Category Archives: Saltwater Fishing

How to Get to Shore when Boat Fishing is Closed?

Kayak fishing1

Kayak fishing (Creative Commons photo)

Question: I’m aware that during the non-boat rockfish season (i.e., winter/spring), anglers are required to either fish from shore or spearfish for these species. My question is in regard to whether using a boat to access an on-shore fishing spot is acceptable. Specifically, can I use my boat or kayak to reach a good shore fishing location, fish from shore and catch my fish, then get back in the boat for the ride home? I wouldn’t be fishing from the boat, but instead using it to transport me to my shore fishing location. Thanks for your help. (Rick R.)

Answer: No, I’m afraid you will need to strap on your hiking boots and walk in to your favorite fishing spots along the coast during the boat-based fishing closures. Arriving by boat would not be legal as each of the groundfish management areas have a specific section stating, “No vessel or watercraft (motorized or non-motorized) may be used to assist in taking or possessing these species while angling from shore under this provision.” Depending upon which groundfish management area you plan to fish in (Northern [27.25], Mendocino [27.30], San Francisco [27.35], Central [27.40] or Southern [27.45]), this regulation can be found under section (c)(3).

Luring fish with licorice for bait?
Question: My brother and I have two burning questions we have been wondering about. Is it legal to fish with licorice as bait? Also, we observed a man with a syringe injecting air into his bait worms so they would float off the bottom. What do you think the purpose was and is this legal to do? (Marcus O.)

Answer: Processed foods, such as licorice, are legal under bait regulations for inland waters (found beginning in California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 4.00). It is also legal to inject air into a fishing worm and many such kits are found at sporting goods outlets. This method can be a very effective way to keep a worm off the bottom of lakes with heavy bottom vegetation.

Are black mussels from Bodega Bay under quarantine, too?
Question: While we were fishing from the shore in Bodega Bay last weekend I noticed a lot of beautiful black mussels on the rocks. I believe the limit is 10 lbs/person but wanted to make sure it was the safe season to eat them. Are they under quarantine for domoic acid, too? Thank you for your help!!! (Ben L.)

Answer: You are correct that the limit is 10 pounds (in the shell) for California sea mussels and bay mussels in combination (CCR Title 14, section 29.55). Mussels are not currently under quarantine. The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) monitors for natural toxins that occur along the coast that may affect wild mussels. Mussels are regularly quarantined on an annual basis, usually from May through October, because mussels are a particularly high risk species because they have the ability to concentrate toxins very quickly. When dangerous levels of toxin are detected in mussels, CDPH will begin testing other shellfish species as well for these toxins, if samples are readily available. If samples are not easily obtained, or if toxin levels are increasing rapidly, CDPH will issue a press release announcing a special health advisory for the potentially toxic seafood species in the affected area.

To check for real time advisories, go to check for an advisory or quarantine in advance of any mussel-collecting trip, you can also call the CDPH Biotoxin Information Line at (800) 553-4133. For more information about the annual mussel quarantine, please visit the CDPH website at

Can pesky squirrels be relocated?
Question: Is it permissible to relocate pesky squirrels that are destroying or damaging private property? (Fred, Redding)

Answer: No. Small nuisance mammals that are damaging property may be taken by the owner but may not be released alive except in the immediate area. Relocating nuisance wildlife not only relocates the problem but also places the critter into an area where it has no established shelter or food and water source, and could potentially spread disease. A depredation permit may be issued for tree (gray) squirrels, unless it is the gray squirrel season when hunters are allowed a four squirrel bag and possession limit.

Must fishing license be carried while spearfishing?
Question: If I am spearfishing from the shore and return with my take, do I need to have my fishing license on my person or can it be in my car? (William H.)

Answer: Persons diving from a boat or shore may have their license on the boat or within 500 yards on the shore, respectively (Fish and Game Code, section 7145).

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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

Retrieving Game After Shoot Time

Waterfowl hunting at dusk (USFWS photo)

Question: This situation happened to me. Five minutes before the end of shooting time I knocked down a snow goose that fell out of range and started swimming. I waded after it in the flooded rice field but couldn’t catch it or get within range until after shooting time ended. In a case like that, do I shoot late or let it go and risk a waste of game citation? Do wardens consider “spirit of the law” as opposed to “letter of the law?” (Jim S.)

