Category Archives: Saltwater Fishing

What’s the Level of Wildlife Officers’ Search Authority?

CDFW Wildlife Officers have broad search authority. Hunters and anglers are required by law to exhibit upon demand all licenses, tags, wildlife, fish, and any device or apparatus designed to be, and capable of being, used to take fish and/or wildlife.

CDFW Wildlife Officers have broad search authority. People are required by law to exhibit upon demand all licenses, tags, wildlife, fish, and any device or apparatus designed to be, and capable of being, used to take fish and/or wildlife (CDFW photo)

Question: Do California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) wardens have the authority to search a sportsperson’s truck, boat, cooler, etc. without a warrant or probable cause? If so, how would an abalone check point (for example) not be a blatant violation of the Fourth Amendment of the constitution? I’m all for stopping poachers, but not at the cost of violating what makes our country so special. Thanks. (John McClellan)

Answer: In the hunting and fishing context, wildlife officers are authorized to conduct compliance inspections that would likely require warrants or probable cause in other contexts. Hunting and fishing are highly regulated activities. The fish and wildlife belong to the people of the state and not to any individual. Many states, including California, recognize this and have enacted statutes to allow Wildlife Officers to conduct regulatory inspections when interacting with those who are engaged in hunting and fishing activities. Some of these include:

• Authorization to inspect boats, buildings other than dwellings, and containers that may contain fish or wildlife (Fish and Game Code, section 1006)

• Authorization to “enter and examine any…place of business where fish or other fishery products are packed, preserved, manufactured, bought or sold, or to board any fishing boat…or vehicle or receptacle containing fish…and may examine any books and records containing any account of fish caught, bought, canned, packed, stored or sold.” (Fish and Game Code, section 7702)

Also, people are required to exhibit upon the demand of a wildlife officer all licenses, tags, wildlife, and any device or apparatus designed to be, and capable of being, used to take wildlife (Fish and Game Code, section 2012)

The courts have consistently upheld these inspection authorities. As for check points, CDFW has used check points for the past 25 years as a focused and effective means of educating resource users and deterring violations of our wildlife laws. In a state as vast as California with a population of over 38 million people and with a staff of only 400 sworn officers, CDFW needs to ensure that the funds and manpower resources we have are put to the most efficient use possible. Conducting checkpoints allows us to contact thousands of people who are using our public trust resources with a handful of officers. For those who are not using our public trust resources, the check points provide us an opportunity to educate them about our state’s wildlife resources and our role in protecting those resources. The courts have established minimum standards that must be followed when we conduct checkpoints, but just like DUI checkpoints, wildlife checkpoints have been upheld by the courts.


Helping friends fill their deer tags?
Question: If a group of friends go hunting for a week, and one of the hunters tags a buck on the first day, can he continue to carry his loaded rifle with him and help his friends fill their tags? If not, can he only help with spotting and drives without a weapon? (Rod P., Napa)

Answer: Once a hunter takes a deer and fills his tag, he may accompany other hunters but cannot assist them in any way in the take of additional deer. In addition, he should leave his rifle behind. Otherwise, if encountered in the field with a rifle or other method of take, wildlife officers may determine the person assisting the hunters is also actively hunting.


Fishing for rockfish and fishing crab snares simultaneously?
Question: Can a kayak/boat angler use one line to take rockfish and then fish a crab snare with another line? In this case, a hand line tied off to his kayak? (Anonymous)

Answer: The law requires that when fishing for rockfish, only one line with no more than two hooks may be used. However, in this case, an angler may also fish for crabs at the same time with a line that attaches to a crab loop trap because these traps will not likely catch rockfish. If approached by a wildlife officer, the angler should be prepared to explain up front that only one line contains two hooks for rockfish and the other line is attached to a crab loop trap. Remember that crab loop traps are restricted to six loops.


Pelagic red crabs
Question: The pelagic red crabs (tuna crabs) are drifting in with the warm El Niño waters and washing up on beaches everywhere. I’d like to use them for bait. Are there any regulations to be aware of? (Andrew S.)

Answer: The limit is 35 pelagic red crabs per day and 35 in possession. There are no size limits and they may be taken only by hand.

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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.

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 www.pierfishing.com. A guide that shows the differences between the crab species is available online at www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/dungeness_crab.asp#cancroid.

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 www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/invertebrate/crabs.asp.


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 CalOutdoors@wildlife.ca.gov.

Bowfishing from a Moving Vehicle?

