Category Archives: Sharks

Fishing for Manta Rays in California

bat ray D. Troutte

California Bat Ray (Photo by Dean Troutte)

Question: Is it legal to fish for manta rays in California, specifically in the San Francisco Bay area? (Gina T.)

Answer: Manta rays are generally not found off California, and since they are filter feeders, it may be difficult to persuade one to take your bait. The northernmost limit of their range in the eastern Pacific Ocean is around San Diego, where they are only spotted occasionally. However, if a manta ray were to stray farther north, then yes, it may be legally taken by hook and line off California. I suspect you instead may be referring to bat rays which are more widely distributed and caught fairly regularly on hook and line. If so, they too are legal to take.


California lizardfish
Question: Please verify for me the catch limit on California lizardfish. My understanding is the limit is 10 fish/species with a total bag limit of 20 fish of all species. Right? I don’t see this species mentioned as one of the “no limit” species. Lizardfish are being caught 4-5 at a time on the piers on the Central Coast and someone is telling the anglers there is no limit, so keep all you catch. (Rose H., Santa Barbara)

Answer: You are correct. A bag limit of up to 10 lizardfish per angler is allowed. There are no size or season restrictions for these fish though.


Selling a polar bear rug
Question: I’ve inherited a white polar bear rug that has been in the family for 30-40 years. I have no papers or receipts for it. Can I still sell it? (Christian P., Tulare)

Answer: No. Fish and Game Code section 4758 prohibits the sale of any bear parts, even if the bear is not native to California, and violations are prosecuted as felonies.


Big game baiting
Question: I have a question regarding the “baiting” of big game. In the Mammal Hunting regulations booklet on page 12 it says:

257.5. Prohibition Against Taking Resident Game Birds and Mammals by the Aid of Bait.

Except as otherwise provided in these regulations or in the Fish and Game Code, resident game birds and mammals may not be taken within 400 yards of any baited area.
(a) Definition of Baited Area. As used in this regulation, “baited area” shall mean any area where shelled, shucked or unshucked corn, wheat or other grains, salt, or other feed whatsoever capable of luring, attracting, or enticing such birds or mammals is directly or indirectly placed, exposed, deposited, distributed, or scattered, and such area shall remain a baited area for ten days following complete removal of all such corn, wheat or other grains, salt, or other feed.

Does this also prohibit aerosol attractants? An aerosol is not considered feed but it is “capable of luring, attracting or enticing.” In the regulations it does not specifically prohibit non-feed attractants. (Ken M.)

Answer: This section (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 257.5) prohibits the use of any feed (real or artificial) that is capable of attracting an animal to an area, and when the attractant used causes the animal to feed (on the substance), it is prohibited. Generally, aerosols sprayed into the air are permissible because there is nothing to feed on. But the same products applied to a surface (e.g. tree, brush, rock, etc.) where the animal licks, eats, chews, nibbles, etc. the surface is considered feed and is a violation.

Intentional acts that disrupt any birds’ or mammals’ normal behavior patterns (CCR Title 14, section 251.1), and feeding big game mammals (CCR Title 14, section 251.3) are also prohibited.

For the complete regulations, please go to http://www.dfg.ca.gov/regulations/ to find the California Mammal Hunting Regulations for 2013-2014.


Electric fishing reels
Question: Are electric fishing reels allowed in the state of California? (John M.)

Answer: Yes. Nothing in the Fish and Game Code prohibits the use of electric fishing reels manufactured for sport fishing. Acceptable fishing methods and gear restrictions can be found in section 2.00 of the Freshwater Regulations booklet and 28.70(a)(3) in the Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet, available online at www.dfg.ca.gov/regulations/ or wherever fishing licenses are sold.

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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.

How to Control Nuisance Crows?

Question: I live in Redondo Beach and was told by the city to ask you what could be done about an infestation of the nuisance birds that are an absolute plague in our neighborhood. I have small children that are woken up by these vile creatures starting at 3am to around 8am! Please get back to me and let me know what I can and cannot do. (Armando R.)

Answer: There is a provision in the Fish and Game regulations that allows for landowners to destroy (shoot) crows that are damaging farm fields or other crops. However, it seems this is not what you are dealing with, not to mention the fact that firearms cannot be discharged within city limits. If I interpret your question correctly, your principle complaint is the noise level.