Answer: If you are “in hot pursuit” of the goose, you should be able to reach it before the end of shoot time, or at least within a minute or two! Bottom line answer is this: It is illegal to take the bird after legal shoot time. If a warden was watching you pursue the game and shoot late, they would use their judgment as to whether a crime was committed. On the other hand, waste of game only applies when a person does not make a reasonable effort to retrieve. If the hunter tries to catch it and it swims off, it is a reasonable effort. Breaking the law is not a reasonable effort. So, if the hunter doesn’t shoot late, no laws are broken!

Lures with glowing light attractants?
Question:I just saw some new trout lures containing little glow sticks to attract fish. Someone told me that using light to attract fish is illegal and hence these lures are illegal to use. What do you think? (Shawn A.)

Answer: These lures sound as if they are legal. There are no fish and game laws prohibiting using light to attract fish. Lights may be used at night when and where such fishing is allowed, and lights may be used on or as part of any fishing tackle (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 2.15).

Buying an extra license to keep handy?
Question: Several years ago, I lost my fishing license and could not locate the
duplicate, so I was forced to purchase a new license. About a month later, I found the lost license, and at that point technically had two licenses for the same year (with ocean enhancement validation, etc). I found that having an extra license gave me piece of mind because as I transitioned from my car to a friend’s, to a boat, to a sport fishing charter, I could keep one in my dry box (that goes from car to boat) and another with my fishing gear. Is there any regulation prohibiting me from doing this intentionally? From an economic point of view, it would be worth the extra cost to me to have the extra piece of mind, and I don’t mind that the funds go to an important state program. Can I purchase more than one fishing license so that I can always be sure to have one in my possession, no matter how forgetful I become? (Brent C., Santa Barbara)

Answer: Unfortunately, you cannot purchase more than one license intentionally. However, if your license is lost, you may purchase a duplicate license.

According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Sport Fishing Program Analyst Glenn Underwood, a person is prohibited from obtaining more than one license, tag, permit, reservation or other entitlement of the same type, except for certain short term licenses (Fish and Game Code, section 1053(1)). This section does allow a person to obtain a duplicate license, tag, permit, reservation or other entitlement upon the loss or destruction of the original with the payment of the duplicate fee.

CDFW has an Automated License Data System (ALDS) that keeps track of the licenses a person has purchased and makes obtaining a duplicate sport fishing or hunting license easy from any license agent. The ALDS enforces license rules regarding the number of licenses a person may possess and will not allow a person to purchase a second annual sport fishing or hunting license.

Starfish hunting
Question: Is it legal to take a starfish off the rocks in the ocean? If it is, do you need a license? (Mike H.)

Answer: Sea stars (starfish) may not be taken off the nearshore rocks in California if they are between the mean high tide line and 1,000 feet seaward of the mean low tide line. Outside of this zone you may take 35 sea stars, and yes, you’ll need a valid fishing license. And if you do still choose to venture out past the 1,000 ft. zone for them, and you’re north of Yankee Point, you can only take them while free diving (CCR Title 14, section 29.05(d)).

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

Bad Behavior on a Waterfowl Wildlife Area

Waterfowl at Gray Lodge Wildlife Area (photo by Carrie Wilson)

Waterfowl at a California Wildlife Area (photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: I have a question about waterfowl hunter rules/responsibilities on wildlife areas (WLA). We hunters are fortunate to be able to access and utilize these refuges and I have always been under the impression that accurate reporting of waterfowl taken following a hunt is an important rule of the refuges. In fact, I have heard that having accurate bird counts from hunters noting which areas or blinds they hunted helps the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to make good decisions about where to invest time and monies for habitat improvement in the upcoming years.

There is at least one wildlife refuge that I know of where a small number of hunters give the rest of us a black eye. At this refuge, a number of “regulars” refuse to turn in accurate counts of birds taken so as not to reveal their “honey spots” to other hunters. This same group has also been guilty of defacing and vandalizing property on the WLA, making it difficult, if not impossible to share info about the wildlife area with other hunters. Due to the bad behavior of this group of hunters, the wildlife area staff are no longer willing to post the hunt results for each blind as has been done in the past. This type of behavior (not following hunter rules for reporting) makes the rest of us law abiding, rule-following hunters look bad. We just hope to get a chance to come out to these fine refuges at least a few times a season with a reservation draw number, look at the counts and take our chances.