Bowfishing for carp in Big Bear Lake (Photo courtesy of John Poimiroo)

Bowfishing for carp in Big Bear Lake is one of the methods used by water managers to help control the growing invasive carp population. Big Bear is also a popular lake for bowfishing anglers and carp fishing derbies. (Photo courtesy of John Poimiroo)

Question: I get stopped and questioned by officers fairly often while bowfishing. I have been trying to find out more information about the bowfishing regulations but the freshwater sport fishing guide is unclear to me. Is it legal to bowfish from a moving vehicle, like from the bed of a pickup? Is it legal to bowfish in the California Aqueduct or State Water Project? I was told by an officer that it was not. (Justin F.)

Answer: No arrow or crossbow bolt may be released from a bow or crossbow upon or across any highway, road or other way open to vehicular traffic (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 354(e)). In addition, no person may nock or fit the notch in the end of an arrow to a bowstring or crossbow string in a ready-to-fire position while in or on any vehicle (CCR Title 14, section 354(i)).

Regarding where and what you may take while bowfishing, “bow and arrow fishing is permitted only for the taking of carp, goldfish, western sucker, Sacramento blackfish, hardhead, Sacramento pikeminnow and lamprey, all year, except in:

• Designated salmon spawning areas (Fish and Game Code, section 1505).

• The Colorado River District where only carp, tilapia, goldfish and mullet may be taken.

• The east fork of the Walker River between Bridgeport Dam and the Nevada state line where only carp may be taken” (CCR Title 14, section 2.25).

Bullfrogs may also be taken by bowfishing under some conditions (CCR Title 14, section 5.05).


Hunting on an Indian reservation?
Question: The Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT) Reservation is in deer zone D12 along the Colorado River. D12 maps show that all of this land is legal to hunt with a California hunting license and deer tags right up to the Colorado River. Can I legally hunt on CRIT Reservation land because it is within California D12, or should I stay away from reservation land? (Anonymous)

Answer: A person who is not a tribal member and wishes to hunt on the CRIT Reservation would have to comply with both California and tribal law, which requires a hunting license issued by the CRIT in addition to a California hunting license and deer tag. You should contact the CRIT’s Fish and Game Department and consult the CRIT Natural Resources Code for further information about hunting on this Reservation. CRIT contact information and the CRIT Natural Resources Code is available at http://www.crit-nsn.gov/.


Rules on drones in Marine Protected Areas?
Question: What are the rules regarding drones? Specifically, are there any regulations regarding flying drones in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)? (Jeanée Natov)

Answer: It is a violation to fly any aircraft, including any airplane or helicopter, less than 1,000 feet above water or land over the Año Nuevo State Reserve, the Farallon Islands Game Refuge, the Point Lobos State Reserve, the California Sea Otter Game Refuge, and Anacapa, San Miguel, Santa Barbara and San Nicolas Islands, except for rescue operations, in case of any emergency, or for scientific or filmmaking purposes under a permit issued by the department after a review of potential biological impacts (Fish and Game Code, section 10501.5).

Federal regulators of the FAA and NOAA also restrict the use of drones. Flying motorized aircraft (except valid law enforcement) is prohibited less than 1000 ft. above any of the four zones of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary which are listed in Appendix B (Code of Federal Regulations Title 15, section 922.132(a)(6)). Individuals should consult the MPA- specific regulations in section 632 of Title 14 for special restrictions for individual MPAs. There may be additional regulations prohibiting disturbance of nesting and rafting birds offshore that are covered under federal law.


Firearm for self defense during archery season?
Question: During an archery hunt, can a member of your group who is a licensed hunter, but does not have a deer tag, be in possession of a firearm strictly for self-defense? I will be archery hunting for the first time this year and I plan to travel into the backcountry on foot. A friend who will be coming with me has always had reservations about traveling in bear/mountain lion habitat unarmed due to some unfortunate run-ins in his past. (Kevin K.)

Answer: If it helps put you at greater ease, dangerous encounters by hunters with bears and lions are extraordinarily rare. As long as the person is not hunting with archery equipment, does not have a tag, and is simply accompanying you, then he may carry a firearm. You must be in a location where it is legal to carry a firearm, and your friend cannot assist in the take in any way.

With limited exceptions for active or retired peace officers, archery hunters may not possess a firearm while hunting in the field during any archery season, or while hunting during a general season under the provisions of an archery-only tag (CCR Title 14, section 354(h)).

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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.

Shouldn’t Wildlife Officers Display Badges?

Anglers fishing along the popular Owens River during the Eastern Sierra Trout Opener weekend (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Anglers fishing in the popular Owens River Valley during the Eastern Sierra trout opener weekend (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: During the 2015 Eastern Sierra Trout Opener, I was checked three times by California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) wardens for license and barbless hooks. I was in compliance each time. On the three contacts the wardens were wearing jackets and hats that did not have any CDFW insignias or badges on them. On two occasions the wardens stated that they were wardens and I could see radio and gun holsters sticking out from under their jackets. They did not show me any credentials or badge. On the other contact the warden pulled open his jacket collar and showed me his lieutenant bars.

