only-Either Sex). It appeared to be a lethal shot from 22 yards with decent shot placement. I tracked the blood to a privately owned ranch 100 yards away. I stopped tracking it when it appeared she went onto the ranch property. I then approached the ranch manager to get permission to continue tracking my deer. The owner initially agreed but after one of her coworkers talked to her, she retracted her permission (approximately 10 minutes from the time we spoke in her office). She requested that we leave her property at once as she didn’t want people to think they approved of hunting. I didn’t have enough time to locate my deer and left broken-hearted.

I don’t like seeing animals die or suffer for no reason. I would never have shot if I would have known I couldn’t recover her. I believe I did everything legal and correct but it shouldn’t be right that a deer goes to waste because of the bias of a property manager.

Is there anything I could have done to recover my deer? Do I have any rights or is there anyone I could have contacted? I’m still sick over the situation. (Luke G., Loma Linda)

Answer: It’s unfortunate that this happened. Although the law prevents one from wasting the deer, the law does not permit the trespass to retrieve it. Perhaps, if you’d contacted the local game warden, they may have been able to contact the ranch manager or owner for some possible assistance to prevent the deer from going to waste.

According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Lt. Todd Tognazzini, when archery hunting it is recommended to hunt farther from private property boundaries to avoid this type of problem as deer taken with archery usually travel farther after a lethal wound than those shot with a rifle. Tognazzini says he has never been refused when a fresh and legitimate blood trail is found leaving public land onto private property.

Where does inland end and ocean begin?
Question: I would like to fish with two rods in the Delta but don’t know whether the regulations are in the freshwater books or in the ocean books. Is the Delta part of the ocean regulations or is it considered inland waters? Where does it change from ocean to inland if considered inland? (Brian S., Felton)

Answer: You can legally fish in the waters of the Delta with a second rod stamp. Inland regulations apply from upstream of the Delta to Carquinez Bridge. The definition of inland waters vs ocean waters is, “Inland waters are all the fresh, brackish and inland saline waters of the state, including lagoons and tidewaters upstream from the mouths of coastal rivers and streams. Inland waters exclude the waters of San Francisco and San Pablo bays downstream from the Carquinez Bridge, the tidal portions of rivers and streams flowing into San Francisco and San Pablo bays, and the waters of Elkhorn Slough …” (CCR Title 14, section 1.53).

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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

Blue Crabs, Drones to Track Wildlife, Crayfish Traps and Abalone Trips

Portunus xantusii (swimming crab) has been found in recent years residing in Mission Bay, San Diego (CDFW photo by Travis Buck)

Portunus xantusii (swimming crabs) have been reported in Mission Bay, San Diego in recent years. Live crabs show more of a bluish or purplish coloration (CDFW photo by Travis Buck)

Question: I have seen what appears to be blue crabs in the Mission Bay area of San Diego that look like crabs normally found in the southern U.S. What are these? What is the limit, size and permitted way of catching them in California? I cannot seem to find it in the handbook. (Don F.)

Answer: The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has received several reports of blue crabs, Callinectes sapidus, in the Mission Bay area of San Diego. However, none of the reports thus far have been substantiated. According to CDFW Marine Environmental Scientist Travis Buck of San Diego, the crabs you have seen are most likely Portunus xantusii (swimming crab), which are native to Southern California and resemble the East Coast/Gulf of Mexico blue crab.

To harvest these crabs, you will need a California sport fishing license with an ocean enhancement stamp. There is no closed season or minimum size limit, the bag limit is 35 and these crabs may be taken by hand or with a hoop net. No more than five hoop nets may be used per person from a boat and no more than two per person from a pier or jetty. There is a maximum of 10 hoop nets per vessel. Also, divers may not possess any hooked devices while diving for crustaceans, including crabs.

Regulations for these crabs fall under section 29.05, “general regulations for invertebrates,” and 29.80, “gear restrictions for crustaceans,” found on pages 46, 49 and 50 in the current Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet.

Can drones be used to find and track wildlife?
Question: A discussion came up at our rod and gun club the other day about whether there are any official regulations or restrictions regarding hunters using drones to assist in locating and tracking big game and/or other wildlife. I personally can’t believe they would be legal to use but none of us have ever heard any official determination on this subject one way or another. With deer season in full swing and more people now owning drones, I shudder to think that these increasingly sophisticated aerial contraptions might be used by other hunters for wildlife surveillance and even possibly for the driving or tracking of animals that they are hunting. Or conversely, what about anti-hunters using them to spook wildlife and disrupt hunters while they are tracking and stocking their animals? What is the official word on this issue? (Anonymous)

Answer: It is unlawful to use a drone to assist in taking wildlife as you describe, and it would be unlawful to harass legal hunters with a drone (Fish and Game Code, section 2009). It is also unlawful for any person to “… use any motorized, hot-air, or unpowered aircraft or other device capable of flight or any earth orbiting imaging device to locate or assist in locating big game mammals 48 hours before and continuing until 48 hours after any big game hunting season in the same area” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 251).