I have been waterfowl hunting in California for over 35 years, and I know that this has been a problem at this WLA over the years due to disgruntled regulars yanking out pages from the book of hunt results that used to be available. Is the rule of reporting accurate bird results something that is enforceable, or is this rule something that is okay to ignore, as has been done at this WLA? (Robert S., Castaic)

Answer: It sounds as though you are referring to one of our Type A Waterfowl Hunt Areas where an entry permit and fee are required. In this case, yes, all visitors must return permit cards and present (record) any fish or game taken to staff at the check station, or upon request of any department employee (not just wildlife officers) (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 550(c)(2)(B)). Where CDFW may be operating a self-checkout, the expectation is that hunters do the appropriate and ethical thing, which is to accurately report their harvest.

According to CDFW Wildlife Officer Rick Fischer, it is not uncommon for officers to inspect hunter’s items for waterfowl before they arrive at the check station to make sure they report all waterfowl. While most check stations have the ability to put harvest records behind a window to prevent removal, some may not have that ability and leave results in a binder or on a notice board which may be subject to vandalism.

If a particular area is having a problem with vandalism and/or non-reporting of game taken, please report this to CDFW as soon as possible so that we can take appropriate enforcement action. Please call the 24-hour CalTIP hotline (888-334-2258) to report suspicious behavior and remember to gather essential information such as vehicle license plates, descriptions of suspects, date, time and type of game harvested. You may also send an anonymous tip to 847411 (tip411). In the message, just text CALTIP followed by a space and then the information. You can even send photos. Remember, you can remain anonymous and may receive an award.

What’s the limit on mudsuckers?
Question: I like to catch mudsuckers for eating but can’t figure out if they have a limit. I’ve been told there is a bag limit but the book does not state anything. (Truong A.)

Answer: While some species have fishing regulations that pertain only to them (rockfish, salmon, etc.), there are other species that do not. Species for which there are no specific regulations, such as longjaw mudsuckers, are covered under section 27.60 on page 34 in the current Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet. The daily bag limit for species covered by subsection 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 longjaw mudsuckers, plus 10 other fish per day, for a total of 20 fish.

Fish that fall under section 27.60 have no closed fishing seasons (open year-round) or size limits. Regulations pertaining to longjaw mudsuckers can be found in a table at the back of the regulations booklet (see pg. 100).

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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

Learning to Hunt at any Age

Used by permission of Kalkomey Enterprises

You can learn to hunt at any age and the best place to start is with a hunter education course through CDFW (Photo courtesy of Kalkomey Enterprises)

Question: Most hunters that I know learned in their youth. I am an adult male who has never hunted but would like to learn. Are there classes or programs for adult males to learn? If so, can you please give me some information as to how an old guy like me can get started hunting? (Edward H.)

Answer: Yes, and an excellent first step is to take a hunter education course. This course is required to get a hunting license in California and provides good entry level instruction about firearms safety, first aid, wildlife management, etc. For more information and to find an upcoming class in your area, please go to:

After you’ve taken the entry level hunter education class, you might consider taking some of the Advanced Hunter Education classes offered by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) throughout the state. These include wild pig seminars, waterfowl seminars, wild turkey seminars, etc. and can be found on the CDFW website at

I also encourage you to check around for local sportsmen’s clubs in your area. Most communities have them and many are associated with a gun range. This would be another location to learn a great deal about firearms and to discuss hunting with experienced people.

And finally, there are lots of books and magazines available that provide many resources about hunting, and the Internet is also full of information that may help (e.g. Just remember, you’re never too old to learn how to hunt and there are lots of resources available to help you. Good luck!

When is the best time to go clamming?
Question: When is the best season to enjoy clamming? (Julie S.)

Answer: There really is no best season for clamming. Generally, any really low tide during daytime hours with minimal surf and decent weather is a good time. There are specific seasons for taking of Pismo clams and razor clams in specific areas, so please check the regulations before venturing out for these clams.

