Category Archives: Diving

Casting with a Potato Gun-Style Launcher

(CDFW photo by Sabrina Bell)

(CDFW photo by Sabrina Bell)

Question: Is it legal to use the “Sandblaster Baitcaster” in California? This device is supposed to be great for surf fishing from the beach. It uses compressed air to cast your bait up to 300 yards from shore. See it at their website, www.bunkerupfishin.com/. (Victor H.)

Answer: This line launching device is really just another form of the old “potato guns” that were popular for a while until they were outlawed in public areas. According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Lt. Dennis McKiver, potato guns are legal under federal law. Under state law, potato guns that use combustion (instead of compressed air) to launch the projectile are “firearms,” and one with a bore of over 0.5 inches is a destructive device.

Pneumatic potato guns like this one use compressed air and are legal as long as they are not used like a weapon (e.g. shot at a person, etc.), so this line launching device would be legal under state and federal laws. However, you should check for local city and county ordinances because some local governments prohibit use of any devices that propel projectiles, and if you intend to use this line launching device on any state beach, you may also want to consult State Parks.

As far as using it to cast a fishing line, nothing in the Fish and Game Code or its implementing regulations prohibit using this compressed air launcher as long as the fishing line is attached to a rod and reel, or a person is brave enough to hold the other end of line in their hands!


What to do when catching invasive fish species?
Question: What should we do when we catch invasive fish in local lakes? Specifically, Balboa Lake in the San Fernando Valley remains warm enough in winter to support some tropical fish. Certain aquarium fishes breed as well as survive in these waters. The problem now are Plecostomus (commonly found in home fish tanks to eat the algae) that have taken over the lake and the Los Angeles River.

A couple of us have caught over 200 since February in one little cove while fishing for carp. We were told by park personnel to kill them (seemed reasonable) but I wanted to make sure they are inedible so that we won’t get into trouble for wasting fish. Please advise. Thanks. (Bill S.)

Answer: From a biological standpoint, CDFW would like to see these invasive fish disposed of (killed) rather then placed back in the system. The law prohibits the waste of any fish taken in waters of the state (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.87). This regulation is intended to encourage people to eat any fish they kill, and to avoid needlessly killing fish. But, any lawful use of fish that are legal for sale by an aquarium or pet store would satisfy the requirements of this regulation, including their use as fertilizer for your garden.

Here’s something that might surprise you … Plecostomus are consumed by humans in some of their native Central and South American waters. Jackson Landers, author of “Eating Aliens: One Man’s Adventures Hunting Invasive Animal Species” includes a recipe for Plecostomus in this book.


Scuba diving for Dungeness crabs?
Question: In a recent column you said that you could not take Dungeness crabs on SCUBA. Did I read that correctly or were you referring to seasons? (Duanne S.)

Answer: I saidwhen Dungeness crab season is open, they may be taken by hand via SCUBA but divers may not possess any hooked device while diving or attempting to dive for them (CCR Title 14, section 29.80(g)).


Sale of pig mount … Is it legal?
Question: My brother harvested a pig about 20 years ago on a private ranch in California and had the head mounted. He wants to sell the mount, but doesn’t want to break the law and can’t get a definitive answer from anyone. Could you help? Thank you as always for your help! (Dave)

Answer: Your brother can give it away but cannot sell or trade it to anyone. With a few exceptions (that don’t apply to your brother), the law prohibits the sale or purchase of any part of a bird or mammal found in the wild in California. (Fish and Game Code, section 3039)


Is there a limit on sand crabs?
Question: Is it legal to catch sand crabs with a fishing license, and if legal, what is the limit? Can sand crabs be taken on all beaches of the state? (Gina N.)

Answer: Yes, it is legal to catch sand crabs with a fishing license statewide wherever fishing is authorized. The limit is 50 crabs per day and in possession (CCR Title 14, section 29.85(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 CalOutdoors@wildlife.ca.gov.

Should Anglers Release Lingcod Females?

Lingcod (photo courtesy of Matt Elyash)

Lingcod (photo courtesy of Matt Elyash)

Question: Last year before the end of rockfish season, I went on a charter boat out of Berkeley. Some of the lingcod caught were females with eggs. When do lingcod spawn and can keeping these females hurt the fishery in the future? Should we as anglers release females like we do for striped bass? I’m glad to see the size limit dropped and the season longer, but I don’t want to be back to where we were before. (Jason Green)

Answer: Lingcod and other groundfish are federally managed. Harvest management plans and stock assessments take into account the removal of both males and females when setting quotas, so fishery managers do factor in the take of females, too.

According to the latest assessment, the lingcod stock has fully recovered from their overfished status. Lingcod don’t get the bends (no swim bladder), so females can be released if handled properly.

In northern and central California, the primary reason for the current closed seasons for lingcod in late fall, winter and spring for boat-based anglers is to protect mature females that have moved inshore to spawn, and to protect the mature males that guard the egg nests.

Lingcod are a species that if handled properly can often be successfully caught and released. However, unless regulations prohibit keeping the fish (e.g. bag and minimum size limits) or the angler is releasing all fish, if it turns out the fish has been improperly handled or is bleeding and may not survive, the fish should be kept. Releasing bleeding females that may not survive in order to keep males instead just wastes fish and is not a good conservation method.

Lingcod generally spawn from November through February. Females do take longer to mature and they grow to a larger size than males. By some estimates, males only grow to 24-26 inches. Females are legal to keep, so keeping an egg-laden female would be up to that fisherman’s personal ethics.

