Category Archives: Roadways

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.

For a New Adventure, Try Shrimping!

A coonstripe shrimp, Pandalus danae, caught near Crescent City, California (photo courtesy of J. Bieraugel).

A coonstripe shrimp, Pandalus danae, caught near Crescent City, California
(Photo courtesy of J. Bieraugel).

Question: I have been an avid “crabber” in Northern California for quite a while. For a new adventure I’d like to take up “shrimping” but need some information on where to go, when to go and how to catch shrimp. Is it legal to recreationally catch shrimp? If so, what are the seasons and bag limits? Is there still a viable population of shrimp in California? Thanks for any information to point me in the right direction. (Tony M.)

Answer: You may take any type of ocean shrimp in California waters, but spot prawns are the most desirable and sought after for eating purposes. According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Environmental Scientist and Invertebrate Specialist Kai Lampson, because California’s spot prawns are found so deep – usually 100 fathoms (600 feet) or more – and the bag limit is only 35, most people are not interested in trapping these shrimp recreationally.

Another option though are the lesser known coonstripe shrimp, also referred to as dock shrimp for their habit of sometimes living around pilings. Unlike spot prawns, coonstripe shrimp inhabit relatively shallow water and can be fished close to shore with lightweight traps. They may occur out to depths of 600 feet, but fishermen often set their traps between 70-150 feet. The sport limit is 20 pounds (9 kilograms) per day and there is no closed season or size limit for the sport fishery. While they range from Sitka, Alaska to (at least) Point Loma in San Diego County, the highest concentrations of coonstripe are found in far northern California, near Crescent City.

Shrimp and prawn traps may be used to take shrimp and prawns only. South of Point Conception, trap openings may not exceed ½ inch in any dimension. For traps fished north of Point Conception, trap openings are limited to five inches in any dimension.

To learn more about fishing for these interesting shellfish, please check out the crustaceans section of the current Ocean Sport Fishing regulations for the regulations, legal gear, limits and other information you will need to know (California Code of Regulations Title 14, sections 29.80 through 29.88).


Carrying a loaded gun in a vehicle on a private road?
Question: I know that it is not legal to have a loaded gun in a vehicle when on public roads and in areas accessible to the public, but what about when on privately owned property where all access is controlled via locked gates? (Scott H.)

Answer: You are correct that it is against the law to carry loaded guns in a vehicle when upon or along a public way (Fish and Game Code, section 2006 and Penal Code 25850). When behind locked gates, however, there are no laws preventing this, although common sense and safety should preclude doing so. Many of the hunting accidents we investigate are caused by people getting into or out of a vehicle with a loaded firearm. Despite this allowance, it is still unlawful to shoot at any game bird or mammal from a motor vehicle, even when on private property (FGC section 3002.)


Scattering ashes at sea
Question: A good friend recently passed away and his last wishes were to have his ashes scattered at sea. Are there any laws against this? (Jolene P., Modesto)

Answer:  No laws against it, but a permit to scatter the ashes at sea is required by California law. The permit is called “Application and Permit for Disposition of Human Remains.” Check with the local county health department for rules and permits and any other specific requirements they may have.


Do fish farms pose threats to wild fish and the environment?
Question: I have questions and concerns about fish farms and the fish they produce. Do fish farms pose any major threats to the environment? Are high disease rates in farmed fish due to improper fish management? Is it true that wild fish are healthier to consume than farmed fish? How much do fish farms contribute economically to society and do they provide many jobs? Thanks for any insight. (Julie B.)

Answer: Commercial fish farms are required to have CDFW permits, and if properly sited and operated, they should have no negative impact on the environment. If the farmed fish are allowed to escape and impact wild fish or other aquatic organisms though, then that might be another story and adverse environmental impacts may occur.

One potential problem might be if water discharge from the farm is not properly treated, then there could be impacts to water quality of adjacent receiving stream systems. Fish disease issues can be nearly eliminated at the farms if properly managed.

