Category Archives: Abalone

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.

Steelhead vs. Rainbow Trout – What’s the Difference?

Angler with wild Klamath River Steelhead (released).

Angler with wild Klamath River Steelhead (prior to release).

Question: I’d like to try steelhead fishing for the first time on the American River. I will purchase a regular California fishing license and adhere to all regulations, but do I have to purchase the steelhead card if I don’t intend to keep any steelhead? If so, why can’t one be fishing for regular (rainbow) trout in the same river without a steelhead card? (Lilly K.)

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

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

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


Does sardine fishery closure mean no more sardines for live bait?
Question: I heard in the news last week that the sardine fishery will be closing because it’s been overfished. Is this true? If so, how will this impact sport fishermen who rely on sardines for live bait? What about for fishermen who catch them incidentally on hook and line or who target them on sabiki and similar rigs off piers, jetties, etc.? (Steve C.)

Answer: The season for the current directed commercial sardine fishery has closed. There will also be a prohibition for next season for the same fishery due to a declining stock, but the decline is not due to overfishing. Anglers will be happy to know that these closures have no effect on either live bait or recreational take of sardine. These catches are not considered as part of the prohibition on directed commercial take. Currently, there is no limit on the recreational take of Pacific sardine (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 27.60(b)).

Biomass (population numbers) and commercial catch of Pacific sardine have fluctuated since the early part of last century. Over the past couple of years, the biomass of Pacific sardine has been declining. These fluctuations and the recent decline are primarily due to natural large scale changes in oceanic temperature, and studies show that biomass has fluctuated on a decadal scale for thousands of years. For more information on management of the West Coast Pacific sardine stock, please see the Pacific Fishery Management Council website (www.pcouncil.org/).

For more information about Pacific sardine history, research, and management in California, please visit California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW’s) Pacific sardine web site at www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/cpshms/pacificsardine.asp.


Spotting abalone for friends while on probation?
Question: I was cited for an abalone violation for failure to tag immediately out of the water last year (I went up to my car to grab a pen and ran into a ranger). My probation states 12 months of no fishing. Would it be legal to still go out with my buddies and spot abalones for them? I would obviously not carry an abalone iron. (Jingsong W.)

Answer: No. The law defines take as “hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill, or attempt to hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill” (FGC, section 86). If you are helping your buddies by spotting abalone for them to harvest, you are pursuing and hunting for abalone, which constitutes take.


Black bear claw necklace?
Question: I have a necklace that contains black bear claws that were legally taken in Wisconsin a couple of generations ago. They were part of a rug until it fell apart from age and moths. I would like to pass it along to my grandson as he is involved in Cub Scout activities. It would be a gift being passed down from one generation to another. Is it legal for him to possess it in California? In keeping with the scouting traditions, I want to make sure we are doing things legally and properly. (Robert S., Texas)

Answer: Yes, you can give this family treasure to your grandson but Fish and Game Code, section 4758, prohibits the sale or purchase of bear parts in California.

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

Why Don’t Licenses Run Annually from Date of Purchase?

Licensing photoQuestion: Why do fishing licenses run from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31 every year rather than from the date of purchase? For example, a person buys his/her license Dec. 1 only to find it expires the end of the month. Then by Jan. 1, they must purchase a new license for the full price. Why not let it go for one full year from the date of purchase? Hunting licenses too run from July 1 through June 30 of the next year. I think license sales would greatly improve if they were changed from date of purchase to the next year. Can someone give a rational answer, please? (Alan E., Los Angeles)

Answer: California has considered changing from a calendar-based sport fishing license to a license that is valid for one year from the date of purchase. But while this seems beneficial, when we looked at the issue thoroughly, we realized that changing to a license that is valid for one year from the date of purchase would significantly reduce funding for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW).

According to CDFW License Program Analyst Glenn Underwood, several other states have made the change to a license that is valid for one year from the date of purchase, and so we contacted these other states to learn from their experiences. We found states that changed from a calendar year license to a license that is valid for one year from the date of purchase experienced a reduction in license sales from 10 to 30 percent in the three years following implementation. Experts from these states explained license purchasing patterns changed when the license system changed to one year from the date of purchase licenses. Customers tended to wait until the last minute to purchase a license, as they knew it would be valid for one year from that date. Then when their licenses expired, customers again waited to renew until they fished again, creating a gap in licensure. After a few years the sum of the gaps was often greater than a year and a complete license sale was lost.