There are actually a number of cities that have similar problems with crows and the cities have coordinated with either the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture or the U.S. Dept. of Fish and Wildlife to implement abatement measures. Here is a good article written by the Washington Department of Wildlife regarding nuisance crows http://wdfw.wa.gov/living/crows.html. As you will see as you read it, it’s a tough issue because most of the abatement measures work only for short periods of time. If you believe the crows are in such a concentration that they create a public health hazard (droppings), then your city or county health department should be notified.

Bottom line, if the roosting crow population continues to grow, the city may need to get involved by contacting the USDA, Wildlife Services Division.


Pacific angel shark limits?
Question: Yesterday I caught and released a Pacific angel shark. At first I did not know what it was. It looked like a guitar fish but was different. After looking through the regulations, I didn’t see anything about the Pacific angel shark. Is there a bag limit and/or size limit on them? Or are they a protected species? I also caught and released a broadnose sevengill shark. The regulations list a limit of one but no size limit. Does this mean any size can be taken? (Alan V.)

Answer: When a fish species is not mentioned specifically in the Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet, section 27.60 applies (found on pg. 32 of the current Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet). The general bag limit instructs fishermen to keep no more than 20 fish per day, of which no more than 10 fish may be of the same species.

Additionally, there are some species for which there is no bag limit (see section 27.60(b) for these species). If no size limit is given for a species, there is none.


Catching turtles at the lake?
Question: I’ve been seeing turtles at this lake we like to fish, and there’s a good chance I could catch one. What are the regulations regarding catching turtles? Can I bring it home as a pet or to eat? (Huu Tran)

Answer: Before attempting to catch one of these turtles, it will be important for you to positively identify what species of turtle it is. Be aware it is illegal to capture western pond turtles, a native California species, but it is legal to catch and collect non-native turtles (painted, slider and softshell turtles) under authority of a sportfishing license. While there are no bag or possession limits for these non-native turtles, there are restrictions on the methods of take that may be used to catch them (CCR Title 14 Sections 2.00 and 5.60). The only way to legally collect western pond turtles would be if you held a scientific collecting permit (CCR Title 14, section 40(a)). However, these permits are issued only to scientists doing bona fide research.


How to find existing hunting license number?
Question: How can my son find his existing hunting license number? He has his certificate but lost his license. Can you let us know what to do? (Carla B.)

Answer: Your son can contact any CDFW office that issues licenses or any outside vendor that sells hunting licenses, and ask them to look it up. He will just need to provide either a driver license number, or if too young to have one, provide the parent’s identification information that the previous license was purchased under.

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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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Hunting exotic ranch animals on private lands?

Non native animals kept behind confining fences are not classified as either game or nongame wildlife. Thus, no hunting regulations apply. (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: What is the law in regard to hunting “exotic ranch animals” on private lands? I see an advertisement for hunts (pigs, goats, etc.) with no tags or licenses required. These hunts are offered 24/7 year-round. How can this be legal? (Monty S.)

Answer: Imported animals that are not native to California and that are put behind a confining fence are not classified as either game or nongame wildlife. They are considered domestic animals/livestock and are not covered by state Fish and Game laws, so hunting regulations do not apply and no hunting licenses or tags are required.

Feral (domestic animals that have reverted to the wild) goats and a number of other species that have become wild in California are covered under nongame laws (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 472). A hunting license is required to take any nongame animals listed in this section.

Most of the hunts you describe would fall into the first category. These are generally referred to as “canned” hunts where the animals are turned loose in an area or enclosure where they cannot escape or become feral. In this case, it is not considered hunting and so no license or tags are required. There have been some cases where prohibited species, such as tigers, have been brought unlawfully into California for canned hunts. If the exotic animal is not a prohibited species and not covered under section 472, then hunting licenses and tags are not required.


What to do with banded waterfowl?
Question: This past weekend a banded speckled-belly goose was taken at my duck club. I’d like to report this banded bird to the authorities. The time, date and place, as well as the tag number seem obvious to report. Is there any other information needed, and who should I report this band to? (Larry L.)

