Category Archives: Invertebrates

Why Are Wild Pheasants on the Decline?

Ringneck pheasant

The decline in wild pheasant numbers is primarily a result of habitat loss and fragmentation. For pheasant populations to recover and thrive once again, more improved available habitat must be developed. (Photo by Jeff Cann)

Question: Wild pheasants in the Sacramento Valley have been in steep decline for many years and very little effort, if any, is being made to help this once-abundant game bird make a comeback. Improved habitat conditions, a reduced season and lowered bag limits could help them recover. What was the Fish and Game Commission thinking when they raised the limit and extended the season to what it is today? (Wally S., Westlake)

Answer: One of the factors you mentioned was that improved habitat conditions could help, and that’s true. The decline in wild pheasant population numbers is primarily a result of habitat loss and fragmentation. Pheasant populations are still plentiful in the larger Midwestern states, primarily because those states rely on private lands programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program funded by the Farm Bill. This program provides subsidies to landowners to fallow their land and grow grasses and other vegetation that make good wildlife habitat. These programs also provide habitat corridors between public and private lands that are critical for pheasants to move. In the Central Valley, rice and other crops have higher values than the crops grown in the mid-west and so the economic incentives for landowners in California to modify their farming practices to benefit wildlife habitat are not there.

According to CDFW Senior Upland Game Scientist Scott Gardner, the general pheasant hunting season was increased by three weeks about 10 years ago because CDFW knew that few people continued to hunt wild pheasants after the opening weekend and the first few weeks of the season. The scientific literature suggests that rooster-only harvest has little effect on population growth, so this increase was not expected to have any effect on pheasant population growth. CDFW is currently working with Pheasants Forever and United States Geological Survey scientists to study pheasant population dynamics and identify factors limiting their populations. If the data suggests that reductions in pheasant hunting are needed, CDFW will make those recommendations to the Fish and Game Commission.

However, pheasant populations will not come back to their former levels through reductions in hunting alone. In order for wild pheasant populations to recover and thrive again, more available improved habitat is a must. This means more quality grasslands and small shrub habitat to provide undisturbed areas for cover, feeding, nesting and brood-rearing, along with travel corridors between fields and other habitats to allow them access to move around.


Using crabs to catch more crabs?
Question: It is legal for boaters fishing crab traps to pull their limit of 10 Dungeness crabs and then leave any extra legal-sized crabs in the pot for harvesting the next day? Those crabs left in the trap may help encourage other crabs to load up in the traps to take another day. Is there anything illegal about this? (Jayna S.)

Answer: It is not legal for someone to take their limit and leave additional crabs in their trap(s). Sport fishermen are allowed 10 Dungeness crabs per day and in possession. It doesn’t matter where the crabs are being held, whether on board a boat or in a trap or at home in the freezer. If they are being confined and held in a trap for another day, it is still considered “possession” and counts toward their limit.


Legal limits of take
Question: I don’t get to go fishing that often, so I am wondering if I am fortunate enough to get a limit of fish in the morning and I put those fish on ice in the truck, can I then go back out in the afternoon to catch more? I often travel around 100 miles to go fishing, and with the economy as bad as it is, I can’t go often. Is this legal? Thanks. (Ron F.)

Answer: I can understand you wanting to maximize your fishing experience and harvest due to the troubled economy, however, a “bag limit” means the total that you can take in one day. And “possession limit” is usually the same as your bag limit (at least in ocean waters), so you are only allowed to possess one bag limit at any one time. In order to collect more, you will need to either consume or give away what you have and then fish on another day for more, up to the bag limit allowed.


Laminate my license?
Question: Is it okay to laminate my license to protect it and keep it from getting dirty and tattered? (Joe P., Merced)

Answer: Licenses should never be heat laminated as this will destroy the license. If exposed to extreme heat, licenses will darken and become discolored. However, a discolored license is still valid as long as the text and signature are still readable.

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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.

Hunting Sea Ducks

Surf Scoter (Photo courtesy of Ducks Unlimited)

Question: I would like to hunt sea ducks and target surf scoters this waterfowl season. Is this legal? If so, how does one know where it is legal to hunt from shore? Also, if hunting from a boat, I know the motor must not be utilized except to retrieve birds. What other guidelines are there for hunting from a boat? (Scott S.)

