Category Archives: Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)

Can Anglers and Divers Help Fill Another’s Bag Limits?

Divers cannot help one another to fill their bag limits. Only anglers fishing from boats on the ocean can help others fill their limits (CDFW photo by Derek Stein)

Divers cannot help other divers fill their bag limits. Only ocean anglers fishing from boats can keep fishing until all anglers aboard have limits (CDFW photo by Derek Stein)

Question: We do a lot of ocean fishing and spear fishing and have a question: Does an angler or spear fisher have to stop fishing once they reach their bag limit even if they are with another licensed angler or spearfisher without their limit? For example, if I am on my boat fishing for rockfish with a friend and I catch my limit but my licensed friend is having a slow day, can I legally gift him some of my limit and continue fishing? The same with spearfishing. I know in years past I have been on boats where fishing was not stopped until the boat had limits for everyone fishing. This seems like a gray area to me and I just want to make sure I am following legal and ethical methods while diving and fishing. Thank you. (Charlie C.)

Answer: You can help your friends who are having a slow fishing day only if you are fishing from a boat on the ocean. “Boat limits” are allowed only for ocean anglers fishing for finfish while aboard a boat. This does not apply for divers or for people fishing for invertebrates (e.g. lobsters and crab) or for anglers fishing in freshwater lakes and streams. Boat limits mean that all licensed anglers (and anglers under 16) may keep fishing until enough fish have been caught to fill all the anglers’ collective bag limits. It doesn’t matter who caught the fish as long as nobody is over-limit when they depart the boat. This provision is allowed only in this situation for saltwater anglers fishing with hook and line. It does not extend to divers or to shore fishermen or to people fishing in inland waters (California Code of Regulations, Title 14, section 27.60[c]).

GPS collars for training hunting dogs?
Question: I am training hunting dogs for raccoon and pig hunting and need to buy new tracking collars that I can also hunt with. I’ve always used these old radio frequency collars but want to replace them with some good global positioning system (GPS) collars. One of my hunting buddies says he thinks these GPS collars are going to be illegal to hunt with though. Is that true? (Bart H., Merced)

Answer: Yes, it’s true. GPS collars and collars with treeing switches are prohibited when using dogs for the pursuit/take of mammals (CCR Title 14, section 265(d)). GPS retrieval collars employ electronics that utilize satellite transmissions. Collars with treeing switches utilize a mercury switch mechanism that changes the collars’ signal transmission when the dog raises its head toward a treed animal.

How is the high tide line within MPAs determined and enforced?
Question: In MPA zone mapping, who and how determines what is the “mean high tide” boundary? How is this enforceable to determine if you are in the MPA zone or not? (Anonymous)

Answer: The shoreline shown on nautical charts represents the line of contact between the land and water at a selected vertical datum. In areas affected by tidal fluctuations, this is usually the mean high-water line. In confined coastal waters of diminished tidal influence, a mean water level line may be used. The shoreline of interior waters (rivers, lakes) is usually a line representing a specified elevation above a selected datum. A shoreline is symbolized by a heavy line.

Throw nets to catch baitfish in private lakes?
Question: Can I use a throw net to catch baitfish (threadfin shad) in a private lake? I am assuming that since it is a private lake, it should be fine, right? (Daniel B.)

Answer: California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) fishing regulations generally do not apply in any water that is self-contained without any hydrological connection to state waters, or to any fish that are planted by the owner or person in control of the property. In these waters fishing methods are not governed by CDFW regulations. However, it would be a violation of the law to transport fish alive from the water where they were taken (CCR Title 14, section 1.63).

Can I mount a camera to my rifle scope to record my hunt?
Question: Is there any law against mounting a camera to the scope of a rifle to record my hunting experience? (Anonymous)

Answer: No, there is no law against this as long as there is no light emitted from the camera.

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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

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

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

Can Lizards be Legally Captured and Kept as Pets?