My question is what citizen rights do I have to ask to see a badge or credential during a contact, and what is the policy of CDFW for displaying and showing proper credentials when making a contact, not just telling me he’s a warden? I understand the need to be “undercover” before making a contact, but once the contact is made I think more than just saying you are a warden would be necessary. After the third contact where the warden showed me lieutenant bars, this lack of identification was getting a little old and I believe unprofessional. I had no way of identifying these wardens by name or badge number. (Michael M.)

Answer: You have every right to ask to see their credentials. As I’m sure you know, the Eastern Sierra Trout Opener is a very popular event that draws tens of thousands of anglers to the area during that weekend, and you were fishing in a high contact area, so it’s not unusual that you were contacted by wildlife officers, even multiple times. And because that area is so open and highly visible, and because people are easily seen from a long distance away, wildlife officers often wear a cover shirt over their uniforms and a fishing hat to better blend in and look like another angler so that they can more easily watch everyone without being immediately detected. Our goal is to encourage compliance even when anglers don’t see a wildlife officer in the area.

However, if you were uncomfortable with the contact(s) because you could not be sure the person really was a wildlife officer, by all means, you have the right to ask them, or any peace officer who is contacting you in a law enforcement capacity, for their identification. That is definitely a reasonable request and the wildlife officer should not mind showing you their credentials upon request.

By the way, I spoke to the wildlife officer who likely contacted you (at least one of the times!). He welcomed your comments and wanted me to encourage you to request to see his credentials next time and he will be happy to show them to you.


Rifle silencers for a hunter with substantial hearing loss?
Question: I have substantial hearing loss and my doctor recommended surgery to correct my problem. The issue is that my hearing will be very sensitive to noise afterwards and so shooting a rifle could actually damage it greatly. I am wondering if, when hunting, can an exception be made to allow me to use a silencer on my rifle? (Carlos)

Answer: Unfortunately, the answer is no. It is a felony to possess silencers, except for law enforcement and military purposes (California Penal Code, section 33410). Your best bet is to wear hearing protection while hunting. There are many choices out there and some actually enhance your ability to hear ambient noise while minimizing any loud noises, such as gunshots. Wildlife officers use this type of hearing protection during firearms training.


Ab in a Cab?
Question: I found a sub-legal abalone shell in the stomach of a legally caught cabezon. Is a small abalone shell like this legal to possess? My wife likes it and I want her to know it’s legal to possess. (Ken K.)

Answer: Yes!


How many fishing rods in possession at one time?
Question: How many fishing rods can be in one’s possession? I have a second rod stamp but want to know if I can carry more than two rods with me? Although I may be on foot fishing from the bank, I see anglers on the bass tourney TV shows fishing while still having several rods on their boats. What advice do you have? (Joe P., Red Bluff)

Answer: The number of rods in your possession is not the issue, it is the number of lines that you have in the water fishing at one time. You may have as many rods as you wish in your possession – just make sure to use only the number allowed for the species of fish or for the particular waters that you’re fishing.

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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.

Is a Fish Caught on Another Angler’s Line Legal to Keep?

(USFWS photo)

(USFWS photo)

Question: I am hoping you can resolve a question that came up in one of our recent fishing club meetings. On a recent trip to Lake Isabella, I caught a very nice rainbow trout (18 inches long!). The way it was caught is the subject of debate within our club. I was fishing on a pontoon boat and when I landed the fish, it wasn’t on my hook. Apparently, the fish had been hooked by someone else previously, and broke off. I don’t know who or when, but when I reeled the fish in it had a couple of feet of the previous fishing line, with a hook and split shot still attached to it. The previous angler’s hook was still hooked into the fish’s mouth. Somehow the split shot and old line became tangled in my tackle. The fish was landed after a brief fight, netted and added to my bag limit. The question is: Is this considered a legally caught fish? We await your response. (Luiz D.)

Answer: No fish may be retained that did not voluntarily take the bait or lure into its mouth (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 2.00(c)). Although you accidentally snagged the broken off line from a previous angler, you may have saved that fish from an otherwise slow death. If that old line had instead gotten hung up on a rock or bush, preventing the fish from freely moving around, the fish could have died of a lack of gill movement or starvation. Since your fish had taken an angler’s bait or lure into its mouth, it was legal to keep. The intention of angling is that the fish take a hook in its mouth, and this was accomplished.