Answer: Surf scoters and other sea ducks are found along the entire coast but hunting for them is more popular north of the Golden Gate Bridge in northern California (such as Humboldt Bay) and in Oregon and Washington. Hunting from shore is legal provided that the shoreline is not private (unless you have permission to be there). It also must not be in an area covered by one of the numerous ecological reserves, marine reserves, state parks, etc. along the California coast (see Fish and Game Code, section 2016, for the parameters).

The best thing for you to do is select an area you’re interested in hunting and then contact some local hunting clubs or stores for specific tips and recommendations. Be sure the area allows for discharging of firearms and that you will not be hunting on private property or in one of the parks or reserves that do not allow for hunting.

As far as hunting from a boat, you may not hunt or kill birds while “under power”. In order to legally hunt from a boat, the boat may not be moving due to the influence of the motor.

In general, hunting from navigable waters is legal, as long as the person stays in the boat. Exceptions to this would be the same as the legal closures I listed that cover shoreline hunting.


Multi-day permit question
Question: I have a multi-day fishing permit to use on my personal boat. What is considered a 24-hour day for meeting my daily bag/catch limit? For example, if I am lobster fishing and I catch my limit of seven lobsters before 12:00 am, does a multi-day permit qualify me and everybody onboard my boat at 12:01 am to continue fishing through the night to catch our next day’s limit of lobsters? If not, is a day of lobster fishing considered one complete night so that the next limit of seven lobsters can only be taken the following night? Also, do the same rules apply for fishing, and are all daily bag limits on a 24 hour rotation ending at 12:00 am? If not, then when do they end? (Chris P.)

Answer: A Declaration for Multi-Day Fishing Trip requires that the trip is continuous and extends for a period of 12 hours or more on the first and last days of the trip. If you were fishing or diving for lobster for 12 hours or more before midnight (12:00 a.m.) on the first day of your trip, then you would be able to take your second day’s limit after midnight, as long as your trip extended for at least 12 hours on the second day as well.

The multi-day fishing permit is intended to allow persons fishing offshore, on a trip that lasts multiple days, to catch and keep up to three daily limits of finfish, lobster and rock scallops (in Southern California). In addition, no berthing or docking is permitted within five miles of the mainland shore (California Code of Regulations, Title 14, section 27.15).


Rod and reel and crab fishing at the same time?
Question: Can you set crab pots from a boat, and once finished, fish with a pole as long as the fish are in season? Thanks for your help on this question (Craig J.)

Answer: Yes, there’s no fishing regulation that prohibits rod and reel fishing while you’re soaking your crab pot.


Is it legal to post signs on land you do not own?
Question: I’ve been finding some of my favorite hunting areas now have “No Hunting” signs hung on the fence lines. The problem is these signs are being posted by people who don’t even own the land! This has got to be illegal but I’m not sure what the regulations actually say here. Can you offer us some help? (Jack L.)

Answer: It is illegal for someone to post any sign prohibiting trespass or hunting on any land unless authorized by the owner or the person in lawful possession of the property. By the same token it is also unlawful for any person to maliciously tear down, mutilate or destroy any sign, signboard or other notice forbidding hunting or trespass on land (ref. FGC Section 2018.)

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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.

Sidearm While Duck Hunting?

(Photo courtesy of USFWS)

(Photo courtesy of USFWS)

Question: A friend and I recently had a situation where we found pig tracks at one of the areas where we like to duck hunt. We both found it a little unnerving to be walking in knee to waist high grass armed with only bird shot if a pig were to charge. The area where we are hunting doesn’t explicitly prohibit handguns. We were wondering if California law allows us to carry a handgun, not as a method of take, but rather for defense while hunting waterfowl. I noticed the answer to the question on sidearms while hunting upland game and small game but don’t know if duck hunting has any additional restrictions. Also, if this is allowed, does the ammo in the handgun apply to the nonlead requirement while hunting duck, or is it exempt considering that it is not a method of take? Any help is greatly appreciated. Thanks. (Rhyan P.)

Answer: Unless the area where you’re hunting explicitly prohibits the possession of, or hunting with, handguns, that part should not be a problem. If that is the case, and you feel that your life is in danger, you can shoot the pig. However, you are not authorized to take the carcass unless you have a pig tag and utilized a legal method of take. If you’re hunting in condor country, you must carry nonlead ammunition.