Changing to a license that is valid for one year from the date of purchase would also reduce federal grant funding. Each state in the country receives federal grant money from the Sport Fish Restoration Act (SFRA) which is funding generated from federal excise tax on sales of sport fishing tackle and motorboat fuels. This program funds critical fish habitat restoration projects throughout the state, providing increased fishing opportunities for California anglers. A tiered system is used to allocate grants to the states. In 2014, California received the maximum grant of $16,287,011, which is five percent of the total available to all the states. Federal SFRA grant amounts are based partially on the number of licenses issued in each state. If California license sales declined by as little as three percent, California’s grant would be reduced to a lower tier and the grant amount would be reduced by approximately $2.7 million to $4.5 million, further reducing CDFW’s ability to manage and protect California’s fisheries.

So, while we realize your license restructuring suggestion is popular, it would create a significant reduction in license revenue and sport fish grant funding for CDFW. The resulting reduction in revenue and grant funding would reduce the CDFW’s ability to manage and protect California’s fisheries; and it would reduce the number of fish CDFW could plant for California anglers.


Live turkey decoys?
Question: Is it legal to use a live turkey as a decoy? I can’t find any regulations on live turkey decoys (Todd W.)

Answer: No. The use of live decoys is prohibited when attempting to take resident game birds (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 311(l)).


What’s acceptable abalone diving gear?
Question: Regarding equipment that is permissible for abalone harvesting, is a buoyancy compensator (BC) with integrated weight system ok to use for diving for abalone as long as there is NO air tank attached? (John D.)

Answer: Yes, a BC is for your safety and is OK to use as long as no scuba or air supply of any kind is incorporated.


Free diving for sea urchins?
Question: As a free diver, am I legally allowed to harvest sea urchins? If so, do I need a permit? Also, where in San Diego County can I legally dive from shore for sea urchins? (Derek G.)

Answer: Sea urchins are legal to take in California with a sport fishing license. The season is open year-round for all species of urchin and the limit is 35 urchins (CCR Title 14, section 29.05). These regulations can be found in the Ocean Sport Fishing regulation booklet, along with coordinates and regulation summaries for marine protected areas in Southern California that are closed to the take of sea urchins.

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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.

Residential Varmint Trapping

Striped skunks (USFWS photo)

Striped skunks (USFWS photo)

Question: I live in Chico across the street from Bidwell Park. Lately I have been plagued with raccoons and skunks on my property. They have been wreaking havoc on my garden, crapping all over my deck and carport, and I think they have been using the pool (WITHOUT a lifeguard on duty which is COMPLETELY UNSAFE!).

I contacted a gentleman who is employed by the USDA and he told me he has been contracted by the County of Butte to trap and euthanize or relocate problem varmints. He explained to me that I can either perform these tasks myself or, for a fee, he will remove and eliminate any problem varmint that I trap on my property. I am located within the City limits of Chico in the County of Butte.

I am writing to you to make sure that I am in compliance with all laws. The last thing I want is to get cited and fined because of a raccoon or a skunk. If the information I received from this person is incorrect, then it would seem that the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the USDA employee contracted by Butte County need to have a chat and come up with a final call on a situation like this so everyone is reading the same book and getting on the same page. I didn’t know who to go to with this before I acted on it, but you have never steered me wrong in the past. (Dave)

Answer: While the USDA trapper did provide some good information, you are correct to worry about following all the rules because there are lots of them. If you decide to do your own trapping, be aware you are not allowed to relocate any wildlife you catch. If an animal is trapped, it must be quickly killed or released in the immediate area of where the animal was trapped. Driving the animal to a faraway meadow or park away from your house and “relocating” it is not a legal option. 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. Also, keep in mind that it is spring time and many adult animals may have babies soon, so causing orphans through trapping should be avoided.

Trapping rules are for public safety and animal welfare reasons. Before venturing into nuisance wildlife trapping, you should read and understand California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 465.5 entitled “Use of traps” available online at www.wildlife.ca.gov/Regulations.


Collecting fish donations to donate to local food banks?
Question: I was wondering if it would be possible (i.e. legal) to put a freezer at boat landings to collect fish donations from anglers on sport and private boats? Donations would be given to local food banks and shelters. (Will E.)

Answer: Although this sounds like a nice idea, existing law doesn’t allow for overlimits of fish, and it would be very difficult for wildlife officers to separate an angler with an overlimit from a person transporting the freezer contents to a food bank. Potential criminal liability would also arise if people deposited fish that were undersized or out of season. A better option might be to post information at the landing encouraging anglers to donate fish directly to the food banks and shelters.