Many lizards and other herps, including this Western Fence Lizard, are legal to take under freshwater fishing regulations, even by 8-year-olds! (Photo by Jeff Cann)

Question:My 8-year-old caught a pair of western fence lizards in the park near our house. He brought them home and they’re doing very well in a terrarium in his room. We did some online research to find out how to care for them, and came across several lively debates on the herp forums as to whether it’s even

(Alex Macintyre with his pet lizard)

legal to keep them as pets. Some believe it’s against the law unless you have a collection permit, while others say it’s only illegal to collect and keep threatened or endangered species. My son would like to keep them, but doesn’t want to break any Fish and Game laws! (Kirsten M., Sacramento)

Answer: Lizards are considered herps, and herps fall under the fishing regulations. Herps may be taken in accordance with section 5.60 in the Freshwater Fishing Regulations. A fishing license is required for those 16 and older. Western fence lizards are legal to take but they cannot be traded, bartered or sold, and the bag limit is 25.

Department of Fish and Game (DFG) fishing regulations authorize capture of certain species of amphibians and reptiles for “sport” (i.e. personal use).  There are over 200 species of amphibians and reptiles in California; 86 species are specifically authorized for take in the fishing regulations (plus all species of rattlesnakes). The link to the sport take regulations can be found at

Definition of “Vessel” to transit through MPAs?
Question: With the MPAs now in effect here in Southern California, I would like a better definition of the word “vessel” specifically related to: “Vessels shall be allowed to transit through marine protected areas and marine managed areas with catch onboard. Fishing gear shall not be deployed in the water while transiting through a state marine reserve. Fishing gear, except legal fishing gear used to take species identified as allowed for take in subsection 632(b), shall not be deployed in the water while transiting through a state marine recreational management area, state marine park or state marine conservation area.”

Does a “vessel” always have to have a motor or can it be a non-motorized kayak, canoe, row boat, float tube, etc.? (Chad C., Poway)

Answer: Yes to all of the examples you present. A vessel under the circumstances you’re asking will be defined as any floating platform that a person can fish from. We even see people here in my local area actively fishing from their surfboards. So by doing so, that surfboard is then considered a “vessel” when it is used in this manner as a fishing platform.

Hunting ducks affected by standing corn?
Question: This past duck season, I hunted at a private club with a guide. We did OK but the birds all seemed to want to go to the club next door. The guide told me that was because the neighbor had corn on his property and the ducks went in there to feed. I asked him if that was baiting, which I thought was illegal. The guide said that the corn they had next door was “standing corn” which was not harvested and left to fall on its own. He said as long as the owner didn’t harvest or “manipulate” the corn, that it was not considered baiting. Is this correct? What are the rules on planting corn and leaving it alone for the ducks? (Luke B.)

Answer: Yes, the guide was correct. Baiting of waterfowl fall under the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Title 50, section 20.21(i), available online at

What to do with a pig that’s rooting through our neighborhood?
Question: We live in a residential subdivision in Gualala in Sonoma County and there is a wild male pig rooting around the homes. This pig is making himself at home and rooting up the unfenced ground around our home. Most everyone who lives around here has had this guy at their home. This is a 2- to 5-acre residential zoning so we cannot shoot him, not that we want to. He follows the same evening route just before sunset. I have no objection to Fish and Game setting a trap box here. We don’t venture around our place after sunset. This pig has been sighted in the past two weeks by about six people. We have weekly garbage service which no doubt is an attraction and our homeowners association has notified its membership. (Jeff W., Gualala)

Answer: First of all I suggest you make sure no garbage or artificial food attractants are being left out to draw the animal into your neighborhood. Talk to your neighbors about this and make sure your homeowners association spreads the word, too.

Homeowners associations differ from place to place, but most are within a designated city limit and most cities impose firearm discharge restrictions for the general populous. Thus, this would make shooting the pig unlawful in most situations. As such, hunting and immediate take are not options. Landowners or your housing association can apply to the Department of Fish and Game for a depredation permit and then contact a local pig removal company or a federal trapper through USDA Wildlife Services (who operate in select California Counties) to trap and remove the pig.