Are crabs with black spots safe to eat?
Question: I just bought two crabs and found one with black spots on the outside shell. I’ve seen these before and usually avoid them, but this time the seller sneaked it into my package. When I called him about it, he said he didn’t know what it is, but it doesn’t permeate the shell. This isn’t true—I’ve seen this stuff on the flesh at the joints. It looks like oil. Can you enlighten me? Besides being ugly, is it unsafe? (Mari V., Berkeley)

Answer: Black spots on the shells of crustaceans are typically composed of melanin, which is the end product of a series of immunological reactions. This means the crab was likely responding to some shell damage that could be caused by physical trauma or a disease agent. In this case, the black spotted crab is probably safe if cooked correctly. However, if the discolored shellfish tissue has an unpleasant taste or texture, or looks or smells unusual, we always recommend not eating it.


Where can I find bail fine information?
Question: How are fines determined and how can someone locate published documentation on fines? (John S., Bakersfield)

Answer: The State Judicial Council publishes the “Uniform Bail and Penalty Schedules” every year. If you perform a web search, most courts will link to the most current edition. The link on our web site  www.courts.ca.gov/documents/july2011_jcbail.pdf is the 2011 edition. Additionally, some fines are mandatory and established by the California legislature. Those can be found in the Fish and Game Code starting with Section 12000. See the California Legislative Information web site http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes.xhtml to look up the code. With some exceptions for mandatory fines, the uniform bail and penalty schedule is a guideline used by judges. In other words, judges have a great deal of discretion in setting fines and penalties for any violation.


Crossbows for wild pigs?
Question: I am trying to get some clarification on hunting wild pigs with a crossbow. The regulations state that crossbows may be used to take deer and wild pigs only during the regular seasons (California Code Regulations, Title 14, section 353). Since wild pigs can be hunted all year, does that mean that a crossbow can be used (like a firearm) to hunt wild pigs? Can any legal hunter with a hunting license and a pig tag use a crossbow for wild pigs? The regulations have a bit of a gray area here and I would like some clarification please. (Al Q.)

Answer: Yes, wild pigs can be taken year-round with a crossbow.


Importing a water buffalo skull?
Question: I purchased a water buffalo skull with horns in Thailand (Jan 2014). The Thai post office informed me I would need a “customs” form to have it delivered in the U.S. but they did not have them. The skull remains with my son in Thailand.

The skull is clean and dry. There is no remaining material on the skull. The skull was purchased from a buffalo farm for about $60. The animal was not mistreated or tortured. It died a natural death. The farm has a number of skulls for sale.

Can you please tell me what form I need and what I need to do to have it shipped to me here in California? Thank you in advance for your assistance. I enjoy your articles! (Jerry M.)

Answer: California wildlife law does not generally apply to this situation. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would be the contact agency regarding importing parts from a water buffalo into 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.

How Well Can Waterfowl See?

Wood duck (Photo © Carrie Wilson)

Wood duck (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: How well can ducks actually see? Can they see color? I know deer see different shades of gray, but what about ducks and geese? (David V.)

Answer: Waterfowl can control the curvature of both the lens and cornea (mammals, including humans, only control the lens). This is basically how birds can see extremely well while flying and while in the act of diving/feeding. In addition, their eyes act independently and they use one at a time to allow for depth-perception since nearly all waterfowl have monocular, not binocular, vision (they can’t stare forward at objects).

Another unique thing about waterfowl is they can see in almost all directions. A few ducks are the exception to the rule, but usually the eye placement allows them to view in many different directions at the same time. Secondly, waterfowl have a very high number of cones (which dictates color vision in humans) which allows them to see sharp images and have color vision where colors are more vivid than humans’ ability. The breadth of color vision is much wider than our own since UV light can be observed by waterfowl (UV light is absorbed by lenses in humans). This allows waterfowl to fly at night or feed in the dark or at low light conditions.