OK to have a firearm onboard while fishing for sturgeon?
Question: We’d like to do some casting and blasting and are interested in shooting target skeet while fishing for sturgeon. Is it legal to possess a firearm, or rather, to have a firearm on my boat while sturgeon fishing? I am not a hunter or a gun guy and I know it is illegal to use a firearm to land a sturgeon. What about having just a pellet gun in the cuddy cabin for non-hunting target practice? Is this legal? (Scott E.)

Answer: There are no CDFW regulations prohibiting you from simply having a firearm on the boat while sturgeon fishing. Your only firearms concerns will be to make sure you won’t be violating any county or city ordinances by possessing firearms and shooting skeet in whatever area you intend to do this. There may be any issue with throwing clay birds, which are coated in paint for visibility, into the water though. “It is unlawful to deposit, permit to pass into, or place where it can pass into the waters of the state … within 150 feet of the high water mark of the waters of the state, any cans, bottles, garbage … rubbish, litter, refuse, waste, debris …” (Fish and Game Code, section 5652).


Catch and release after reaching limit
Question: A friend (not me, really!) asked me if he caught two striped bass while beach fishing, could he continue to fish for striped bass and release any future fish he caught? (Mike B.)

Answer: You (I mean he!) could not continue to target striped bass, but could continue fishing for other species of fish. If you incidentally catch another striper while trying to catch some other species and already have your limit, you must immediately release the striper.

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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.

How to Measure Abalone Correctly to Avoid a Ticket?

Abalone must be measured with a fixed-caliper measuring gauge capable of accurately measuring seven inches (CDFW staff photo)

Abalone must be measured with a fixed-caliper measuring gauge capable of accurately measuring seven inches (CDFW staff photo)

Question: I know a guy who was abalone diving off his kayak recently and took three nice abalone that all measured around nine inches. He was diving for the big abs and so was using a 9-inch gauge, but had his required 7-inch gauge in his goody bag on the kayak. When he finished up and got back to the beach with his tagged abalone and his gauges in his goody bag, there was a wildlife officer waiting there who had been watching him and wrote him a ticket for using a 9-inch gauge instead of a 7-inch gauge. Why did he get a ticket? (Tim S.)

Answer: Abalone divers are required to “… carry a fixed-caliper measuring gauge capable of accurately measuring seven inches” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.15[f]) and are required to retain any legal-sized abalone they detach and add them to their bag (CCR Title 14, section 29.15[d].) It is fine to use a gauge larger than the required 7-inch gauge to measure over-sized abalone when trophy hunting. The problem occurs when a diver detaches and brings an abalone to the surface, measures it with only a 9-inch gauge, and then rejects it for being smaller than their personal target size even though the abalone may still be of the minimum legal size (seven inches or larger). This practice puts the diver in violation of the above sections and this practice is considered “high-grading.”

To avoid this kind of ticket, divers should not return any abalone before first measuring with a 7-inch gauge to be sure they are smaller than legal size. A 7-inch gauge should be in the immediate vicinity of where the diver surfaces (in hand, float tube or kayak) so that the abalone can be readily measured, and if they then turn out to be short, the diver can then return it to the same location where originally taken. The violation occurs when divers detach and then reject legal-sized abalone because they are seeking only the oversized ones.


Disabled wheelchair-bound hunters?
Question: My dad used to hunt ducks with me every weekend. The last few seasons he had to miss due to becoming disabled and wheelchair-bound. Recently he has talked about hunting the refuges with me this coming season, and has bought an electronic chair. My question is will the electronic chair be allowed onto free roam Type A/B or on Type C areas? Or will it be considered an ATV (which it is not)? He would only be able to do levees or gravel roads. Thanks. (James)

Answer: Many of our wildlife refuges have disabled hunter blinds that would allow your father and one able-bodied hunter to still enjoy waterfowl hunting and accommodate his need for an electronic chair or regular wheelchair. But while he would probably be allowed to free-roam hunt, most refuges with their levees and gravel roads may not be easy to get around in via a wheelchair. ATVs are prohibited. It might be best to call ahead to the refuge where you’d like to hunt to inquire about the conditions available.


Hunting with an arrow rifle?
Question: I have an arrow rifle that’s powered by CO2 high pressured gas that I’ve had for the last 15 years. It’s not a crossbow. I’ve heard it was made for SWAT teams, but I’m not sure. I just think it would be cool to hunt with it but didn’t see anything in your regulations about it. What do you think? Would it be legal? (Wes H.)