Answer: Since waterfowl are migratory, the U.S. Geological Survey has the responsibility of collecting and analyzing all banding information. Government and private sector scientists and waterfowl managers tag and monitor migratory waterfowl every year. This banding information helps them to assess population numbers and track their movement patterns. You may also be asked to provide information about weather and any other waterfowl the goose was flying with when taken. Please go to http://www.reportband.gov to report banded birds.


Target shooting and hunting on private property?
Question: I live on 20 acres out in the country and am thinking about purchasing a .22 rifle so that I can target practice or maybe even hunt on my land. Is it legal for me to do this? (Jerry M.)

Answer: Generally, if you live in an unincorporated area, you may discharge a firearm. However, we strongly recommend that you first check with your county sheriff’s office before doing so as there may be county ordinances that prohibit discharging firearms in your particular area.

To hunt on your property, you still must have a valid hunting license. If you don’t already have one, you will need to first take a hunter education course. In addition, even if hunting on your property, you must still remain at least 150 yards (450 feet) away from any of your neighbors’ houses, barns and outbuildings, etc unless they have given you permission to hunt closer.

A .22 caliber rimfire rifle is only legal for a few species, such as rabbits, squirrels and some nongame species. With few exceptions, all federal and California fish and game laws are in effect on all properties no matter whether they are public or private lands.


Shark spear fishing from a kayak?
Question: Is it legal to spear leopard sharks from a kayak with a pole spear (better known as a Hawaiian sling)? I know I can legally fish for them here in the Morro Bay area, and I’ve read that the rules and regulations for fishing also apply to spear fishing. But, can I actually spear them while sitting in my kayak? They cruise about six to 12 inches below the surface while about five to 20 yards off shore. I’ve seen many of these sharks measuring five feet long and know that I’ll probably need to enter the water with the shark after it has been speared in order to land it. Nevertheless, I believe I can do it. Please let me know if this is legal. (Dan W., Morro Bay)

Answer: Yes, with the exception of white sharks, it is legal to spear sharks from a kayak (California Code of Regulations Title 14, sections 28.90 and 28.95). Leopard sharks have a bag limit of three and a minimum length requirement of 36 inches.

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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 CalOutdoors@dfg.ca.gov.

Hunting From a Boat?

Question: Is it legal to drift down or anchor a boat in a river to waterfowl hunt? The river is surrounded by unincorporated, privately owned farmland on each side with the occasional home or barn visible from the water. I know you cannot discharge a firearm within 150 yards of a dwelling or near a public road and I know that all motors must be out of the water. Would drifting be considered forward motion? Should I contact the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) to inquire about the specific stretch of river I would like to hunt? (Michael K.)

Answer: It would be legal to drift down with the current or anchor a boat in a river to hunt waterfowl so long as you entered the area legally and were on navigable waters. According to DFG Game Warden Todd Tognazzini, hunting may not occur while boats are under power or under the influence of power (e.g. gliding from powered forward motion even after ignition is turned off). Only human or current powered forward motion is allowed while hunting (ref. F&G Code 3002).

The distance required from a residence or other occupied dwelling is 150 yards and if the adjacent private land is fenced, or cultivated, or posted with no trespassing signs at 1/3 mile intervals, you would not be able to legally enter those lands even to retrieve a downed duck or goose. For specific questions about a particular body of water it would be a great idea to contact the closest DFG regional office.


Did DFG Replant a Baitfish?
Question:When the Lake Davis poisoning project was completed, did DFG replant a baitfish population as well as restocking the trout? If so, what baitfish were replanted? Thanks. (Dale S.)

Answer: No, a baitfish population was not put into Lake Davis after the chemical treatment to eradicate northern pike. According to Lake Davis Project Manager Randy Kelly, Lake Davis has very good populations of insects, crayfish and other invertebrates that have supported excellent trout fishing in the past and should continue to do so into the future. Baitfish were not native in that drainage and bullhead, bass and pumpkinseed are still in the reservoir. The chemical treatment was done at a concentration that was adequate to eliminate all the pike and trout, which are more sensitive than the above warm water species, but was not at a high enough concentration to kill all the above mentioned fish that survived in the lake.

Use of live or dead baitfish is generally prohibited in the Sierra District, which includes Lake Davis, except as provided in Section 4.30 of the Fish and Game Regulations. Lake Davis should provide excellent trout fishing after ice out (when the surface covering of ice on the lake thaws) in the late winter or early spring of 2009. About one million trout ranging from fingerling size (three to five inches) up to 18 pounds were restocked in the reservoir and surrounding tributary streams after the treatment to eliminate pike. Fishing was very good in 2008 and should be excellent in 2009.