Diving in MPA reserves with game onboard?
Question: If I am on a commercial sport diving boat and we have legally caught lobster on board, may we go into a marine protected area (MPA) to dive and be assured that we will not get a ticket if we are boarded? We would of course have lobster report cards all properly filled out and the lobsters would be of legal size and taken beforehand in a legal area. Can the boat operator be assured that he will not be cited as well? (Rusty B., Montclair)

Answer: If you have lobsters on board your vessel, you may not dive in a marine reserve with gear that can be used to catch lobster (California Code of Regulations, Title 14, section 632 (a)(7) and (8)). A person can’t have their “fishing gear” deployed in the water when anchored or transiting through a marine reserve or other MPA that prohibits fishing for the species you have onboard. Thus, if a diver dives with a game bag and gloves, then it could be argued they have their lobster “fishing gear” in the water. If divers really want to dive in a marine reserve off their boat with catch on board, they should do everything possible to ensure it does not appear they will be pursuing/taking lobster. This would include stowing their completed lobster report card, along with the lobster and dive bags. A diver wearing gloves and diving with a game bag, or anything else that could be used to take fish, lobsters or abalone (a large dive knife or long stick with a hooked device, etc.) would appear to have another purpose in mind besides sightseeing. It would then be up to the wildlife officer to determine the appropriate action.


Are rules for selling on eBay different?
Question: From my understanding, it is illegal to sell deer skulls, deer antlers or deer mounts in the State of California. I know that eBay is based in California and they allow the sale of deer antlers, mounts and deer taxidermy. Obviously, they are receiving money from the online sale of deer parts so how did that come about, and has there been special legislation to cover it? Was this a decision allowed by the California government, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) or has it just happened this way? (Nate H.)

Answer: Just because eBay is selling these things or allowing them to be sold, doesn’t mean it’s legal. Fish and Game Code, section 3039 generally prohibits selling or purchasing any part of a bird or mammal found in the wild in California. Complete antlers, whole heads with antlers, antlers mounted for display or antlers in the velvet may not be sold or purchased at any time. However, shed antlers or antlers taken from domestically reared animals that have been manufactured into products or handcrafted items, or that have been cut into blocks or units which are to be handcrafted, may be purchased or sold. Deer hides can also be sold.


Who can validate big game tags?
Question: I have a question regarding who can validate big game tags. In the regulations booklet there is a list of persons who may validate/countersign big game tags, but I noticed there is no mention of County Agricultural Standards Inspectors. Each county has Agricultural and Standards Inspectors and/or Agricultural Biologists and Standards Inspectors who enforce the laws and regulations of California. Would a hunter be within their legal right to have their big game tag countersigned by such a person? (Andy R., Escondido)

Answer: No. Only those people listed in the regulations booklet are authorized to validate big game tags (CCR, Title 14, section 708.6).

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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.

When Does Fish and Game Become Just Food?

Pintail (Photo courtesy of USFWS)

Pintail (Photo courtesy of USFWS)

Question: I understand that you can’t have multiple limits in your freezer (unless those limits are gifted to a corresponding number of family members living in the same house). My question is when exactly does your catch become just food? If I cook and smoke a duck and then break it down into parts and vacuum seal it into individual meals, or if I smoke some salmon and vacuum seal or can it, does it then stop being game and become food? If not, how and why does this differ from taking advantage of a grocery store sale and buying a couple cases of salmon? Surely there could be more than a limit of salmon in a case. Please be specific about when and why food stops being game. (Kirk G.)

Answer: Regardless of whether they are fresh, frozen, or otherwise preserved, if you have the edible portions of any sport-taken fish or game, they still count toward your possession limit until they are consumed (Fish and Game Code, section 2001 and California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.17.) Grocery stores can only sell commercially processed and packaged meats. Possession refers only to sport-taken fish or game species. For any fish or other meat purchased commercially, just keep them in their commercial packaging to easily differentiate between them from any sport-caught fish or game you may have in your possession.


Can licensed anglers fish more rods from a public pier?
Question: I know people without fishing licenses are allowed to fish from public piers with a limit of no more than two rods. But what if I have a valid fishing license and ocean enhancement stamp and still fish on public piers? Since Fish and Wildlife regs allow licensed anglers to fish in ocean waters with an unlimited number of rods, am I allowed to fish with more than two poles while fishing in ocean waters from a pier? (Frank R.)

Answer: No. If a licensed angler is not fishing from a public pier or jetty and not fishing for a species with rod limits (e.g. rockfish, lingcod or salmon), then more than two rods may be used. On public piers though, no person may use more than two rods and lines, two hand lines, or two nets, traps or other appliances used to take crabs (CCR Title 14, section 28.65(b)), regardless of whether they have a fishing license.


Giving pheasants away to other hunters to keep hunting?
Question: While hunting pheasants, once I shoot my limit, can I give one of my birds to another hunter in the group and continue hunting? (Jerry)

Answer: No. Once you reach your bag limit you are finished hunting for the day. You can give your birds away to other hunters but that does not then allow you to continue hunting that day.