Answer: No. The weapon you describe would not be legal for taking fish or wildlife in California.


Bringing black bear claws in from out of state
Question: I recently purchased black bear claws from a licensed store/vendor in Idaho and would like to know if it is legal to bring them back into California. (Anonymous)

Answer: If you buy them legally in another state and have documentation to prove it, you can legally bring them back here so long as you declare their entry into California (Fish and Game Code, section 2353. Assuming they are from a black bear, you cannot sell them once in California though. Even if you decide to later sell them and plan to do so over the Internet … don’t! You could then be charged with a hefty federal Lacey Act violation. Buying or selling black bear parts within California is strictly forbidden, even if the bear was taken out of state.

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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.

Moving Wing Waterfowl Decoys

Mallard drake (Photo ODFW)

Mallard drake (Photo ODFW)

Question: With waterfowl season approaching, I was wondering if you could clarify Regulation 507 regarding duck decoys that move? That regulation specifies moving wings or blades are prohibited until after Nov. 30, but I cannot find a prohibition regarding motor powered decoys that simulate swimming (clamp on propeller), or water movement to simulate feeding (magnate type), or battery powered jerk string. In short, are ONLY moving wing decoys prohibited during the first six weeks of the season? (James Scott, Oakley)

Answer: The prohibition is only for electronically powered spinning wing, or spinning wing simulated devices. There are no prohibitions to any other electronic devices which flap wings, allow the decoy to swim, feed, or cause movement other than the spinning of a wing or wing simulated device.


How to pay an old ticket?
Question: One of my friends received a ticket about five years ago for abalone taken from the Fort Ross area. Afterwards he moved out of state. He recently moved back to California though and would now like to pay his ticket but he does not have any information. How should he go about paying it? How can he find out the amount owed and where should he send payment? Thanks for any help. (James Y.)

Answer: If your friend left the state without paying the fine for the ticket he received, then the court probably issued an arrest warrant for him. Fort Ross is in Sonoma County, so he should contact Sonoma County Superior Court as soon as possible. If contacted by law enforcement prior to doing this and it is determined there is an active warrant, your friend will be cited or arrested for not taking care of his ticket.


Game wardens also lead-free in Condor Zone?
Question: Does a Fish and Wildlife officer’s pistol that he carries in the field contain lead-free ammunition? I ask because if I’m in the woods in the lead-free zone under a carry concealed weapon permit (CCW) and just camping, I must run lead-free, correct? The law should be consistent for everyone. (Dale G.)

Answer: No, the lead ban pertains to hunters. It is illegal to use, or possess with a firearm capable of firing, any projectile containing more than one percent lead by weight while taking or attempting to take big game or nongame within the condor range. This includes centerfire as well as black powder/muzzleloader and rimfire projectiles. Since wildlife officers are not hunting while on duty, their firearms may contain lead ammunition in the condor range. Any people who are not taking or attempting to take wildlife, including CCW holders, may use or possess lead ammunition.


Woodpeckers are driving me crazy!
Question: I’ve got a bunch of woodpeckers that keep pecking at my house and they are driving me crazy! Can I use a pellet gun to haze them and chase them off? Thanks. (Alan H., Ukiah)

Answer: No, woodpeckers are a nongame species so you will have to find a non-lethal method to haze them away from your house. You could try hanging shiny mylar tape like they use in orchards to scare the birds away from the fruit or try posting an owl decoy. You might also try covering the wood with metal mesh hardware cloth.

This is a USFWS question and they do have a permit process for a number of species under federal depredation provisions unless designated a fully protected bird.

For additional tips and information, please check with the University of California Integrated Pest Management Program online at http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/menu.house.html#VERT.


Deployed gear through MPAs
Question: Is it legal to travel through a State Marine Reserve (SMR) on a kayak with fish and non-deployed fishing gear on board? Does “fishing gear deployed” mean having a hook and line in the water? Or does it go so far as to require fishing hooks be removed from any fishing line on board a kayak? The term “deployed” is not defined in the regulations and I am wondering how it is enforced by the officers. (Brian M.)

Answer: Yes, you may travel through a state marine reserve with catch on board as long as no fishing gear is deployed in the water (per Section 632(a)(8) on pg. 52 of the current Ocean Sport Fishing regulations booklet). Deployed means that the gear (hook and line) is in the water. If you wish to remove all doubt, you could remove the hooks, but that is not required by law. Just make sure your gear is out of the water and secured before transiting a state marine reserve, and you will be abiding by the law.

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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.