Category Archives: Taxidermy

Casting with a Potato Gun-Style Launcher

(CDFW photo by Sabrina Bell)

(CDFW photo by Sabrina Bell)

Question: Is it legal to use the “Sandblaster Baitcaster” in California? This device is supposed to be great for surf fishing from the beach. It uses compressed air to cast your bait up to 300 yards from shore. See it at their website, www.bunkerupfishin.com/. (Victor H.)

Answer: This line launching device is really just another form of the old “potato guns” that were popular for a while until they were outlawed in public areas. According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Lt. Dennis McKiver, potato guns are legal under federal law. Under state law, potato guns that use combustion (instead of compressed air) to launch the projectile are “firearms,” and one with a bore of over 0.5 inches is a destructive device.

Pneumatic potato guns like this one use compressed air and are legal as long as they are not used like a weapon (e.g. shot at a person, etc.), so this line launching device would be legal under state and federal laws. However, you should check for local city and county ordinances because some local governments prohibit use of any devices that propel projectiles, and if you intend to use this line launching device on any state beach, you may also want to consult State Parks.

As far as using it to cast a fishing line, nothing in the Fish and Game Code or its implementing regulations prohibit using this compressed air launcher as long as the fishing line is attached to a rod and reel, or a person is brave enough to hold the other end of line in their hands!


What to do when catching invasive fish species?
Question: What should we do when we catch invasive fish in local lakes? Specifically, Balboa Lake in the San Fernando Valley remains warm enough in winter to support some tropical fish. Certain aquarium fishes breed as well as survive in these waters. The problem now are Plecostomus (commonly found in home fish tanks to eat the algae) that have taken over the lake and the Los Angeles River.

A couple of us have caught over 200 since February in one little cove while fishing for carp. We were told by park personnel to kill them (seemed reasonable) but I wanted to make sure they are inedible so that we won’t get into trouble for wasting fish. Please advise. Thanks. (Bill S.)

Answer: From a biological standpoint, CDFW would like to see these invasive fish disposed of (killed) rather then placed back in the system. The law prohibits the waste of any fish taken in waters of the state (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.87). This regulation is intended to encourage people to eat any fish they kill, and to avoid needlessly killing fish. But, any lawful use of fish that are legal for sale by an aquarium or pet store would satisfy the requirements of this regulation, including their use as fertilizer for your garden.

Here’s something that might surprise you … Plecostomus are consumed by humans in some of their native Central and South American waters. Jackson Landers, author of “Eating Aliens: One Man’s Adventures Hunting Invasive Animal Species” includes a recipe for Plecostomus in this book.


Scuba diving for Dungeness crabs?
Question: In a recent column you said that you could not take Dungeness crabs on SCUBA. Did I read that correctly or were you referring to seasons? (Duanne S.)

Answer: I saidwhen Dungeness crab season is open, they may be taken by hand via SCUBA but divers may not possess any hooked device while diving or attempting to dive for them (CCR Title 14, section 29.80(g)).


Sale of pig mount … Is it legal?
Question: My brother harvested a pig about 20 years ago on a private ranch in California and had the head mounted. He wants to sell the mount, but doesn’t want to break the law and can’t get a definitive answer from anyone. Could you help? Thank you as always for your help! (Dave)

Answer: Your brother can give it away but cannot sell or trade it to anyone. With a few exceptions (that don’t apply to your brother), the law prohibits the sale or purchase of any part of a bird or mammal found in the wild in California. (Fish and Game Code, section 3039)


Is there a limit on sand crabs?
Question: Is it legal to catch sand crabs with a fishing license, and if legal, what is the limit? Can sand crabs be taken on all beaches of the state? (Gina N.)

Answer: Yes, it is legal to catch sand crabs with a fishing license statewide wherever fishing is authorized. The limit is 50 crabs per day and in possession (CCR Title 14, section 29.85(d)).

#  #  #

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.