Lobster hunting with bait cages while scuba diving?
Question: Can we use bait cages (like what’s used for hoop netting) while scuba diving for lobster? I want to fill a couple of bait cages with bait and put a float on them with a light stick, set them next to a reef, and then come back and check it for lobster feeding off of it. I don’t see it being illegal since there are no hoop nets involved, or traps and no tickle sticks being used. We’re still catching them by hand. (Anonymous)

Answer: Well, you should keep catching them by hand and not use these bait cages. When diving for crustaceans, the law says they may only be taken by hand, so the literal interpretation would say any other method for a diver is illegal (CCR Title 14, section 29.80(a)(1)). The bait cage is an appliance and is prohibited. The regulation reads: “Nets, traps or other applicances may not be used …” (CCR Title 14, section 29.80(a)(2)).


Hunting upland birds and waterfowl at the same time?
Question: If I’m in the field upland bird hunting and a flock of ducks/geese fly overhead, am I allowed to shoot those birds, too? (Robert G.)

Answer: Yes, but only if the season for waterfowl is open in the area, if you have the required state and federal waterfowl stamps affixed to your license, AND you only have steel or other non-toxic shot in your possession.

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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.

Local Gooseneck Barnacles on the Menu?

Close-up of gooseneck barnacles (Pollicipes polymerus) Dr. Dwayne Meadows, NOAA/NMFS/OPR

Close-up of gooseneck barnacles (Dr. Dwayne Meadows, NOAA Collections)

Question: I have a question about gooseneck barnacles. In the Fish and Game regulations it states that gooseneck barnacles cannot be taken or possessed at any time. Can you tell me why? I have spoken with California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) biologists and they did not know why but suggested I contact you. Currently, the only legal way you can obtain them is by purchasing them in a dish at a high-end restaurant. The barnacles sold in these dishes are imported from Spain. I collect mussels in season and the barnacles are nearly as prolific as the mussels, and in the same locations as the mussels. (Curt H., San Francisco)

Answer: I suspect that as with so many of our regulations, goosenecks were not included with the inverts that can be taken because no one spoke up when the list was made to say, “Hey, people eat goosenecks!” California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.05 lists those animals that may be taken within the intertidal zone, and no barnacles (including gooseneck barnacles) are included. These regulations are reviewed and often amended every two years and the Fish and Game Commission could consider adding barnacles to those animals that can be taken. Feel free to contact the Commission with your request (www.fgc.ca.gov/). They would ultimately decide if goosenecks could be added.


Can my estate sell my hunting gear as furniture?
Question: Can my estate sell my collection of all of my old hunting gear that I have collected over the years as a piece of furniture? I have an old hat rack with the following items on it: My father’s old hunting hat and his brother’s old hunting hat, my father’s old hunting coat and his duck strap. On the coat are some old hunting licenses (1930’s and 1940’s), various duck pins, plus 1920 and 1942 Ducks Unlimited pins, and collections of duck bands on a cord. There are also some old pheasant tags/permits in one of the pockets from this same era.

What I’m most proud of is the duck strap that contains nine different species of mounted ducks hanging by their necks. They include: hen shoveler, blue wing teal, gadwall drake, pintail drake, widgeon drake, green wing teal drake, wood duck drake, ring necked duck drake and a small cross-bred duck.Bob Stewart

I am aware that you can’t sell mounted birds by themselves, but as they are part of the piece of furniture, can they be part of the total value and all sold together? All of this vintage hunting stuff belonged to my father and uncle, but I know once I pass on, no one else in my family will have any interest in keeping the stuff. I hope my estate will be able to sell this whole collection of treasures as a piece of furniture so as to not have to break it all up and lose the duck mounts. (Bob S., Modesto)

Answer: What a great collection!! Unfortunately, as you suspected, you cannot sell the ducks. Your best bet would be to sell the other items and donate the ducks. You could perhaps take the ducks out of the collection all together but then donate the strap of birds to the person who buys the other items.


Mobile deer stand
Question: I have a deer stand that lifts up and down using a hydraulic ram mounted in the back of my truck. Is this legal in the state of California? The only way to use it is if the truck is on flat ground and not moving. (Anonymous)

Answer: Unless you qualify for a disabled hunting license, the law prohibits shooting any game bird or mammal from a motor vehicle (Fish and Game Code, section 3002). This provision also applies to a vehicle-mounted deer stand. A legal alternative might be if the stand could be mounted onto a trailer that could then be detached from the vehicle.


