Category Archives: Fishing

How Many Feet in the Water to Enter a Legal Hunt Zone?

California mule deer (photo by Carrie Wilson)

California mule deer (photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: While hunting during archery season in August, I ran into a situation that I could use your guidance on. While at my campsite, a hunting partner of mine observed a buck feeding near the creek that we were camped near. I was hunting in D7. Unfortunately for me, the buck was on the north side of Deer Creek, and therefore in X9A. I quickly got my bow while my hunting partner sat quietly at camp and watched. I quietly moved into position and waited for the deer to cross the creek. He never did, so therefore I had to let him go, of course.

When a zone’s boundary is defined by a creek, river or other body of water, when is the animal considered to be within your zone and therefore legal to take? Can you take him when he’s drinking and touching the water? Does he need to have two or four feet in the creek? Does he need to completely cross and be across the creek and completely in your zone? Or does he need to be clear of the creek bed all together? What is the law? (Kevin K.)

Answer: The deer would have had to be at least halfway across the creek to be into the correct zone. Keep in mind that animals shot with bow and arrow or a rifle can travel a substantial distance, so it is wise not to hunt right on the border of a zone. A non-lethal shot could easily take you immediately into the closed zone where your tag is not valid.

Ocean sunfish – you can take them, but what then?
Question: I saw some ocean sunfish laying around on the surface in waters off Sonoma County. Are they legal to take? Is there a website or a listing of which fish are illegal to catch? (Anonymous)

Answer: Yes, ocean sunfish (Mola mola) may be taken by licensed recreational fishermen. While some ocean species have fishing regulations that pertain only to them (e.g. rockfish and salmon), other species do not. Species for which there are no specific regulations, such as ocean sunfish, are covered under section 27.60 on page 34 in the current Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet. The daily bag limit for species covered under section 27.60(a) is: 10 fish of any one species, with a total daily bag limit of 20 fish. This means you can take up to 10 ocean sunfish plus 10 other fish per day, for a total of 20 fish. Fish that fall under this section do not have seasons (open year-round) or size limits.

Please be aware that ocean sunfish are not a species targeted by most recreational fishermen. This species is generally not considered to be good eating. Keep in mind that it’s a violation to waste a fish after you have taken it (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.87), so you might want to research that a little more before finding yourself in possession of a large fish you don’t care to eat.

Carrying shotguns for ducks and doves at the same time
Question: You recently answered a question about having two shotguns in a duck blind. That made me wonder whether the two shotguns can be loaded with different ammo. For example, if it’s dove season, can I have a 12 gauge shotgun for ducks and keep a 20 gauge loaded with lead shot for doves? (Allen S.)

Answer: Yes, you can carry more than one gun, but while waterfowl hunting, you are required to possess only non-toxic shot regardless of the shot size. Both shotguns must be loaded with non-toxic shot.

In addition to non-toxic shot requirements for waterfowl hunting, nonlead ammunition is now required when hunting on all state wildlife areas and ecological reserves regardless of the species pursued. And when hunting during waterfowl season, hunters may only have 25 shells in the field, regardless of the difference of shot size. This means hunters on state wildlife areas are limited to non-lead and only 25 shells total for doves and ducks, combined.

For more information on the phase-out of lead ammunition for hunting in California, please visit

Corn for carp bait?
Question: Can you point me in the right direction to see the regulation regarding the use of whole corn kernels as bait, specifically for carp, but in general as well? Numerous people have told me corn is illegal to use in California, but I’ve looked through the regulations book at least four times and can’t find anything saying it’s illegal. (Tony)

Answer: The general bait regulation for inland waters says that treated and processed foods may be used as bait, and there is no prohibition on the use of corn kernels (CCR Title 14, section 4.00). This question comes up quite a bit because some states do not allow corn to be used as bait, but California does.

# # #

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

Keeping Homes Inhospitable to Nuisance Raccoons

Raccoons are illegal to keep as house pets (USFWS photo)

To prevent raccoons and other nuisance wildlife from taking up residence in and around your house and yard, your best course of action is to concentrate on making your house and yard inhospitable (USFWS photo)

Question: Raccoons come up through the culverts in our neighborhood and are causing a lot of trouble. Last year, there was one that tore a vent off our house and got in the subfloor and tore up our ducts under there. This year one of them attacked my dog in our back yard. The vet bill was very expensive. Can I trap them in live traps and have animal control euthanize them for me? (Kathy C.)