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

Hunting wild pigs over bait on a licensed game ranch?

Photo: ©Carrie Wilson

Question: Can you hunt feral pigs (a.k.a. wild hogs) from a stand over bait, if it is on a completely enclosed, high fence, licensed game ranch? I was offered such a hunt and the landowner said I wouldn’t even need pig tags. Although it’s allowed in other states, I didn’t think it was legal to do in California and so I didn’t pursue it. Would it be legal if the rancher had released his own domestically bred pigs to run wild, as he is doing legally with other exotic game animals? (Anonymous)

Answer: No, it is not legal to hunt feral hogs over bait. However, if domestic swine are released into an area enclosed by escape-proof fencing, the pigs retain their status as domestic livestock and are neither feral nor game mammals protected by Fish and Game laws. Based upon your description, this would not be hunting but instead killing domestic animals owned by the rancher. If this is being advertised as “wild hog hunting” and sold as a hunt, there may be issues regarding violations of California Business and Professions Code. (182 words)

Fishing in the aqueduct?
Question: Is it legal to fish in the California Aqueduct system? (Thomas T.)

Answer: Yes, it is legal to fish in certain areas but not legal to trespass. Some of these areas are fenced or posted to keep folks out. Many people fish for stripers in the aqueduct. Check the regulations for where you may fish.

What’s the fine for fishing in an MPA?
Question: I was recently cited for fishing in a Marine Protected Area (MPA). I wasn’t familiar with the area and went into the MPA unintentionally and fished. I am not denying that I did but am wondering what the penalty can be for that? (Mike G.)

Answer: You can look up the bail and penalty schedule for the code section you were cited for at to see the penalties listed, but it is entirely up to the court what fines are imposed. Keep in mind too that with the additional court fees and other processing costs that come with each ticket, your total may be double what the bail schedule calls for.

Retrieving confiscated property after a violation
Question: When a person is caught in the act of a violation, given a citation to appear in court, and then has his equipment (firearms, rods, reels, camping gear, vehicles, etc.) confiscated, can the property taken by the game wardens ever be retrieved? What if charges are then dismissed by the Superior Court judge? If the citation lists the model number and brand name as evidence, can the equipment taken by the officers then be retrieved?

Do the DFG officers have the ability to take equipment home for themselves if the person that committed crime never tries or gets the chance to get their property released back to them?

Otherwise, after a certain amount of time, is all confiscated property sold in public auction? If so, when and where does this take place and is there a website? Is there an itemized list of what’s available and/or the prices if not sold by auction? (DMB, West Sacramento)

Answer: Once the case is adjudicated, the judge decides to have the gear either returned to the defendants or forfeited to DFG. If the judge forfeits the gear to DFG, then there are two options: If the gear is in poor condition and not safe to use, it is destroyed; if it is in good condition, it may be distributed to our scientists or game wardens in need of equipment for use in the field, and for work-related use only.

For all other gear confiscated and not returned to defendants as ordered by judges, DFG basically has three options: 1) put the gear into work-related use, 2) destroy it, or 3) sell it at a public auction.

Confiscated fishing gear is usually donated to DFG’s “Fishing in the City” or “California Fishing Passport” programs for use by the public during promotional fishing events. All confiscated firearms not returned by the courts are ordered by law to be destroyed unless they have collector value, in which case they may be donated to a museum or educational facility for display. Public auctions for confiscated gear are not frequently held, but when they are, DFG is required to provide public notice through local newspapers.

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


Can Rifle and Bow Hunters Mix?

Deer and pigs together, Monterey County. (Photo ©Carrie Wilson)

Deer and pigs together, Monterey Co. (Photo © Carrie Wilson)

Hunting wild pigs with firearm during archery deer season?
Question: I have a question regarding hunting pigs during deer archery season. I know that pigs are open all year. I also know that if you are hunting deer during archery season, you cannot have any firearms with your archery equipment while out in the field. If I am out hunting with my friends, but I am hunting pigs with my gun while they are archery hunting for deer, is it legal for me to carry my gun with me while my buddies are bow hunting, if we are in the same hunting area? Will a game warden cite us or be overly suspicious because we would have a mixture of hunting equipment in our possession during archery season, even though we have a non-deer hunter in our group? Thanks. (Tim P.)