If you had instead snagged this fish by impaling or attempting to impale it in any part of its body other than the mouth by use of a hook, hooks, gaff, or other mechanical implements, this would have been illegal (CCR Title 14, section 2.00(b)). This does not include the lawful use of a gaff to land the fish.


Which firearms and ammo can be used for night hunting?
Question: I am having trouble finding a specific section related to which firearms you are allowed to hunt with at night. Word of mouth has always been that only rimfire rifles and shotguns may be used at night. I know that in other states you can use a regular centerfire rifle so I am wondering if we can also use them here. If not, are we only allowed rimfire and shotguns? Also, are there any exceptions for mounting a flashlight to a gun? (Taylor F.)

Answer: If you are in an area where night hunting is legal, you may only take nongame mammals and furbearers. Night hunting is restricted to the method of take allowed for these animals (under CCR Title 14, section 475). You are not restricted related to the use of rimfire, centerfire, or shotgun, except you may only use and possess non lead ammunition in the condor zone and while hunting on all state-owned lands.

For regulations on the use of lights, please check the California Mammal Hunting Regulations booklet (CCR Title 14, section 264 on page 18 and Fish and Game Code, section 2005 on page 20).


Why is abalone season closing during July?
Question: Just curious, why is abalone season closed in July? (Ashton H.)

Answer: The July break in abalone season was instituted to help conserve the resource. Originally, a two-month summer closure was proposed for the recreational abalone season, but it was reduced to one month – July – to avoid the possible negative economic impacts on North Coast areas that rely on tourism. Because weather and ocean conditions are usually better in July, and many people take vacations and visit the North Coast at that time, July was chosen as the summer month to give abalone a “break” from the heavy take that occurs during the summer. This measure is to help California’s red abalone population remain a healthy resource.


Where’s the best beach to watch a grunion run?
Question: Where is the best beach to take my son to in Southern California to see the grunion? I realize it’s a bit of a guess but I would really like him to see them. Do you have any educated guesses? (Jeffrey D.H.)

Answer: You are correct that it really is anyone’s guess where grunion will run ashore since just about any sandy beach in Southern California is fair game to the grunion! But, for a list of known grunion beaches, please visit our Amazing Grunion web page at www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/grunion.asp#hunter (look under Best Locations). Best of luck! I hope you and your son are able to see a grunion run!

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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.

Koi-Eating Heron Needs a New Home

Great Blue Heron (USFWS photo)

Great Blue Heron (USFWS photo)

Question: We live in Valley Center (north San Diego County) and had a koi pond with 75 koi. We now have maybe 20 koi. There’s a huge great blue heron that is eating the koi daily. Is there a way for Fish and Wildlife to rehome this bird so that we can save our koi? (Julie Wright)

Answer: Unfortunately, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) does not remove or rehome great blue herons. They are federally protected. Your best bet will be to haze the bird by non-lethal methods and discourage it from hanging around. Try putting wire around and over the top of your pond to keep the heron from easily picking off your remaining fish.

Your fish may also be disappearing due to other unwanted predators. Koi are very enticing menu favorites for a number of other small backyard visitors, including domestic cats and raccoons. Unfortunately, when various small backyard wildlife become nuisance visitors, such as koi-stealing raccoons, or possums under houses, or squirrels in attics, or rattlesnakes in your garage, etc., CDFW cannot usually assist with removal/relocation. For all of these types of animals you would need to contact a pest management company for assistance, or visit UC Integrated Pest Management website for guidance. Their website is www.ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/.

Back to the great blue heron, the USFWS provides guidance and permits for birds causing property damage. This is a common problem at larger live fish facilities, private hatcheries and aquaculture facilities. Check their website at www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/mbpermits.html.


Estimating distance from shore
Question: I have a question that’s a bit off the wall. If I am on the water, how can I accurately estimate when I am around one mile from shore? Assuming great visibility, if I am on a boat and standing 10-20 feet above sea level and I have 8x binoculars, how can I tell if I am less than or more than one mile from shore? I seem to recall someone saying to estimate half to horizon and then half of that. Does that sound correct? (Craig N.)

Answer: Because of swell conditions, it would be nearly impossible to estimate the distance from shore in the method you describe. The most reliable method would be to use a GPS or plotter. You can also use a compass pointed toward known locations on land and triangulate your position fairly accurately on a chart.