Answer: You can trap them but Animal Control may not want to euthanize them for you. Your best course of action is to concentrate on making your house and yard inhospitable. Bolster up your exterior vents and doors to prevent raccoons and other unwanted wildlife from moving in to use for cover. This also means remove all attractants (dog food, fallen fruit, koi ponds, water fountains, etc.). Even water can be an attractant, especially this year. If you do all of this but continue to have a problem, the law allows that it is legal to kill raccoons at any time when they are causing damage.

Some excellent additional information is available online from the UC Integrated Pest Management Program at

Measuring short lobsters without bringing them onboard
Question: When hoop netting for lobsters from a boat, how are we supposed to bring the nets to the surface and accurately measure the lobsters without pulling the hoop nets onboard? The law states that it is illegal to bring any undersized lobster onboard any vessel, but it is virtually impossible to measure them while hanging over the side of the boat, especially when it’s dark, there’s a swell in the ocean and the boat is bobbing up and down. I’m asking because recently a friend of mine was cited for bringing up his net and placing it on the deck of his boat so he could measure his catch. Can you please clarify this? (Miguel Z.)

Answer: Lobsters cannot be brought onboard boats or kayaks for measuring and must instead be measured at the waterline. Pull up the hoop net, step on the line and lean over and measure it … though I know, easier said than done in the dark and in rough seas.

California spiny lobsters must measure a minimum of three and one-fourth inches along a straight line on the mid-line of the back from the rear edge of the eye socket to the rear edge of the body shell. Lobsters may be brought to the surface for the purpose of measuring, but no undersize lobster may be brought aboard any boat and retained. All must be measured immediately upon being brought to the surface. Any undersize lobster must be released immediately into the water. In addition, spiny lobsters shall be kept in a whole, measurable condition, until being prepared for immediate consumption (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.90).

Transporting migratory game birds
Question: I know the rules state that while bird hunting you must leave a fully feathered wing intact until you get home. When I get back to my trailer at camp (which is considered my second home), can I remove the wings, vacuum seal the bird and freeze it, or do I have to wait until I actually get to my primary home? (Rob D.)

Answer: All birds, including migratory game birds, possessed or transported within California must have a fully feathered wing or head attached until placed into a personal abode or commercial preservation facility or until prepared for immediate consumption. Doves must have a fully feathered wing attached (CCR Title 14, section 251.7(b)).

Waterfowl and other migratory birds that are going to be transported anywhere must have a fully feathered wing or head attached (except for doves, which must have a wing attached). A trailer in camp is not your “abode.”

Selling mounted trophies
Question: I received a collection of museum-quality African game trophies in a divorce settlement and would like to sell them. I recently moved to California but the mounts are still in Alaska. They are not animals that exist in California. Can I sell them on eBay? I want to unload these animals legally. I have read the statutes. I need to know if I can work with someone in Fish and Game, show them the collection, and get their advice. Alaska Fish and Game already gave me an email saying they could be moved to California and sold. (Mary Jane S., Sacramento)

Answer: You should contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about any mounts that you would like to import to California and sell. The sale of birds or mammals found in the wild in California is prohibited by Fish and Game Code, section 3039. In addition, California Penal Code, section 653o prohibits the importation for commercial purposes, sale and possession with intent to sell a number of African wildlife species that may be in your collection.

# # #

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

Drifting for Ducks

(Photo courtesy of David A. Jones, Ducks Unlimited)

(Photo courtesy of David A. Jones, Ducks Unlimited)

Question: Is it legal to drift down or anchor a boat in a river to hunt for waterfowl? The river is in the “Balance of the State” zone and is surrounded by unincorporated privately owned farmland, with the occasional house or barn visible from the water. I know you cannot discharge a firearm within 150 yards of a dwelling or near a public road, and I know that all motors must be out of the water. Would drifting be considered forward motion? (Anonymous)

Answer: Drifting is not considered “under power.” What you describe would be legal as long as you access the river from a legal access point, and once you’re hunting, your motion is not due to momentum provided by the motor before it was turned off. You must also take into account the retrieval of the birds you take. Should you take a bird that lands on private property that you do not have the authority to access, you run the risk of a hunting trespass for retrieval, or waste of game if you do not retrieve it. Also, you need to remember not to discharge a firearm within 150 yards of an occupied dwelling, and these may be difficult to see from the river. Finally, there may be other state or local ordinances and regulations (such as no shooting zones) or other restrictions that may prevent you from hunting the section of water you want to hunt.

