Category Archives: Saltwater Fishing

Diving for Lobsters with Hoop Nets

DFG Marine Biologist Travis Buck holds a California spiny lobster caught in a traditional hoop net (DFG photo)

CDFW Marine Environmental Scientest Travis Buck holds a California spiny lobster caught in a traditional hoop net (CDFW photo)

Question: In regards to catching California spiny lobster, the regulations say the following: Both rigid and collapsible hoop nets may be used from piers and boats. When fishing from a boat, five nets per person are allowed with no more than ten traps on a boat. When fishing from a pier, two hoop nets per person are allowed. Divers are limited to catching lobster by (gloved) hand only.

This leads me to my question. Is it legal for a snorkeler/diver/free diver to swim their hoop nets out to the desired location to drop and then retrieve their traps by hand, while floating in the water? This seems like a good option for people who do not own boats to set traps from and for divers when visibility is so poor that it’s impossible to see lobsters to catch by hand. (Joshua)

Answer: No, you cannot legally take fish hoop nets out to a fishing location while free or scuba diving. The law says that when diving for crustaceans (free or scuba diving), you may take crustaceans by the use of hands only (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.80(g)). If you are in the water, you are diving. You can scout where you want to set your nets when diving, but then you need to stop diving and get out of the water to set and retrieve your hoop nets. If you don’t want to buy or borrow a boat, you can set traps from a kayak, a long board or even a stand up paddle board. Just be sure to wear a life jacket if you do!


Property rights via access by ATV down a dry river bed?
Question: During the last week of deer season, I approached a man riding a 4-wheeler who was obviously hunting since he had a rifle case. He was riding down the dry river bed for over a mile where it’s private property on both sides of the river. He argued with me that he had a right to be there as long as he stayed under the high water mark. I told him he could not be there and could not cross private property at all unless if in a boat and didn’t touch the river bar/land. He got huffy with me so I let it go and he proceeded on his way. What is the law when it comes to a river running through private land? (Heather D.)

Answer: This is a very complicated area of the law and will vary based on the characteristics of the waterway, the ownership of the land, the agencies involved and a number of other factors. In other words, before people get on their ATVs thinking they have the right to ride down dry river beds through private property, they should do some research to see exactly who owns or manages the land, what the characteristics of the dry waterway are and be absolutely sure they have a right to be there and won’t be trespassing. All situations are not the same and the laws may vary from place to place.


Pooling crabs?
Question: What is the boat limit for taking crabs other than Dungeness? I plan to have between two and four people (all with fishing licenses) on my private boat and need to know the answer to this question. Thank you very much for your help. (Jay T.)

Answer: You may not pool your crabs since boat limits apply only to finfish and not to invertebrates (CCR Title 14, section 27.60 (c)). With crabs, individual bag and possession limits apply. For crabs of the Cancer genus (excluding Dungeness crabs) including yellow crabs, rock crabs, red crabs and slender crabs, the limit is 35 crabs per person. Each crab must measure a minimum of four inches from edge of shell to edge of shell at the widest part (except there is no minimum size in parts of Humboldt County).


Bow and arrow hunting with a slingshot?
Question: Can a slingshot be used as a bow or crossbow? Would it be legal to hunt with an arrow and slingshot? (Anonymous)

Answer: Yes, a slingshot can be used as a bow or crossbow as long as it can cast a legal hunting arrow (except flu-flu arrows) a horizontal distance of 130 yards, and as long as it meets one of the definitions of bows and crossbows listed in the Title 14 regulations. To be sure your slingshot meets the requirements, please go to http://www.dfg.ca.gov/enforcement/, click on “CA Code of Regulations, including Title 14” and look up Title 14, section 354, subdivisions (a), (b) and (f).

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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 Handle Loaded Firearms around Wildlife Officers?

Game warden Nicole Kozicki checks a waterfowl hunter's hunting license

Wildlife Officer Nicole Kozicki checks a waterfowl hunter’s shotgun and hunting license

Question: What should a person do when approached by a wildlife officer for inspection? Should they put the gun onto their car so that it’s in plain sight? Should they tell the officer to wait while they unload the gun? Should they place the gun on the ground? What is the proper protocol in this type of situation? Please advise. (Rheannon O.)

Answer: First of all, placing a loaded long gun in or on a vehicle which is in a place open to the public is a violation of the law. Vehicles should automatically be considered a poor choice to place or to store a loaded firearm. When a wildlife officer approaches, the first thing you should do is follow the directions that the officer gives you. Absent any directions, here are some good options:

  1. Some people unload their firearm in a calm manner to show respect for what a loaded firearm can do and respect for the officer. This shows the officer you are handing him a safe unloaded firearm. If you are within talking distance, ask the officer if he/she wants you to unload the firearm. If directed to unload, make sure to control the muzzle away from anyone.
  2. Many folks simply hand the firearm to the officer, and that is also acceptable. If you do, make sure to tell the officer the gun is loaded.
  3. Setting the gun on the ground is acceptable so long as the muzzle is pointed in a safe direction, but depending on the terrain (mud, sand, etc), this may not be a prudent choice.

Transporting a friend’s lobsters after a multi-day trip
Question: There will be three of us going to Catalina to hoop for lobsters with a multi-day permit. One guy will only be able to hoop two of the three days and then will have to take the Flyer back to go to work. Can my friend and I transport this guy’s catch back for him as long as we have his license/report card with us without being in violation of limits? He will not be able to take his catch with him. (Larry H.)