Abalone scouting before start time?
Question: I know I cannot start picking abalone until 8 a.m. I usually get to my spot around 7:30 a.m. If I leave all my gear on the beach, can I search the rocks to locate any abs that might be legal, mark the spots with my gloves and then at 8 a.m. go back and get them? Thanks for your assistance. (Larry P., Paradise)

Answer: Abalone may be taken only from 8 a.m. to one half hour after sunset. Take is defined as to “hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill, or attempt to hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill (Fish and Game Code, section 86). Searching and locating abalone prior to 8 a.m. as you describe is prohibited because it would fall within this definition of take.


When friends share in a hunt, does everyone need licenses and tags?
Question: Let’s say I plan to go hunting during the regular season and want to bring a friend or family member along, but I’m the only one who actually plans on taking game. Additionally, let’s say that I am the only one in possession of a firearm or archery equipment. Does everyone in my group need to have a hunting license and tag? If no, am I the only one in the group who needs both a license and a tag, and everyone else is okay with just a license? (Jeffrey Y.)

Answer: No one else in your group will need licenses or tags as long as they are only observing and are not carrying a method of take with them.

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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.

Late 8 a.m. Start Time for Abalone Unfair

Red abalone feeding on kelp at San Miguel Island (CDFW photo by Derek Stein)

Red abalone feeding on kelp at San Miguel Island (CDFW photo by Derek Stein)

Question: Just a note (complaint) … the start time of 8 a.m. for abalone is very, very unfair. The two lowest tides of the year are in May and June, and you just eliminated them. Rock pickers are put into a shorter collection time and can make even more hurried decisions to take an under-size ab off a rock. You are punishing all rock pickers and putting them in danger by forcing them to dive for abs when they are not good divers (thus, in danger of drowning). The 8 a.m. rule does not adversely affect the divers at all. You already closed off way over half the state of California. There is no way that abalone hunters can wipe out the abalone population. I go rock picking for abalone with six others and we all share these thoughts. (Fred M., San Francisco).

Answer: The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) made recommendations to the Fish and Game Commission (Commission) to reduce the take of abalone because recent scuba surveys had shown lower numbers of abalone at popular abalone sites, particularly in Sonoma County.

According to CDFW Marine Environmental Scientist Jerry Kashiwada, the current Abalone Recovery and Management Plan (ARMP) recommends a 25 percent reduction in the take of abalone when the density (number of abalone in a standard area) reaches the low levels seen in the most recent surveys. Density in the Fort Ross area was so low it reached an ARMP “trigger” for closure to allow the abalone population to recover.

Abalone rock pickers

Abalone rock pickers (CDFW photo by K. Joe)

The Commission had a choice between the 8 a.m. start time, reduction of daily limit to two abalone, reduction of the limit on the abalone card, reduction of the season (more closed months), reduction of take for Sonoma and Marin counties or some combination those proposed changes.

The 8 a.m. start time was initially proposed by CDFW wildlife officers who had been seeing large numbers of rock pickers at all low tides and believed that segment of the fishery was unsustainable. The officers observed rock pickers were taking more time to find legal limits, were less likely to get a limit and were removing and returning more short abalone, many of which were unlikely to survive the handling. The later start time also helps officers by eliminating predawn fishing hours when the light is too dim to observe violations. The effect of the new start time was estimated using data from returned abalone report cards, but the actual effect is unknown since it depended on whether many people would shift to later hours. Data from abalone cards returned this year will provide a clearer picture of the effects of the regulation changes.

The timing of low tides is variable from year to year and while the 8:00 a.m. start reduces the number of low tides available, there usually are some days with suitable tides. The lower numbers of abalone being taken by rock pickers may make it easier to find abalone at higher tide levels than in the past. The activities of sport fishermen might not be sufficient to cause extinction of abalone species but they can reduce abalone populations to the point that the abalone are spaced so far apart that their chances of reproducing are very low. At low abalone population levels, many people might stop participating in the fishery because it is too difficult to find abalone. Reducing abalone populations to low levels also makes them more vulnerable to events like the 2011 die-off that affected abalone in much of Sonoma County.

CDFW is currently in the process of developing a Red Abalone Fishery Management Plan and revising sections of the ARMP. For more information, please visit the CDFW Invertebrate Management Project website.


Can a non-hunter carry an unloaded shotgun when with other hunters?
Question: While hunting on a game bird club, can a non-licensed, non-hunter carry an unloaded shotgun while walking with other hunters? (Anonymous)

Answer: While it may not technically violate the law for you to carry an unloaded shotgun without a license, by doing this with others who have ammunition and are taking game, it will likely generate many questions by the wildlife officer contacting you in the field. Whether or not you have a hunting license is not an element of “take.” You may argue you are not taking game, but the officer has sufficient evidence to prove you are. Do you really want to put yourself through the hassle of going to court? Leave the firearm behind if you want to go with your buddies while they are taking game.

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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.