Importing insects?
Question: I would like to start up a business importing exotic dead insects into California to preserve and sell as curiosities. I realize that if they were alive, that’d be easy (No Bueno!), but what about dead ones? I propose to import them dead but not preserved, and then preserve them myself. Would it make a difference if I imported them already preserved? Aside from this sounding like the intro to a bad ‘50s giant bug movie, is what I am proposing to do legal? (Brent G.)

Answer: State fish and wildlife laws don’t prohibit importation or sale of insects, but there are other laws that you may need to be aware of. You should contact the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Some creatures, although dead, may still contain live eggs within. And if any of the species you propose to import are restricted species, border inspectors will not likely differentiate between whether they are dead or alive.

Compound bow fishing for sharks?
Question: Is it legal to bow hunt sharks? Someone told me a man in California took a 550 pound mako shark with a compound bow. (Robert S.)

Answer: Spears, harpoons and bow and arrow fishing tackle may be used for taking all varieties of skates, rays and sharks, except white sharks. Such gear may not be possessed or used within 100 yards of the mouth of any stream in any ocean waters north of Ventura County, nor aboard any vessel on any day or on any trip when broadbill swordfish or marlin have been taken. Bow and arrow fishing tackle may also be used to take finfish other than giant (black) sea bass, garibaldi, gulf grouper, broomtail grouper, trout, salmon, broadbill swordfish and white shark (California Code of Regulations, Title 14, section 28.95).

Regarding crossbows, under hunting regulations, a crossbow is not considered archery equipment. But under fishing regulations, crossbows may be used for bow and arrow fishing tackle. It does not matter what type of bow or crossbow is used under legal bow and arrow fishing, but a line is required to be attached to the bow and the arrow/bolt (CCR, Title 14, section 1.23).

Carrying rifles through a game refuge?
Question: How do I legally travel through a wildlife game refuge on the way to hunting on the other side of the refuge? With bolt action rifles, we take the bolt out so that it’s not a functioning gun anymore. What about with a lever action gun? How can we legally cross through the game refuge? (Erin)

Answer: The possession of firearms is not prohibited “when traveling through any game refuges when the firearms are taken apart or encased and unloaded. When the traveling is done on a route other than a public highway or other public thoroughfare or right of way, notice shall be given to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) at least 24 hours before that traveling. The notice shall give the name and address of the person intending to travel through the refuge, the name of the refuge, the approximate route, and the approximate time when that person intends to travel through the refuge” (Fish and Game Code, section 10506).

# # #

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

Diving and Spearfishing without a Fishing License

Diver with a California spiny lobster (CDFW photo by Derek Stein)

Diver with a California spiny lobster (CDFW photo by Derek Stein)

Question: I live within 500 yards of the point of entry where I go spearfishing. Does that mean that, according to section 7145, I can just keep my fishing license and lobster report cards at home since they’re within the 500-yard limit? I’m about 200 yards or so from the reef where I dive. (Raf C.)

Answer: Lucky you! When fishing and/or taking lobster, you are required to have your license and spiny lobster report card on your person or in your immediate possession. If diving from a boat, they may be kept in the boat, or if diving from shore, they may be kept within 500 yards of the shore (Fish and Game Code, section 7145(a)). In your case, if your license and report card are located 200 yards from shore (where you enter the water), then you’re OK. Don’t forget that prior to your dive you need to record the month, day, location and gear code on the report card. And when you return, you will have to fill in the number of lobster you kept from that location.

Hunting blinds on public property
Question: I am a hunter myself and while walking on a closed road recently, I noticed someone had built a hunting blind about 25-30 yards off the road with tarps, boards and sticks from the surrounding woods. Can a person legally build a hunting blind in the woods on public hunting grounds and then continue to fix it up to use each year? And if that blind is vacant and not being used, can the person who built the blind claim it as his own or is it first come first serve? (Anonymous)

Answer: It is not legal for someone to build a structure and then leave it on public land. That could be considered littering as well as destruction of public property if public resources are damaged in the process. Thus, your follow up question about whether the blind builder can claim ownership is a moot point.

Abalone diving with homemade snorkel
Question: I made my own snorkel using a flexible hose that is about five feet long. No air supplying motor or any device is attached to it. It’s just a long flexible hose with a check valve in it. If I use it while abalone diving, would I be in violation of any regulations? I am aware of the regulation prohibiting the use of SCUBA gear or surface-supplied air. (Chris L.)