Answer: No. Multi-day permits require that “All passengers must disembark at place of return as stated” on the permit (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 27.15(b)(5)). Your friend can “gift” you his lobsters, but they will count towards your overall take/possession limit. You and your friend are allowed to take/possess only your own limits. In this situation, your friend must go home with his catch or else all three of you are allowed to catch no more than a limit for two people.


Retaining just one claw when crabbing?
Question: Our fishing club is planning a fishing trip for local crab out of the Santa Monica Bay area. Some people in the group insist we should only keep one claw from each crab so they can be put back to grow another claw and still live. I know with lobsters we are instructed to leave them whole until they are ready for consumption to allow the wildlife officer to verify it’s a legal catch. Is it legal to keep only one claw or do we need the entire crab to allow the wildlife officer to verify? (Jerry E.)

Answer: You are required to take the whole legal-sized crab to prove your crab is of legal size. Possessing just claws would be a violation because the size of the crabs they came from cannot be determined (Fish and Game Code, section 5508). Crabs also carry a lot of meat in the body. Crab season for all crabs of the genus Cancer (except Dungeness crabs) is open all year. The size limit in Southern California is four inches and the part of the crab that we measure is the main body shell (edge of shell to edge of shell at the widest part).

While crabs may be able to regenerate lost claws under good conditions, crabs with only one claw have a far tougher time fending off predators than if they had both claws for protection. Predators will go after any weakened animal, so just removing a claw may be considered a waste of fish – also a state violation.


Minimum age to apply for a deer drawing?
Question: Can you apply for a deer drawing if you are only 11 but will be 12 before the hunt starts or do you have to be 12 before you put in for the drawing? (Jacob W.)

Answer: You must be 12 years old by July 1 to apply.

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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.

Can a Private Boat Owner Be Cited for a Passenger’s Violation?

California Spiny Lobsters at San Clemente Island (CDFW photo by Derek Stein)

Question: I have my own boat and take friends out lobster fishing with me. I always make sure each person has their license and report card. I also make sure each person has their own bag and keeps each lobster they catch separate as they catch them. My question is, if the game warden finds a short lobster in one of their bags, am I held responsible as the boat owner or would the owner of that bag be responsible? Also, do boat limits apply when fishing for lobster? (Jerry E.)

Answer: Lobsters may be brought to the surface of the water for measuring, but no undersize lobster may be brought aboard any boat or retained. All undersize lobsters must be released immediately into the water (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.90). If the bag or undersized lobster is claimed by any person aboard the boat, that person would most likely be issued a citation for possession of an undersized lobster.

If no one claims the lobster, the game warden can issue citations to everyone aboard the boat (joint possession). Or, since the boat is the property of the skipper, the skipper may be the only one cited because the undersized lobster is possessed aboard the skipper’s boat. Of course, prevention is the best solution, so if in doubt, set it free.

Sport fishing boat limits apply only to fin fish, not lobster. This means that once a lobster fisherman harvests the daily bag limit of seven, he or she may no longer fish for lobster.


Lead ammo for pistol in condor country?
Question: In the lead-free condor zone, can I carry a pistol that is loaded with lead ammo for self-defense, with the intention of NEVER using it for hunting purposes? The purpose of carrying it is for self-defense only. Of course I’ll be carrying lead-free ammo for my rifles, but I want to know about the side arm. Personally, I carry either a Glock 20 in 10mm or a Ruger 44mag. (Brandon C.)

Answer: You may not use or possess lead ammunition in the condor zone while hunting, even if you have no intention of using the lead ammunition to shoot wildlife. For more information on the non-lead requirements in condor country, please go to www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/hunting/condor/.


Selling sturgeon eggs from a legally-taken sturgeon?
Question: If I catch legal-sized sturgeons with eggs, can I sell the eggs because I don’t eat them? (Byron M.)

Answer: No. It is illegal to sell any portion of a sturgeon or any fish taken under the authority of a sport fishing license (Fish and Game Code, section 7121).


Grizzly bear tooth
Question: I received a grizzly bear tooth amongst some of my grandfather’s possessions after he passed away. My grandfather grew up here in California and was an amateur geologist and never hunted, so I think he either found or purchased the tooth, although I have no proof. I was wondering if it is legal to possess or sell the tooth here in the state of California. I don’t want to break any laws. (Laura J.)

Answer: It is legal for you to possess it but you cannot try to sell it. The sale or purchase of any bear part in California is prohibited (FGC, section 4758 (a)). Even offering it for sale over the Internet is a federal violation that could make you subject to prosecution under the Lacey Act. You may possess the tooth or give it away, but you may not sell it.

Sounds to me like you have an interesting piece of California’s history, as grizzly bears are extinct in the state — Enjoy it!


Retrieving hoop nets with rod and reel?
Question: Is it legal to use a rod and reel as a retrieval device for a hoop net? For instance, I would connect an 18-inch hoop net to the line of my rod and reel (without hooks) and this would allow me to cast the net in order to better fish for lobsters from a jetty. Is this OK? (Jeff C.)

Answer: Yes, you may use a rod and reel as a retrieval device for your hoop net. You are not required to pull your net by hand, nor are you prohibited from pulling it using a rod and reel.

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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.