Is it Legal to Spear or Harpoon a Shark?
Question: We often see sharks swimming on the surface and sometimes they even freely swim up right next to our boat. I know it’s legal to spear and harpoon most sharks, so my question is would it then also be legal to catch them with a gaff if they are within easy reach with a gaff pole? (Steve S., Carlsbad)

Answer: No, free-gaffing is not a legal method of take for any species of sharks. While the regulations allow for the take of sharks (except white sharks) with spears, harpoons, and bow and arrow fishing gear (Section 28.95), a gaff may not be substituted for a spear or harpoon. In addition to those devices, the law (Section 28.65) allows for sharks to be taken by hook and line or by hand (although “by hand” doesn’t sound like the wisest method to me).
(A gaff is any hook with or without a handle used to assist in landing fish or to take fish in such a manner that the fish does not take the hook voluntarily in its mouth [Section 28.65(d)]).


It Is Illegal 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 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 CalOutdoors@dfg.ca.gov.

Is Shooting Sharks Legal?

Question: A friend of mine went out Thresher shark fishing this week off of Newport Beach in his relatively small boat, but didn’t catch any. I asked him what in the heck he would have done if he’d hooked one because I think it would have been too big for him to safely land it. He said he was going to bring it up to his boat, SHOOT IT, and then drag it home. Is shooting a shark legal? And is it legal to have guns on a boat at all? What about using a bang stick? I know the laws on traveling with a firearm and safe storage of a gun and all that jazz, but I’ve never heard of any laws pertaining to possession on a boat on the ocean. What’s the law on this? (Mark S.)

Answer: Sport fishermen may take sharks by hand, hook and line, spearfishing, spear, harpoon or bow and arrow (ref. Sections 28.65, 28.90 and 28.95.)

Firearms are not a legal method of take for sharks, so a gun can’t be used to assist in the taking or landing of a shark. A bang stick would be considered a firearm in this case, and would therefore not be a legal method of take for sharks either. However, if a shark is already in the person’s possession (in the boat), the DFG does not regulate how it is killed. For safety reasons though, I would hope that you would choose to use another method.

In regards to the legality of shooting a firearm from your boat, it would depend on your location, what county/city you are in, and how far offshore. In general, no city allows you to discharge a firearm in their jurisdiction. A person would have to contact the city/county law enforcement office that has jurisdiction over the area they are fishing to determine how far off-shore they would need to be.


Is It Legal to Carry a “Snake Charmer” Gun to Kill Rattlesnakes?
Question: I encounter rattlesnakes every couple of days on the roads I travel and am wondering if it is legal to carry a .410 “snake charmer” gun with me to kill them? The snakes are usually on the side of the road and I collect their rattles. I keep the gun unloaded at all times, of course, but I know most of the surrounding property owners and they don’t want the rattlesnakes around on their ranches either. Is what I’ve been doing all legal to do? Thank you. (Brian)

Answer: Rattlesnakes may be taken by any method and the daily bag and possession limit for them is two (ref. CCR, Title 14, Section 5.60[a]).

Regarding your “snake charmer,” you must be off the road/highway to discharge your gun. If you shoot a firearm from or upon a public road or highway, you will be guilty of a misdemeanor (ref. Penal Code Section 374c). It is also unlawful to intentionally discharge any firearm … over or across any public road or way open to the public, in an unsafe manner (ref. Fish & Game Code, Section 3004[b]).

Trespassing on private property which is fenced or posted (with signs three per mile and at entry points) or under cultivation is against the law unless you have written permission from the property owner (ref. Fish & Game Code, Section 2016). There could be additional regulations within your county regarding the discharge of firearms, so you should contact the local Sheriff’s Department.

One point I’d like to add though is that although many people don’t like rattlesnakes and will kill them immediately upon sight, rattlesnakes do serve an important ecological purpose by helping to control rodent populations. Ground squirrels, mice and other rodents can become terrible pests in the absence of predators, and predators are an important and major key to helping to keep rodent populations in check.