Answer: Although this would be legal, using this type of snorkel would be very dangerous because you must be able to displace used air in your snorkel. You could be seriously harmed from breathing from a long snorkel because the air volume in the snorkel makes it difficult to displace exhaled air. Rebreathing used air can cause death or great bodily harm to a diver. This is why you do not see longer snorkels sold by dive shops.

Fishing in isolated ponds
Question: As our creeks dry up, ponds are formed, with some of them at the road culverts. Is it legal to fish these ponds with a pole, by hand or a dip net? (Jeanne G., Portola)

Answer: In intermittent streams like you describe, what appear to be ponds are actually isolated pools. Although not apparent during the dry season, water may still be flowing, out of sight, under the streambed surface. This is often called “intragravel flow.” Because a creek is still a stream and not actually a pond or lake, the same regulations for the stream will still apply. Fish can only be taken from these waters under the regulations currently applicable for that stream, including seasons, limits, methods of take, etc. To view the current sport fishing regulations for inland waters, please go to or pick up a copy of the booklet wherever fishing licenses are sold.

Selling deer hides
Question: I’m a hide tanner and recently asked a butcher about getting deer hides from him. He was worried about giving them to me because he seemed to think that I would need to have a deer tag for every deer hide. Can you tell me what the legalities are concerning deer hides? I would like to make use of the hides that are being thrown away. Also, do you know of any deer hide sources for me? (David C.)

Answer: It is legal to buy and sell (or gift) lawfully taken deer hides (FGC, section 4303). The person receiving the hides is not required to have a hunting license or tag. However, it’s a good idea for both parties involved to keep records of the transactions to protect against false accusations that the hides were acquired illegally.

# # #

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 Ocean Pinnacles?

(NOAA photo)

Offshore pinnacle (NOAA photo)

Question: I have a question regarding fishing offshore banks and pinnacles for rockfish. The regulations state fishing in the Southern Management Area is allowed on the shoreward side of the 60 fathom (360 ft.) depth contour. Does this mean any water shallower than the specified depth contour? For example, there are offshore banks where the pinnacle of the bank is in water less than 360 ft. deep, but there is technically no “shoreward side” of this depth contour. Is fishing for groundfish on offshore banks allowed as long as the depth restrictions are met? (Logan M.)

Answer: No. You can only fish shoreward of the 60 fathom (360 ft.) depth contour line, even if there are banks or pinnacles beyond that are shallower than the depth limit on the ocean side of the depth contour line. You are required to stay on the shoreward side of depth limit lines when fishing for groundfish.

Depth constraints are defined one of two ways. During the open season, groundfish species may only be taken or possessed in water depths shallower than the specified depth (per California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 27.20(a)):

In waters shallower than 30 fathoms, “depth” is defined by general depth contour lines. In waters equal to or deeper than 30 fathoms, “depth” is defined by approximating a particular depth contour by connecting the appropriate set of waypoints adopted in federal regulations (50 Code of Federal Regulations Part 660, Subpart C).

When fishing in waters shoreward of lines approximating the 60-fathom depth contour, since the depth is equal to or deeper than 30 fathoms, the waypoints provided in federal regulations will need to be used to determine the depth contour line (CCR Title 14, section 27.45(b).

Land ownership tags?
Question: After 15 years of active military service my family and I are moving to Lassen County. How many acres of land do I need to own in order to apply for land ownership deer tags? (Shawn M.)

Answer: Cooperative Deer Hunting Area landowner tags are available for owners of land encompassing not less than a total of 5,000 acres, of which each individual landowner within that 5,000 acres must own a minimum of 640 acres to qualify. These are areas of private land located within critical deer habitat as determined by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) in deer quota zones that require public drawings (CCR Title 14, section 360).

Cooperative Deer Hunting Areas are designed to encourage the protection and enhancement of critical deer habitat, to provide added protection to landowners from depredations of trespassers and to provide greater access for the public to hunt on privately owned or controlled lands. CDFW may establish cooperative hunting areas and issue permits for the take of deer as specified subject to the conditions listed above (CCR Title 14, section 554).

Another option is the Private Lands Management (PLM) program where tags are issued to landholders. Under this program, CDFW offers landowners incentives to manage their lands for the benefit of wildlife. Landowners who enroll in this “ranching for wildlife” program consult with wildlife biologists to make biologically sound habitat improvements that benefit wildlife (by providing water sources, planting native plants for food, making brush piles for cover, etc). This partnership between wildlife managers and private landowners helps conserve and maintain wildlife habitat in our state.