Sibiki rig for bait while rock fishing
Question: While fishing for rockfish we would like to have a small rod set up with a sibiki rig to catch bait fish. Do we need to remove the extra hooks and only use two hooks when fishing for bait with rockfish on board? Thanks (Dave P.)

Answer: Yes, when rockfish, lingcod, cabezon or kelp or rock greenling are aboard or in possession, only one line with not more than two hooks may be used (California Code of Regulations Title 14, sections 28.55, 28.27, 28.28 or 28.29, respectively.)

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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.

Deer Hunting in an Area Closed Following a Fire

Mule deer on scenic hillside (USFWS photo)

Mule deer on scenic hillside (USFWS photo)

Question: My son and I have drawn G37 tags. We have been trying for 15 years to draw this once-in-a-lifetime hunt. My concern is that the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) has closed a big portion of this area because of the Rim Fire and the El Portal Fire. Is there anything that the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) can do to get these closed areas open? We don’t want to exchange our tags for the G37 hunt, we would like the USFS to open the closed areas that are in the G37 zone that burned. We and the other hunters would appreciate whatever CDFW can do for us. Thank you. (Dennis and Brent S.)

Answer: Unfortunately, there’s nothing we can do to require them to reopen the burned area. The fire closures are implemented whenever the USFS decides they are warranted. The best we can do is to refer you to the USFS district office so you can talk directly to those making the decisions. That might be your best hope.

And regarding your tags, even if you did want to exchange your tags, there are no refunds for deer tags. There are no exchanges for premium tags either. We can exchange restricted and unrestricted deer tags provided the following: 1) the earliest season for their zone has not already started, 2) tag quota for the tag they want to exchange is not yet filled, 3) tags remain in the zone they want to exchange for, and 4) you pay the current exchange fee. For more details, please check California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 708.14(j).


Shark took my salmon!
Question: While fishing off of Shelter Cove for salmon a while back, a large shark latched onto a salmon hooked on the line. After a few minutes of fight, the shark raised its head out of the water and bit through the salmon it had in its jaws, leaving the salmon head and 6 to 8 inches of flesh. My question is, by regulation, do we have to count the head as one of our take? We kept the head in the fish box and salvaged as much of the flesh as we could so as not to waste resources. (Rick W., Shelter Cove)

Answer: Since you landed the remainder of the salmon, you must count the fish toward your bag limit. However, since the fish was not retained in a whole condition, it would have been illegal to possess since it could not be measured to determine if it met the legal length requirement. So, while salvaging as much of the flesh as you could so as not to waste resources may have been the “right” thing to do, legally, you should have sent the head and remaining carcass back to the ocean to let other marine organisms utilize it. And if you had sent the carcass back down without salvaging the remainder of the fish, it would not count toward your daily bag limit.


How to pay for not returning lobster card?
Question: I did not return my lobster card last season, and I would like to know how/where I can pay my fine so I can get another card for this coming season.

Answer: When you go to purchase your 2014-2015 lobster report card, the clerk should tell you that you need to pay your $20 non-return fee first. After paying this fee, you should be able to purchase your new lobster report card.


Nonlead for all hunting on a wildlife area?
Question: I won a G12 deer tag this year (either sex shotgun only, Gray Lodge Wildlife Area). Because this is a popular waterfowl hunting area, am I legally allowed to use lead slugs or do I need to use nonlead slugs? (Philipp K.)

Answer: Yes, you may use lead slugs. In 2014, the use of lead slugs to hunt on state wildlife areas is not prohibited. However, this may be the last year that you can use lead ammunition for big game at the Gray Lodge Wildlife Area. In 2013, Assembly Bill 711was approved by the Governor and chaptered into law by the Secretary of State. AB 711 added several sections to the Fish and Game Code, one of which (3005.5(b)) requires a complete ban on the use of lead ammunition when taking wildlife for any purposes anywhere in the state by July 1, 2019. This section also requires the Fish and Game Commission to develop a phase-in regulation by July 1, 2015, designed to impose the least burden on California’s hunters while still implementing the intent of the law. (For more information regarding implementation of AB 711, please go to http://www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/hunting/lead-free/.)

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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.