How Do Biologists Deal With the Spread of Quagga?
Question: I’ve followed the issue of the spreading Quagga with great interest. I understand the diligence needed to curb this spread but wonder about migrant birds that fly from lake, to aqueduct, to lake, to stream. Is there a logical way in which a marine biologist could address this issue? (Mike S., Simi Valley)

Answer: While it is biologically possible for the transmission of Quagga or Zebra mussel propagules by wildlife or birds, such translocation is not considered significant. According to Invasive Mussel Control Coordinator, Breck McAlexander, he isn’t aware of any way that could completely eliminate this type of movement. However, he thought transmission from wildlife and birds is considered a much lower risk of an eventual new infestation than the greater potential for human-caused spread of invasive Eurasian mussels. He said that this has occurred and can occur in the future from contaminated watercraft or water deliveries. Fortunately, we do have some control over those. Education and vigilance are paramount to prevent this from happening throughout the western U.S., McAlexander said.

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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 CalOutdoors@dfg.ca.gov.

Selling Fish from a Sport Boat?

Question: If I have a commercial ocean fishing license and I go out on a sport boat, am I allowed to sell my catch should there be someone who would want to buy it?

Answer: NO! This is not allowed under any circumstances and here are some of the main reasons why you cannot sell fish caught on a sport fishing boat:

1. Commercial fishing may be done only on a vessel officially licensed as a commercial fishing boat that is authorized for this activity.
2. The law mandates that commercial fishing and sport fishing must be done independently. Sport fishing and commercial fishing may not be done on a boat simultaneously, even between different fishermen.
3. Even if you hold a commercial fishing license, in order for you to legally fish on that sport boat, you must also hold a valid sport fishing license and be fishing only under the regulations that govern sport fishing. Any fish taken under a sport fishing license may not be bought, sold, traded or bartered. A commercial fishing license will not entitle you to sell any fish taken while you were recreationally fishing.
4. Commercial Passenger Fishing Vessels (a.k.a. CPFVs or party boats) are licensed as “commercial” vessels to take passengers only. Their licenses designate that only sport fishing is allowed on the boats and that the boats may not be used for any commercial fishing purposes what-so-ever. Even the crew members of the CPFVs are not allowed to sell any fish taken on these trips.
5. Conversely, while no commercial fishing may take place on a sport fishing boat, commercial fishermen can sport fish from their commercially-licensed boats as long as they hold a valid sport fishing license and do so on a trip that is independent of any commercial fishing activity.
6. Finally, in order for you to sell any fish to the public that you legally catch under your commercial license, you must also have a fish retail license.

These laws are very clear on the books and there is no wiggle room anywhere here to allow for selling sport-caught fish.


Octopus Size Restrictions?
Question: Are there size and take restrictions on octopi? I can’t find any listing in 2008 regs book or via the Web.

Answer: Since octopus are not specifically mentioned in the sport fishing regulations, they fall under the general invertebrate regulations of Section 29.05(a): daily bag and possession limit is 35 octopuses (this is now the more widely recognized plural form of octopus). There is no minimum size limit and octopuses may only be taken by hook and line or by hand (see Section 29.10[a]).


Is it Legal to Shoot Horn Sharks with a Spear Gun?
Question: I read your column every week in WON. Thanks for doing it. My question is about horn sharks and I’m wondering if they legal for me to shoot with a spear gun? I was scuba diving recently and noticed quite a few 2-3 ft. horn sharks off Palos Verdes but I cannot find any regulations regarding seasons, size limits, etc. Do horn sharks have any special regulations? If so, can you provide the regulation information for me? Also, is these sharks good to eat and worth the effort to bring home? Thank you very much for your assistance and keep up the great work.

Answer: There are no seasons or minimum size limits on the recreational take of horn sharks; they fall under the general bag limit of no more than 10 fish of any one species.
If you’re planning on your next outing to shoot these sharks to bring them home to eat, you might want to first ask around to see if you find anyone else who has tried them and liked them. Though I’ve never tried horn shark personally, I’ve heard over the years that they aren’t too tasty. Although horn sharks are legal to take, a suggestion would be to shoot just one, take it home and give it a try. If you don’t like it, you’re not faced with the dilemma of a freezer-full of something you don’t want to eat. Remember, wasting fish is illegal and unethical.

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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 CalOutdoors@dfg.ca.gov.