Answer: This is an age-old scenario that we hear often. According to Assistant Chief Mike Carion, while you are not prohibited from carrying a firearm (Section 354[h]) because you are not an “archer,” if you claim to be hunting pigs with your firearm during a deer archery-only season, you may draw the attention of a game warden.

If you are observed in the field with archery deer hunters and are carrying a firearm, and you are doing anything that could be defined as “hunting, pursuing, catching, capturing or killing” deer, there is a good chance you will be cited for taking or attempting to take deer without a tag, and hunting with a firearm during an archery season. Merely claiming you are hunting pig, coyote, ground squirrel or something else does not necessarily protect you from prosecution. So be sure your actions are consistent with the intended legal game you are hunting, that the game is obviously found in the area, and that you are carrying the correct tags and ammunition for the game you are pursuing.

Because there are people who take advantage of these situations, game wardens pay close attention to mixed hunting groups. And by carrying a firearm you will be putting yourself and your group in the spotlight.

Legal to spearfish at night?
Question: Is it legal to spearfish at night? If so, what fish can be taken? This sounds intriguing to me since I enjoy night diving and it would give me another activity to enjoy while doing so, but I want to stay within the law. Thank you for your time. Just to be clear, I would be diving along the North Coast. (Anonymous)

Answer: Generally, Fish and Game laws allow fish to be taken at night in all ocean waters that are open to the take of fish during the day, and by all methods of take that are authorized for use during the day. If it’s legal to take fish in a specific area during the day with a spear, it’s legal to do so at night. Areas of the ocean in which spear fishing is prohibited include Marine Protected Areas and anywhere within 200 yards of the mouth of any stream. Taking fish with a spear is not allowed in the inland waters of the North Coast Fishing District at any time.

Kids first hunter safety course and hunt
Question: At what age can kids first take the hunter safety course, go on their first hunt, and then what can they hunt for? (Bill A.)

Answer: Since the Department of Fish and Game is a state agency, it can not discriminate by age. According to Captain Roy Griffith of our Hunter Education Program, it is up to the discretion of the parent or guardian to decide when their child has the maturity and upper body strength to safely manipulate a firearm. A junior hunter needs to attend a Hunter Education class and take a written test. Once juniors have passed the test, they can obtain a hunting license and may hunt any legal species (except big game, if they are under the age of 12 Once they have turned 12 years old, they may then apply for big game tags and hunt big game with their Junior Hunting License and appropriate big game tag).

Fishing after Bag Limit
Question: If I have five trout on my stringer, can I continue to fish if I don’t keep any more than the five fish bag limit? In other words, catch-and-release after I have my limit of five? Thanks. (Don B.)

Answer: Good question, but the answer is NO. The definition of “take” is to “hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill fish, amphibians, reptiles, mollusks, crustaceans or invertebrates or attempting to do so” (FGC Section 1.80). Therefore, catch-and-release fishing is not legal unless you’re still under your maximum bag limit.

Hunter turns 16 during the season. Hunting license required?

Question: My grandson is now 15 years old and will turn 16 in early September. The way I read the big game regulations, he should still be a junior hunter for the 2009 /2010 season. The regulation book doesn’t address this clearly. Can you help? (Al C.)

Answer: As long as your grandson buys his junior license prior to his 16th birthday, he’s good to go for this year. Once he turns 16, though, he will need to purchase the federal waterfowl stamp (if hunting waterfowl) but will not need to buy state stamps yet. For a list of stamps and definitions of the various licenses, take a look at There are also some junior hunts that are only available to those under 16 years of age, regardless of whether a junior license was purchased prior to the hunter’s 16th birthday.

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