Drone owners/pilots should keep in mind that additional legislation is currently being considered that may further restrict the use of drones in different public and private areas. Drones are already prohibited in National Parks and that list may soon grow, so stay tuned.

Crayfish trap limits?
Question: Had a question about crawfishing that no one can seem to answer for me. My questions are how many traps are allowed per person with a fishing license? I have been told that it’s a limit of 2 but when I look into the California Fish and Game for 2015-2016 Handbook it doesn’t say anything about how many traps are allowed. (William P., Lemoore)

Answer: Crayfish may be harvested year round with a sportfishing license (except for closures listed below) and there are no limits on the number you can possess or take home. Regarding methods of take, crayfish may be taken only by hand, hook and line, dip net or with traps. There is no limit on number of traps, however, they may not be over three feet in greatest dimension. Any other species taken must be returned to the water immediately. Traps need not be closely attended.

For a list of those areas closed to harvest in order to protect the Shasta crayfish, please refer to section 5.35(d) on page 21 of the 2015-2016 California Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations booklet. In addition, crayfish may not be used for bait in sections of the Pit River (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 4.30). The season closures in Chapter 3 (District Trout and Salmon Special Regulations) do not apply to crayfish fishing with methods other than hook and line (see sections 7.00 and 7.50(a)(2)).

Multi-day trip for abalone
Question: I’m a rock picker for red abalone. Because of long distance driving I plan to go for a two-day trip. With daily limits of three, I would get three on the 1st day and another three on the 2nd day before driving home. I will then have six abalone in possession. Would this be legal? (Henry)

Answer: No. The bag limit is also the possession limit. You may only legally possess up to three red abalone. You would have to eat or give away all or part of your first day’s limit before you picked more abalone on a subsequent day.

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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

Rainbow Trout in Anadromous Waters

Rainbow Trout (CDFW photo by Harry Morse)

Rainbow Trout (CDFW photo by Harry Morse)

Question: I have taken up fly fishing again after a long while away. This past weekend I went fishing on the Russian River and caught two rainbows/steelhead (one a hatchery fish and the other a wild fish) and both were about 10 inches long. I am wondering if I have to report fish of that size on my Steelhead Report Card in the future. I recorded them this time out of an abundance of caution, but I don’t want to over-inflate the run estimates needlessly. (Kyle K., Healdsburg)

Answer: It can be a bit confusing because steelhead trout and rainbow trout are the same fish. Its scientific name is Oncorhynchus mykiss (O. mykiss). Generally speaking, rainbow trout are O. mykiss found in land-locked freshwater with no access to the ocean, while steelhead trout are O. mykiss fish found in anadromous waters, which are waters with unimpeded access to the ocean where they live the majority of their life before returning to freshwater to spawn.

For practical purposes and to facilitate compliance, fishing regulations differentiate between rainbow and steelhead in anadromous waters by a 16-inch size threshold. O. mykiss smaller than 16-inches are treated as rainbow trout, and those bigger than 16-inches are treated as steelhead. Fishing for steelhead, meaning any O. mykiss in excess of 16-inches, in anadromous waters will require the purchase of a Steelhead Report Card, even if you practice catch-and-release (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 5.88).

The report card provides important data to fishery scientists and requires an entry for each day that you fish and statistics on all fish caught and released. Fishing for O. mykiss less than 16-inches does not require a steelhead report card.

Can other law enforcement agencies enforce CDFW regulations?
Question: I am a current sworn recruit in a Southern California Sheriff’s Department Academy. I will be working in a county with a heavy hunting and fishing population and an abundance of wildlife areas. I am just curious, and have been earnestly trying to find the answer on my own accord without luck, about a specific phrase in Fish and Game Code, section 2012. It states:

§ 2012. 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 shall be exhibited upon demand to any person authorized by the department to enforce this code or any law relating to the protection and conservation of birds, mammals, fish, reptiles or amphibians.

My question is: who are the persons authorized by the department to enforce this code or any law relating to the protection and conservation of birds, mammals, fish, reptiles or amphibians? Are local police and county sheriffs authorized by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to enforce the Fish and Game Code? If it does exist, is there any statute that expresses that authority? (Calen A., M.A.)