The hours of take for clams are one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset. No instruments capable of taking clams (shovels, hoes, rakes, etc.) may be possessed on the beach during closed hours. It may be safer to go clamming from November through April, as biotoxins may be concentrated in filter-feeding bivalves (such as mussels and clams) from May through October especially. For more information about biotoxins, please visit the California Department of Public Health website at

Collection of antler sheds and winter kill skulls?
Question: Is it legal to keep deer and elk antler sheds? How about deer, elk and big horn sheep skulls from winter kills? I have seen people collecting them but I wasn’t sure if it was ok to do. (Pamela Sue)

Answer: You cannot collect big horn sheep skulls or horns at any time. The other antler sheds may not be removed from wildlife refuges or from public parks and forests. You can pick up deer and elk sheds from public lands and private property you have permission to be on and deer and elk antlers may be legally collected and sold (Fish and Game Code, section 3039). You should avoid picking up anything that is fresh but it is not illegal for someone to pick up bleached antlers. In addition, you can sell sheds that you have found but cannot sell whole antlers or antlers with heads attached (FGC, section 3039(c)).

How can a mobility impaired angler obtain a fishing license?
Question: I am disabled and confined to a wheelchair and am trying to obtain a general sport fishing license. The rules seem to require someone in my position to go to a license sales office, which would be difficult as I live in San Francisco. (Blaine J.)

Answer: You can complete the Free Sport Fishing License Application (which requires a physician’s signature) found online at and return the form with a copy of your identification (DMV ID, passport or birth certificate) to any CDFW license sales office listed on the back of the form. The office will then enter your information into the system and mail you back a license. You also may renew your license at any CDFW license agent, CDFW license sales office or online.

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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

Do Lost Crippled Birds Count Toward Bag Limit?

Ethical hunters will make every attempt to find a downed bird and count it to their bag whether they find it or not. (USFWS photo)

Ethical hunters will make every attempt to find a downed bird and count it to their bag whether they find it or not. (USFWS photo)

Question: I was informed that a downed crippled bird that was not recovered, even though a true effort was made to find the downed bird, still counts toward your bag limit. Where is this stated in the regulations? (Aaron W.)

Answer: It is not in regulation. It is an ethical hunter issue. Ethical hunters will make every attempt to find a downed bird. Even if that bird is never located but the hunter knows it was hit, the ethical hunter will still count it towards their bag limit. Ethical hunters do what is right even when they think no one’s looking.

Fishing and retrieving lobster hoop nets
Question: I understand that each person that drops a hoop net must be the same person that retrieves it. How do you monitor this? If we have four people in the boat and 10 nets, are we supposed to somehow mark each net to distinguish whose is whose? (Bill J.)

Answer: The law states that the owner of the hoop net or the person who placed the hoop net into the water shall raise the hoop net to the surface and inspect the contents of the hoop net at intervals not to exceed two hours.

The intent of this law is to require a minimum checking interval of every two hours at least by whoever placed the net in the water and not to cite somebody for pulling up their buddy’s net. Wildlife officers understand if you are working together as a team, but any net placed into the water is your responsibility to raise and inspect every two hours. Depending on someone else to do that for you may result in you receiving a citation if they fail to comply with this requirement.

Yo-yo fishing
Question: I know jug fishing, yo-yo fishing and the use of trotlines with 20+ hooks per line are the norm in the South. I am interested in yo-yo fishing in California for catfish and possibly trying a two-jug trotline with 10 to 12 hooks on the line to catch catfish. My question is: In California, are private (non-commercial) fishermen limited to fish with just one line with three hooks max? In reading the regs, it seems that an extra pole endorsement is just that, for an extra pole, not an extra line. (Mark H., San Bruno)

In regard to yo-yo fishing and trotline fishing, here is an article from 2007 Outdoor Life:

Answer: You must closely attend your lines at all times and you are limited to two lines with a maximum of three hooks on each line with a two-pole stamp. Otherwise, you must use a single line with three hooks maximum when fishing bait, or three lures per line which could each have three hooks. It is illegal to allow lines to simply fish themselves while attached to a float. For a similar previous question and answer, please go to:

Hunting around Lake Shasta
Question: I have a few questions about hunting in northern California by Lake Shasta. I want to go there to hunt for pig and turkey at the same time when the season reopens. Am I allowed to carry ammo for pig and turkey on me at the same time as long as it is all lead-free? Also, I heard something about a limit on how much ammo may be carried on you at one time? I’m not looking to carry hundreds of rounds but did want to have a spare box plus my clips on me. (Kevin F.)