Should Anglers Release Lingcod Females?

Lingcod (photo courtesy of Matt Elyash)

Lingcod (photo courtesy of Matt Elyash)

Question: Last year before the end of rockfish season, I went on a charter boat out of Berkeley. Some of the lingcod caught were females with eggs. When do lingcod spawn and can keeping these females hurt the fishery in the future? Should we as anglers release females like we do for striped bass? I’m glad to see the size limit dropped and the season longer, but I don’t want to be back to where we were before. (Jason Green)

Answer: Lingcod and other groundfish are federally managed. Harvest management plans and stock assessments take into account the removal of both males and females when setting quotas, so fishery managers do factor in the take of females, too.

According to the latest assessment, the lingcod stock has fully recovered from their overfished status. Lingcod don’t get the bends (no swim bladder), so females can be released if handled properly.

In northern and central California, the primary reason for the current closed seasons for lingcod in late fall, winter and spring for boat-based anglers is to protect mature females that have moved inshore to spawn, and to protect the mature males that guard the egg nests.

Lingcod are a species that if handled properly can often be successfully caught and released. However, unless regulations prohibit keeping the fish (e.g. bag and minimum size limits) or the angler is releasing all fish, if it turns out the fish has been improperly handled or is bleeding and may not survive, the fish should be kept. Releasing bleeding females that may not survive in order to keep males instead just wastes fish and is not a good conservation method.

Lingcod generally spawn from November through February. Females do take longer to mature and they grow to a larger size than males. By some estimates, males only grow to 24-26 inches. Females are legal to keep, so keeping an egg-laden female would be up to that fisherman’s personal ethics.

Bottom line … female lingcod are legal to take and so it’s up to the fisherman to decide whether or not they want to.


Can kids under 16 fish alone without a license and an adult present?
Question: Can children under the age of 16 fish without a license, and alone without a licensed adult present? (Jennifer P.)

Answer: Yes. Although no license is required, keep in mind that no matter their age, everyone who fishes must know what the fishing regulations are that apply to the type of fishing they are doing, and have the good judgment to abide by them.


Using SCUBA to photograph abalone divers?
Question: I would like to photograph abalone divers diving but I need to use an air tank to obtain the imagery I want. How can I go about this without getting in trouble with a game warden? (Andrew B., Salt Lake City, UT)

Answer: It is legal for you to photograph abalone freedivers while you are using a tank, as long as you observe a couple of regulations.

The use of SCUBA gear or surface-supplied air while taking abalone is prohibited (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.15(e)). Therefore, if you are using a tank while photographing abalone freedivers, you cannot assist them with taking abalone. You also cannot help them pop abalone off the rocks or spot abalone for them, or do anything else that could be construed as giving assistance in taking abalone.

In addition, under this section the possession of abalone is prohibited aboard a vessel that also contains SCUBA gear or surface supplied air. This means you will have to use a separate boat – you cannot board the same boat the abalone freedivers are using while you are using SCUBA gear.


What to do with a full-size Cheetah / Leopard mount?
Question: My uncle recently passed away and left me in charge of his estate. One of the items he left is a full size Cheetah/ Leopard taxidermy. Is it legal for me to sell it? If not what do you recommend that I do with it? (Michael C., Modesto)

Answer: You are allowed to give it away but you are not allowed to sell or trade it (California Penal Code, section 653o). You might want to contact a museum, service club or local school to see if they may have a use for it.


Crabbing overnight at the beach?
Question: I enjoy crabbing and want to go crabbing overnight at the beach. Is this legal? (Ann N.)

Answer: Yes, as long as the beaches don’t have any city, county or beach curfews, it is legal to go crabbing overnight from most beaches. (CCR Title 14, section 29.05(a)).

#  #  #

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 Fin-clips Identify Different Trout Strains?