For application forms and to learn more about these programs, please go to and

Freshwater boat limits?
Question: If two of us are fishing for black bass from my boat in the Delta, do I have to stop fishing for black bass if I have reached my limit even though my partner has not? I couldn’t find anything about boat limits in the freshwater fishing regulations booklet. (Kin N.)

Answer: At this point, you must stop fishing for black bass but you can change your gear to target other species. Boat limits apply only in the ocean waters, not in the Delta or freshwater systems. Ocean waters are defined as the ocean and San Francisco and San Pablo bays, plus all their tidal bays, tidal portions of their rivers and streams, sloughs and estuaries between the Golden Gate Bridge and Carquinez Bridge (Fish and Game Code, section 195(e) and CCR Title 14, section 27.00).

Shotgun capacity for coyotes
Question: What is the shotgun magazine capacity while hunting coyotes? (Matt A.)

Answer: Only shotguns capable of holding no more than six rounds may be possessed or used for the take of any mammal or bird (FGC, section 2010). Therefore, the maximum shotgun magazine capacity for hunting nongame species, such as coyote, is six. When hunting game species, the limit is three rounds. Remember that in the Condor Zone and on state wildlife areas, the ammunition in the shotgun must be certified as nonlead.

# # #

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

Legal Hitchhiking?

(CDFW Photo by Athena Maguire)

Lingcod hitchhiking on a rockfish caught on a shrimp fly (CDFW Photo by Athena Maguire)

Question: If I am using a legal shrimp fly rig to fish in California waters for rockfish and a legal-sized lingcod bites and holds onto an otherwise legal-sized rockfish, can I legally gaff and possess that legal-sized hitchhiking lingcod? I am assuming the lingcod has not been hooked in the mouth on my shrimp fly rig, but has merely bitten and held on to the rockfish all the way to the surface. Would this be legal? (James O. Peterson)

Answer: Yes. The take of “hitchhiking” lingcod with a gaff is legal as long as the fish is of legal size. Gaff hooks cannot be used to take or assist in landing any finfish shorter than the minimum sizes limit. Gaffs also cannot be used to take salmon, steelhead, sturgeon or striped bass.

What does new mandatory deer hunt reporting mean for hunters?
Question: I’ve noticed the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) are now requiring all deer hunters to report their deer tags. Every person who is issued a deer tag must submit a report for the tag either online or by mail after the hunt, even if they did not hunt or did not harvest a deer. Does this new regulation mean that mandatory validation of all deer tags by an authorized individual is no longer the case? If not, why? Doesn’t mandatory reporting cover all circumstances, except for the poacher types? Given that we are required to participate in more and more validation reports, is it possible that down the line this information will be used to close a zone or severely limit tag numbers? Will more and more zones be transformed into draw only, such as what occurred with the B zone a few years ago? (Bill A.)

Answer: The reporting regulation did nothing to change validation requirements. Hunters have always been allowed to transport deer from the kill site to where it’s going to be validated and the tag must still be validated. Many folks are authorized to validate deer tags (see the current California Mammal Hunting Regulations booklet, pp. 2-13 for full list), but if one of those people are not available, the online reporting system will provide a number to at least prove that the tag has been reported.

According to CDFW Wildlife Programs Manager Craig Stowers, this is a harvest report (not a “validation report”). Successful deer hunters have always been required to report their take. However, due to hunter failure to report, tags picked up in the field and never sent in for processing, or even losses in the mail, we know darn well that we don’t get all the successful take reports.

Harvest information is an important component of population estimates, so you are partially correct in that this information is used to set tag quotas. California’s deer populations are stable, but given the high demand for tags, it is highly likely we will see more zones go to draws in the future. There is no system we could design and implement that will allow deer hunters to get any tag they want, whenever they want.

Here’s one example of how the harvest report system could help deer hunters: calculations of the hunter success ratios that so many hunters seem to use to make their hunt selections. Many hunters get tags they don’t use, but we used to include those hunters in the success calculations. This reporting system gives us a handle on that so we can provide tighter, better information than we ever have before.

Two anglers sharing one rod?
Question: If there are two guys with fishing licenses and they are fishing from shore, is it legal for them to share one fishing pole between them? If so, can both anglers continue fishing until they both get their limits of fish? (Kong C.)