Answer: Yes, it would be legal to hunt pigs and turkeys simultaneously as long as any shotgun shells for pigs are slugs and not shot. A hunter who possesses shot size larger than No. 2 could be cited while turkey hunting, but the regulation limiting shot size that may be possessed when taking turkey does not address slugs.

Methods authorized for taking big game (wild pig) include shotgun slugs, rifle bullets, pistol and revolver bullets, bow and arrow and crossbow (2015-2016 Mammal Hunting Regulation booklet, page 27, section 353).

Methods of take for resident small game (wild turkey) are shotguns 10 gauge or smaller. Shotgun shells may not be used or possessed that contain shot size larger than No. BB, except that shot size larger than No. 2 may not be used or possessed when taking wild turkey (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 311(b)).

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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

Best Practices for Disposing of Fish Remains

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

While returning fish carcasses after filleting back into the waters where taken can be appropriate for recycling nutrients, you should first check to be sure there are no regulations prohibiting the practice at your location. Doing so from a party boat at sea, like this one, is perfectly legal to do. (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: Is it a good practice to dispose of fish or crab carcasses/guts back into the waters they came from? It would seem that returning the fish remains would be a better ecological practice than sending it to the landfill. What is the best sustainable practice? (Ben M.)

Answer: Returning fish carcasses after filleting back into the waters where taken is sometimes, but not always, appropriate for recycling nutrients. Open ocean environments are more appropriate for this practice but be advised of fillet restrictions. And while it differs from port to port, many harbor masters will not allow carcasses to be dumped inside of harbors because too many decomposing fish carcasses may deplete the oxygen supply in the water. This has been a severe issue in many areas in recent years when concentrated fish oil from too many carcasses in bays or harbors caused seabirds to get sick and die. This occurred when excessive amounts of fish oil contaminated their feathers and they become flightless.

Returning fish carcasses back into freshwater environments may or may not be appropriate, and sometimes it’s outright prohibited. Be aware of the rules in the areas where you plan to do this. In shallow waters and along shorelines, especially in high elevation mountain lakes, there may be local or municipal regulations prohibiting this practice.

Public parks and lakes may also have no-dumping policies within a certain distance from shore due to health concerns and the smell and image of discarded fish carcasses in waters where people are swimming and recreating.

Bottom line … while returning fish carcasses after filleting back into the waters where taken can be appropriate for recycling nutrients, you should first check to be sure there are no state, city or municipal regulations prohibiting the practice at your location.

Is a junior hunter allowed to hunt wildlife refuges by themselves?
Question: I purchased a hunting license at 17 years old and it’s a junior hunting license. Now that I am 18 years old (and still have a junior hunting license) can I hunt wildlife refuges by myself or do I need to be accompanied by a person with an adult hunting license. (Andrew C.)

Answer: Yes. Now that you are 18, you may hunt wildlife refuges independently even though you have a junior hunting license.

Spearfishing in San Francisco Bay?
Question: Is spearfishing for halibut and striped bass allowed in San Francisco Bay? I believe the law changed when it became legal several years ago to spear striped bass. I know that people now spearfish for stripers lawfully in the Sacramento River. Can they do so in the bay as well? And what about for halibut? (Alistair B.)

Answer: Yes, spearfishing is now allowed for striped bass and continues to be allowed for halibut. You may not possess a spear within 100 yards of the mouth of any stream (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 28.90(a)), and there may be local laws due to safety considerations that do not allow SCUBA diving in parts of the San Francisco Bay.