Answer: Only CDFW wildlife officers are authorized to enforce the “exhibit upon demand” authority of Fish and Game Code, section 2012. Police officers and county sheriffs are authorized to enforce most hunting and fishing laws but are not authorized to enforce Fish and Game Code Section 2012.

Aside from CDFW wildlife officers, only Rangers and Lifeguards of the Department of Parks and Recreation are authorized to use that law, and then only while on duty in a state park, state beach, state recreation area, state underwater park, state reserve, or other similar facility. Although other law enforcement officers can’t make a formal demand under section 2012 to see someone’s licenses, fish, game, or equipment, they can still enforce fish and game laws and inspect these items if they are in plain view or with the person’s consent.

Discharging a firearm along public roadway
Question: As a firearms instructor and hunting enthusiast, I am continually asked the question, “When hunting and on foot (outside of a vehicle), can you discharge a firearm or other weapon (e.g. compound bow) from or along a public roadway?” Is there a minimum distance from a public roadway? For example, an inhabited structure or barn at 150 yards away? (Don S., Fresno)

Answer: It unlawful to discharge a firearm or release an arrow or crossbow bolt over or across any public road or other established way open to the public in an unsafe and reckless manner (Fish and Game Code, section 3004(b)). Discharging a firearm from or upon a public road or highway is also prohibited (Penal Code, section 374c). In addition, it is a felony to willfully discharge a firearm in a grossly negligent manner that could injure another person (Penal Code, section 246.3). Many cities and counties have also adopted ordinances further restricting where firearms may be fired, so hunters should consult their local law enforcement agency for specific information about the area where they wish to shoot.

Halibut fishing in SF Bay
Question: If I’m trolling for halibut in the San Francisco Bay, can I use another line that has only dodgers and flashers on it without any hooks to attract the fish closer to my boat? I will only have one pole or line with a hook on it. (J.V., Rodeo)

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

Which Fish Species Can Be Filleted at Sea?

Only certain ocean fish are allowed to be filleted at sea. Check section 27.65 (c) in the Ocean Fishing Regulations booklet

Only certain ocean fish species are allowed to be filleted at sea. Please check the 2015 Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet (section 27.65[c] on pages 33-34) for an outline of which species may be filleted at sea while on a boat, and which may not.

Question: I need to get the straight answer regarding filleting game fish while on a boat. In the ocean/bay waters, do I need to keep stripers and leopard sharks intact until I get home or can I keep the fillets in one piece with a one inch or more square of skin left on each fillet? Also, are the rules different for inland waters regarding the filleting of fish? (Howard A.)

Answer: You can find an outline of which species may be filleted at sea while on a boat and which may not under section 27.65(b) and (c) on pages 33-34 in the Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet. Only those listed as allowed to be filleted can be filleted. Striped bass and leopard sharks are not on this list and so may not be filleted at sea.

  • Section 27.65(c): Fish That May Not be Filleted, Steaked or Chunked: No person shall fillet, steak or cut into chunks on any boat or bring ashore as fillets, steaks or chunks the following: any species with a size limit unless a fillet size is otherwise specified in these regulations. California halibut may be filleted or brought ashore as fillets south of Point Arena (Mendocino County).

Since the regulations specify minimum lengths for stripers (18 inches total) and leopard sharks (36 inches total), but no fillet lengths, neither species can be filleted while on a boat or brought ashore as fillets, steaks or chunks.

Hunting with a .22 caliber rimfire in a lead free zone?
Question: I was wondering if you could still hunt with lead .22 caliber rimfire in a lead free zone. I’ve been looking for lead free .22 caliber rimfire rounds and its very slim pickins out there. (Cory S.)

Answer: Although the availability of nonlead ammunition may be improving with time, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recognizes it can still be hard to find some calibers. It will take additional planning to participate in hunts where nonlead ammunition is required. We encourage hunters who intend to participate in these hunts to plan well ahead to be sure they have legal ammunition. There are a number of lead free .22 rimfire rounds that are manufactured, and stores in the California condor range may be most likely to have them in stock. We recommend searching on the Internet and calling ahead to local retailers. Remember that .22 rimfire is only legal to use when hunting small game and nongame animals. Current law does not require use of nonlead ammunition when taking rabbits or tree squirrels, unless you are hunting on CDFW lands, but nonlead ammunition will be required statewide for all hunting beginning July 1, 2019.

About Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) web map
Question: I read a journal article recently about California’s Marine Protected Areas (MPA) but cannot locate a website showing exactly where the MPAs are. Do you have anything posted online where I can go or something you can send me? (Jamie)

Answer: Printed MPA guidebooks are available via some of the same vendors that sell fishing licenses so that you can easily obtain them (see If you have problems finding a guidebook, please contact your local CDFW office and ask them to send you one.

If you like the utility of Google Maps, you might appreciate MarineBIOS (see ) a map that you can use to zoom in close on marine protected areas to get a fix on the boundaries. MarineBIOS lets you choose your “basemap.” You can use satellite imagery, a street map or other basemaps, whatever makes the most sense for your situation. (Click on the green basemaps button in the upper left-hand corner of the screen to access these options).

If you have a smartphone or other mobile device with GPS capability, you can use the map on MPAmobile ( to show you where you are in relation to any MPAs, and you can look up information on individual MPAs.

All this information and more is available online at ( On this web page, in the Popular Resources box to the right, you’ll find the top four big blue buttons lead you to these resources, so these should help you learn where California’s marine protected areas are.

A new Marine Management News blog post also describes resources you can use to learn about MPAs (see If all else fails, you can email your MPA questions to and we will be glad to assist you.

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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

Must Hunters and Anglers Carry CDL with License?

Hunters and anglers should carry photo identification along with appropriate fishing/hunting licenses to properly identify who they are (CDFW photo by Debra Hamilton).

Hunters and anglers should carry photo identification, along with their appropriate hunting/fishing licenses, to properly identify themselves to wildlife officers when asked. (CDFW photo)

Question: While hunting or fishing, besides carrying the appropriate license(s), do I also need to carry my state driver’s license? I would prefer to leave it in my vehicle, but I also want to be sure I am in compliance with the law if I run into a game warden in the field. So my question is do I need to carry photo I.D. with my license? (Anthony B.)

Answer: You will need to verify that 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 wildlife officer. If you’re getting cited for something, the wildlife officer 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 wildlife officer.

Family crabbing trip
Question: My family plans to take a trip to San Francisco this July. Is red crab season still open or is it open all year? If it is open, please let me in on some rules and regulations, such as the limit and the size? Where can I find more information about crabbing in San Francisco and ask more questions? (Kao X.)

Answer: Take of rock crab is open year-round. Red/yellow/rock crab are species that may be kept in San Francisco Bay (no Dungeness crab may be kept from the Bay, even during the open season). Rock crab and other non-Dungeness crab have a daily bag and possession limit of 35 crab that must measure at least four inches across (see California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.85(b) on pg. 50 of the current Ocean Sport Fishing regulations booklet).

There are a variety of piers where people go crabbing in the San Francisco Bay area. Try reviewing piers on the website A guide that shows the differences between the crab species is available online at

Be sure to review the above subsection thoroughly for further fishing regulations that pertain to rock crab (bag limit, size limit, etc.). For more information about crab, you can visit our Invertebrate Management Project webpage at

Transporting cleaned and portioned fish
Question: If I take a long road trip with my boat in tow and catch fish over a few days, my concern is that while I will only have legal quantities in possession, the fish will be cleaned, portioned and vacuum sealed before I return home with my boat in tow. I know it’s legal to clean fish after I am at my vacation home, but in this this situation the quantities of yellowtail, yellowfin, white sea bass, etc. would be impossible to determine even though I am within the possession limits. How would a wildlife officer deal with this situation if I was stopped on the roadtrip home with a cooler full of vacuum sealed fish? (Charlie C.)

Answer: Unless the regulations specifically require that a fish be kept whole until being prepared for immediate consumption, such as lobster and abalone, you may clean and store your fish in any condition you want to, once they are brought ashore. In similar situations, people have chosen to package each fish separately, and retain the carcass, so that if stopped by a wildlife officer, they could show the officer the legal-sized carcasses, which would also aid in identifying the species of fish. That still would be more complicated than if you hadn’t chunked up the fish, but it would be better than a bag of nondescript cubes of fish. If the quantity appeared highly excessive, a wildlife officer might use our Wildlife Forensics Laboratory to determine the exact quantity.

AO tags during rifle season?
Question: Can you use an Archery-Only tag during rifle season if you’re still using archery equipment as your method of take? (Eric C.)

Answer: Yes. The Archery-Only (AO) tag allows hunting with archery equipment only during the archery and general seasons in A, B or D zones and Hunt G10 (military only). You may not possess a firearm or crossbow when hunting under the authority of an AO deer tag, except as otherwise provided.

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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