Answer: This would be legal, but CDFW recommends that each angler have their own bags or stringers for the fish they catch in order to keep them separate. It is not legal for one person to catch their limit and then to continue fishing to help their friend get their limit. If each person keeps their own fish separate, there will be no confusion if asked by a warden to display the fish they’ve caught.

Eotech or red dot sights?
Question: Can I legally hunt deer in California with my Eotech Holographic sight on a rifle? Since it has a lighted dot but does not project a visible light outside of the viewfinder, I assume it would be legal but want to be sure. (Ken M., Redding)

Answer: As long as the sight does not emit a directional beam of light, then it may be used (Fish and Game Code, section 2005). The problem comes when a light is emitted out away from the rifle or bow sight to give the hunter what some would consider an unfair advantage over the game. A light might also substantially contribute to hunting before or after legal hours.

# # #

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

Is Boat Captain Responsible for Illegal Acts of Passengers?

Private boatQuestion: A friend of mine took some of his friends’ parents on his boat to go rock picking for abalone. Unknown to my friend, some of the parents picked extra abs and chose the biggest three of the lot to keep. It was clearly illegal and they were cited when they got back to the docks.

Since my friend was just transporting people out to the spot where they could find abalone, was he responsible for what they did once they got off his boat after rock picking? He doesn’t want his boat blacklisted. (Craig)

Answer: Typically, someone in your friend’s situation would not be cited for the violations of the passengers, especially if there is no question of who possessed the abalone. However, if the passengers claimed the abalone were not theirs, or if there were overlimits on board, an officer could cite everyone on the boat for jointly possessing the abalone. In this case, each person who violated the law was responsible for their specific violation. As far as the boat being “blacklisted,” the warden who made the case may pay special attention to this boat in the future because of the actions that took place in the past.

The best advice for your friend is to be educated on the fishing laws that pertain to the activity his passengers are engaging in, and to share this knowledge with the people on his boat.

What’s my recourse for wasted game citation?
Question: Yesterday I was cited for wasted game. My son and I were hunting Eurasian dove at a local feed lot in Southern California. I was approached by the wardens who did all of the normal checks, told us they were watching us from afar, then asked us if we had dropped any birds we didn’t retrieve. I said yes, one in a stagnant pond and one in amongst a herd of cows, which I tried to retrieve but the bird was wounded and flopped away into another pen. He asked why I didn’t retrieve it and I told him I’m broke (bad knees) and couldn’t get through the nasty stuff in the pens. I then sent my son in to push his way through the cows and he retrieved the bird for me in front of the warden. The warden checked to see that it was a Euro, which it was, I put it in my game bag and he still cited me for it. What if any recourse do I have when I go to court? (Jim R., Lake Elsinore)

Answer: Just tell the judge your story. However, since you shot these birds without making sure you were doing so in a location where you could retrieve them, and because your intention had been to let them lay where they landed because they were too difficult to go after, you did intend to leave them where they ended up … that’s “wanton waste” or “wasted game.”

Using a pressure washer to dig up clams?
Question: Can I use a pressure washer to dig geoduck and/or gaper clams? (Vuong M.)

Answer: No. Clams may be taken only on hook and line or with the hands. The only special provisions allowed are for the use of spades, shovels, hoes, rakes or other appliances operated by hand, except spears or gaff hooks (CCR Title 14, sections 29.10(a) and 29.20(c)). Pressure washers are not a legal method of take for mollusks.

Capture and keep rattlesnakes as pets?
Question: Is it legal to capture and keep rattlesnakes as a pet? I know it’s not smart, but is it legal? (Phil C.)

Answer: Yes, except for the red diamond rattlesnake where no take is allowed – so be sure you can identify your snakes! Before collecting anything, you should first check with your local animal control agency and police or sheriff regarding whether any local ordinances apply in your area. Under state law, all pit vipers (except for the five other California native rattlesnakes listed in California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 671(c)(7)(E)) are restricted species that may not be possessed without a permit. Keeping live, native rattlesnakes (except for the red diamond) is not prohibited by Fish and Game laws. No license is required to take or kill other rattlesnakes in California, but the daily bag and possession limit is two. The take of other species of reptiles and amphibians for pets requires possession of a sport fishing license. The daily bag and possession limits are provided in CCR Title 14, sections 5.05 and 5.60. And if you live with the city limits, you might want to check your city ordinances to determine whether possession of a venomous reptile is allowed.

# # #

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