How many rounds are allowed in a hunting firearm?
Question: How many rounds are legal in a hunting firearm while hunting? I think it’s 10 but somebody else says it is five. Can you please shine some light on the subject for us? (Juan M., California hunter)

Answer: Most rifles hold three to five rounds, but the Penal Code allows for up to 10 rounds. There are no Fish and Game Code sections that restrict the number of rounds a rifle may hold. It would be unlawful to purchase or use a rifle purchased after the enactment of the 10-round restriction found in the Penal Code. There are ammunition restrictions depending upon where you are in the state and what species you are hunting. It is unlawful to use or possess a shotgun capable of holding more than six cartridges at one time to take any mammal or bird (Fish and Game Code, section 2010). Shotguns capable of holding more than three rounds when taking game birds and game mammals is prohibited (CCR Title 14, sections 311, 353 and 507). Beginning in 2019, all ammunition used while hunting must be certified as nonlead ammunition.

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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

Laser Sights for Bowfishing?

Bowfishing (Creative Commons photo)

Bowfishing (Creative Commons photo)

Question: When bowfishing for game fish, like carp, is it legal to have a green 5mW visible laser on your bowfishing bow or crossbow? I know that visible lasers on a bow or crossbow are prohibited for the use of hunting animals on land, but I’m just not sure about for fish in freshwater. Having a laser helps compensate for light refraction in the water because aiming at a fish that is not where it looks like it is can be quite tricky.

Also, besides the regulations in section 1.23 and section 2.25, are there any special seasons or rules that I have to follow for using a crossbow? I ask because I heard that crossbows in California can only be used during rifle season for land game.

Using a crossbow to bowfish is only mentioned one time in the freshwater regulation booklet, most of the text says “bow and arrow fishing.” I want to be prepared to explain to a park ranger or wildlife officer (given I am in an area designated for bowfishing) that I can use a crossbow. What code sections should I cite or what should I say? (Alexander A.)

Answer: Yes, it legal to have a green 5mW visible laser on your bowfishing bow or crossbow. When bowfishing in freshwater, you need only follow the regulations in sections 1.23 and 2.25. What you say about crossbows for hunting being legal only during rifle season is correct, but as long as you’re fishing and not hunting, this should not be an issue. The main difference between fishing and hunting is that a crossbow is not considered archery equipment for hunting purposes but is considered legal bow and arrow equipment for those fish species that may be taken by bow and arrow. In order to avoid unwanted attention from law enforcement, I discourage you from shining your laser on land.

Using rockfish for bait?
Question: In a recent column you stated that “Any finfish that is legal to take or possess in California may be used as bait in your lobster hoop net.” I assume this rule applies equally to using rockfish as hook and line bait for lingcod, but on my last party boat trip I was prohibited from using a small gopher rockfish for bait by a crewman who insisted that this would be illegal. Is it legal to use a whole rockfish (or a slab cut from a whole rockfish) for hook and line bait? I understand that the bait fish would count toward my limit. (Randy Pauly)

Answer: Yes, as long as the fish you’re using is legal to catch and keep, and as long as you count it toward your daily bag limit, you can legally use it as bait to attract larger predator fish, such as lingcod, to your hook. If the fish you’ll be using for bait has a size limit, you would need to be sure it was of legal size.

How to find a legitimate hunting guide?
Question: Can you direct me to a legitimate site to book a hunting trip? How can we hunt on government land? What are the costs? (Cheri W.)

Answer: You can find a list of guides licensed through the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) at (click on “Look up licensed hunting and fishing guides) but no recommendations in support of any particular guide or hunting service. Hence, your best bet is to contact other hunters to ask about their experiences in order to help you decide which guide service to go with.

You can hunt on certain government-owned (public) lands in California. Public lands in California are primarily owned, operated and maintained by CDFW, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the Department of Defense or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Each of these agencies has developed rules and regulations for the lands they administer. They provide details of which lands are open to public access for outdoor recreational activities (including hunting), and the time of year they are open. Some of these lands are open year-round with no access fees, but some lands are open only certain times of the year with an access fee. Moreover, some public lands are entirely closed to all public use, mostly for protection of certain plant and animal species.

Generally speaking, most big game mammal hunting occurs on CDFW, BLM, Military or Forest Service lands. Small mammal and varmint hunting occurs on BLM and Forest Service lands. Waterfowl and upland game bird hunting occurs on CDFW and USFWS lands.

For the regulations governing the use of CDFW lands, please go to For other land management agencies, please contact them directly for rules or regulations concerning their lands.

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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