As far as whether farmed fish or wild fish are better for your health, there is no evidence that farmed fish are less healthy to consume than wild fish. Many people will say wild fish quality is better in most cases. Keep in mind though that the quality of all fish is more likely tied to how the product is handled in the distribution chain (e.g. post-harvest) rather than whether it’s wild or farmed.

While fish farming can certainly create jobs and provide more employment opportunities, harvesting wild fish also creates jobs. It’s hard to say whether one industry creates more jobs than the other.

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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.

What to Do With Pesky Coyotes?

Coyotes play an important role in the ecosystem by helping to keep rodent populations under control. Relocating a problem coyote is not an option because it only moves the problem to someone else’s neighborhood. (©Carrie Wilson)

Question: For the past 10 months, our neighborhood in Encinitas has been overrun by coyotes. Who can we work with to mitigate the situation before someone gets hurt? (Ken S.)

Answer: Coyotes and other wildlife cannot and should not be removed just because there may appear to be too many in a community. If they are congregating, the problem may be that your neighbors are being careless with food and garbage, which serve as attractants. Coyotes play an important role in the ecosystem by helping to keep rodent populations under control. They are by nature fearful of humans.

Coyotes primarily hunt rodents and rabbits for food but will take advantage of whatever is available, including garbage, pet food and domestic animals. If coyotes are given access to human food and garbage, their behavior changes. They lose caution and fear and may cause property damage or threaten human safety. When this happens and they threaten humans or begin preying on domestic livestock or pets, they may be killed.

Relocating a problem coyote is not an option because it only moves the problem to someone else’s neighborhood.

The best thing you can do as an individual is to make sure that you remove pet food and water containers at night, secure your garbage and don’t provide any areas of shelter. Try to educate your neighbors about this, too. Without food, water and shelter, your property will be less appealing and the coyotes may move on.

Here’s the bottom line … coyotes may appear to reside and be prevalent in your area, but this isn’t a crime as they are natural predators. The problem occurs when people don’t follow the suggestions above and the animals lose their fear of humans and begin threatening people and their pets and livestock. When that happens, the animals may need to be destroyed and we want to avoid that situation.

If all else fails and the animals become a threat, contact the wildlife biologist in your local area (through DFG’s San Diego office, in your case) to discuss your options.

For more information on living with coyotes and other wildlife without conflicts, please check out our Keep Me Wild campaign at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/keepmewild/.


How far off the road to hunt?
Question:How far off the road must one be to begin hunting or to shoot at an animal? I see guys hunting ditches just off the road for pheasants all the time. Also, what constitutes a “road” for this purpose? (Michael O., Woodland)

Answer: According to DFG Lt. Todd Tognazzini, there are several laws that apply to what you describe. The U.S. Forest Service calls for staying off the roadway, and this includes the adjacent “right of way” areas such as the road shoulder or those areas where service vehicles would travel. County ordinances often define the distance allowed from a public roadway where a firearm may be discharged, and it is usually around 150 feet. This can be highly variable though so I suggest you check with the county sheriff for the area where you’ll be hunting to find out.

It is always unlawful to negligently discharge a firearm and the California Penal Code, section 374(c) also prohibits the discharge of a firearm from or upon or along a public road or highway. Definitions for “road” and “roadway” can be found in sections 527 and 530 of the California Penal Code.


Hoop nets as landing platforms for big fish?
Question:More and more anglers are using hoop nets to “catch and release” bat rays and large sharks. The hoop nets are not being used for catching fish – the fish are hooked by rod and reel. Hoop nets are then used to pull big fish up onto the piers. The problem is that the smaller hoop nets are sometimes insufficient for landing the big batties. Is it legal to use a hoop net larger than 36 inches if unbaited and used only for such purposes? ( Ken J., Lodi)

Answer: Yes, the hoop net as you are describing it is being used as a “landing net” and not a typical hoop net as used for lobster. According to Lt. Todd Tognazzini, a landing net has a minimum diameter of 18 inches and no maximum diameter. There is no specific legal definition of a landing net. The only difference between a landing net and a dip net is mesh size, but there is no legal requirement on mesh size either. As long as it is only being used as a landing net, it would be legal.

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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.