Bottom line … female lingcod are legal to take and so it’s up to the fisherman to decide whether or not they want to.


Can kids under 16 fish alone without a license and an adult present?
Question: Can children under the age of 16 fish without a license, and alone without a licensed adult present? (Jennifer P.)

Answer: Yes. Although no license is required, keep in mind that no matter their age, everyone who fishes must know what the fishing regulations are that apply to the type of fishing they are doing, and have the good judgment to abide by them.


Using SCUBA to photograph abalone divers?
Question: I would like to photograph abalone divers diving but I need to use an air tank to obtain the imagery I want. How can I go about this without getting in trouble with a game warden? (Andrew B., Salt Lake City, UT)

Answer: It is legal for you to photograph abalone freedivers while you are using a tank, as long as you observe a couple of regulations.

The use of SCUBA gear or surface-supplied air while taking abalone is prohibited (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.15(e)). Therefore, if you are using a tank while photographing abalone freedivers, you cannot assist them with taking abalone. You also cannot help them pop abalone off the rocks or spot abalone for them, or do anything else that could be construed as giving assistance in taking abalone.

In addition, under this section the possession of abalone is prohibited aboard a vessel that also contains SCUBA gear or surface supplied air. This means you will have to use a separate boat – you cannot board the same boat the abalone freedivers are using while you are using SCUBA gear.


What to do with a full-size Cheetah / Leopard mount?
Question: My uncle recently passed away and left me in charge of his estate. One of the items he left is a full size Cheetah/ Leopard taxidermy. Is it legal for me to sell it? If not what do you recommend that I do with it? (Michael C., Modesto)

Answer: You are allowed to give it away but you are not allowed to sell or trade it (California Penal Code, section 653o). You might want to contact a museum, service club or local school to see if they may have a use for it.


Crabbing overnight at the beach?
Question: I enjoy crabbing and want to go crabbing overnight at the beach. Is this legal? (Ann N.)

Answer: Yes, as long as the beaches don’t have any city, county or beach curfews, it is legal to go crabbing overnight from most beaches. (CCR Title 14, section 29.05(a)).

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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.

Diving for Abalone with Knives and Spear Guns

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: I plan to head to the coast to try some abalone diving next weekend but need to clarify a few of the abalone regulations before I make the trip. First, I will take all abalone with a legal ab iron but want to also carry a knife. Would this be a problem?

Second, if my buddy and I want to spearfish and take abs on the same day, can we carry our guns while taking the abs or do we have to make separate trips to and from the car?

Finally, if our abs are separated into individual bags (one for mine and one for his), can both bags be clipped onto a single float tube while we finish spear fishing or would that violate the separate possession regulation? Thanks! (Andrew M.)

Answer: You are allowed to carry a knife while diving for abalone but you may not use a knife in place of an abalone iron for taking abalone. The main reason for this rule is because abalone are hemophiliacs, and even the slightest cut to the foot when attempting to remove them from the rocks may cause them to bleed to death. This is a problem especially for abalone short of the legal size limit that must be released. Abalone irons are designed with rounded corners and wider and thicker bases to prevent injuries.

As far as spear guns, you are allowed to carry one while abalone diving (unlike when diving for spiny lobster where this is not legal). Each person’s abalone must be kept in separate identifiable bags, but the bags can both be clipped to the same tube.


Fishing on CSU campuses?
Question: While fishing on a reservoir located on the Cal Poly SLO campus recently, a Cal Poly professor approached us and asked us to leave. This reservoir receives water flow from Lake Santa Margarita where the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) stocks the fishery. The reservoir isn’t listed as a regulated fishery with special conditions. I believe it is public land, and licensed California anglers have a right to fish there. The professor disagrees. Who’s right? (Brian H., San Luis Obispo)

Answer: Fishing access to reservoirs is generally controlled by the person or entity that owns the land on which the reservoir is located. According to local CDFW Patrol Lieutenant Todd Tognazzini, Cal Poly may be conducting studies or engaging in other activities on the reservoir that are inconsistent with fishing. The best thing to do is check with the Cal Poly Police Department for clarification. They can probably provide you a current law they would enforce related to fishing there.


Archery during rifle season?
Question: I hunt archery exclusively, though sometimes I am not able to fill my tag. If I don’t fill my tag during the archery season, can I still use my archery tag and hunt during the rifle season? (Jonathan E.)

Answer: It depends upon what type of tag you have. If you have an archery only (AO) tag or a premium archery tag, then it may only be used for archery take. If you have a general zone tag, it may be used with archery equipment during the early archery season, and then with all legal big game methods such as a rifle, crossbow or archery during the later general season.


Gaffing salmon?
Question: Is it legal to use a gaff to land salmon? On a fishing web site I follow, some guys are recommending using a gaff if the net is busy and two fish need to be landed at the same time. I can’t find the section in the saltwater regulation book to answer my question. Can you help? I’m just trying to stay legal. (Ralph C.)

Answer: In ocean waters, gaffs may only be used to land salmon that are of legal size. If a fish is short and a gaff is used, the angler is in violation (CCR Title 14, section 28.65(d)). In inland waters, only anglers fishing from a boat in the Sacramento River main stem below Deschutes Road Bridge can use a gaff (measuring three feet or less) to land legal-sized fish (CCR Title 14, section 2.06). It’s best to release any short salmon as close to the water as possible to give them the best chance for survival.

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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 Cal.Outdoors@wildlife.ca.gov.

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