(CDFW file photo by Roger Bloom, Heritage and Wild Trout Program)

(CDFW file photo by Roger Bloom, Heritage and Wild Trout Program)

Question: With trout season opening soon, I was thinking about how several years ago I ran across a way to identify what strain a Lake Crowley trout was based on which fins were clipped. Identify as follows: adipose only-Eagle Lake strain, adipose and left ventral-Kamloops (from Junction Reservoir), adipose and right ventral-Coleman, and ventral only-Kamloops or Coleman. No fin clips would indicate a natural spawn and not from a hatchery. And, what hatchery would these plants have come from? Possibly Hot Creek or maybe Fish Springs? I have talked to the driver planting catchables in Silver Lake and learned those plants came from the Fish Springs hatchery. Thanks for any info you can provide. (Ron A.)

Answers: In the mid-1990s, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) fisheries biologists applied fin clips to Eastern Sierra trout stocked in Crowley Lake to evaluate their performance, growth, return to creel, etc. The results were very interesting.

According to CDFW Fisheries Program Manager Curtis Milliron who conducted those studies, wild trout were unmarked and at that time both rainbow trout (RT) and browns constituted about 25 percent of the catch of all larger fish caught at Crowley. They did not substantially supplement the average size class, however. The marked trout came from both Fish Springs (Coleman strain RT and Eagle Lake trout) and from Hot Creek Hatchery (Kamloops strain RT).

Coleman strain fish were found to be caught most often by anglers while trolling, while Kamloops were often associated with nearshore angling. Eagle Lake trout (ELT) were found all over the lake, including feeding on large snails right on the lake bottom. Additionally, ELT outlived the other strains, and therefore greatly contributed to the “carryover” population, which are fish that do not get caught in the first year after being stocked and return to anglers at a much larger size.

By about 1999, Milliron discontinued the Crowley Lake trout strain studies but thinks some marked fish may have persisted in the lake for another five years, at most. Today, no similar studies are being conducted, and fin clips to identify the various strains of Eastern Sierra trout are no longer being applied. But, thanks to the findings of the studies, a management plan for Lake Crowley was created, and the lake continues to draw anglers back year after year as one of the most popular and productive trout lakes in the Eastern Sierra.


How many turkeys in possession?
Question: My buddy and I are going out of town on a three-day turkey hunt. If we both get a turkey each day (total of six) and get stopped by a warden on the way home, will we be legal? I heard that you can’t have more than one bird with you at a time, but the regulation states possession limit is three birds per hunter for the season. I want to make sure we are legal. Otherwise I will have to travel back and forth after each successful day and it’s about a two-hour drive each way. Thanks for any information you can give me. (Brent M.)

Answer: You do not have to return home after taking a bird on any one day. The daily bag limit for turkeys during the spring season is one bearded turkey per day and you can take three per season. You may have three bearded turkeys in your possession as long as you only take one per day.


Spearfishing rockfish and lingcod after dark?
Question: Can rockfish and lingcod be taken by spearfishing after dark? (Brian S.)

Answer: Yes, you may spearfish for rockfish and lingcod at night, except in San Francisco Bay (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 27.56).


Buying skulls from other states
Question: I found someone in Oregon selling a raw coyote skull. I own some flesh-eating dermestid beetles and am interested in buying the skull from them to clean off. Is it legal to buy raw (uncleaned) skulls from other states if it was obtained legally and not from California? I know you can’t purchase almost any part of California fish and game, but can we bring parts in from other states? (Anonymous)

Answer: Yes, as long as the animal was legally taken in another state and is properly imported with a “Declaration for Entry into California form,” then it can be possessed. The same goes for most species, but there are some exceptions, such as bears, mountain lions, and fully protected birds and mammals whose parts cannot be legally possessed in California (Fish and Game Code, section 3039). For a copy of the declaration form, please go to www.dfg.ca.gov/enforcement/entry-declaration.aspx. Remember that deer and other cervid skulls may not be brought into the state unless special rules are followed to prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease (see CCR Title 14, section 712).

# # #

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.