Category Archives: Waterfowl

Ethics of Shooting Birds on the Water or on the Ground?

Wood duck pair (Photo by Carrie Wilson

Wood duck pair (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: Is it lawful to shoot a bird that is on the water, or if I’m field hunting, to shoot a bird that is standing on the ground? I do not consider it sporting, but I was party to a group of hunters that took part in the above actions. Just curious what the official word is on this. (Nick V.)

Answer: It’s not illegal, but it’s certainly not sporting as it violates the Fair Chase Principle. “Fair chase” is the ethical, sportsman-like, lawful pursuit and taking of any free-ranging animal in a manner that does not give the hunter an unfair advantage over such animals. In addition, it can also be unsafe to shoot birds on the ground or on the water because nearby hunters might be in your line of fire.

Is it legal to keep legal-sized fish caught in hoopnets?
Question: If I catch fish in a hoop net while lobster fishing, are they legal to keep provided they meet any size requirements? I have been throwing them back because I’m not sure it is legal to catch them that way. Someone told me they must be caught on fishing line only. What about sea snails and octopus that are caught in my hoops? Can other line-caught sportfish, such as tuna, be used as bait in lobster hoops? Please advise. (Steve G.)

Answer: You were correct to return fish caught in your hoop nets because hoop nets are not a legal method of take. Finfish may only be caught by hook-and-line except in very specific circumstances listed under “Finfish – Gear Restrictions” in the Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 28.65).

Taking sea snails and octopus caught incidentally in your lobster hoop net is not allowed (CCR Title 14, section 29.10(a)). Any finfish that is legal to take or possess in California may be used as bait in your lobster hoop net.

If license is forgotten, will a photo copy of license do?
Question: My son and I fish from our private boat almost exclusively and keep our sport fishing licenses aboard so they are always present. On rare occasions we will attempt to fish without the boat, and a few times have forgotten to bring our licenses. To prevent us from mistakenly being without our fishing licenses, can we show a photo copy of our licenses or can the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) issue more than one copy to a sport fisherman? (Murray C.)

Answer: Good questions, but the answers to both are no. You must have a valid fishing license in your possession when fishing or attempting to take fish, and you must present it to a game warden upon request. Additionally, only one license may be issued to a person per year.

Importing buffalo hides and products?
Question: Are there any restrictions on importing buffalo hides or buffalo art productions into California?

Answer: American buffalo (Bison bison) are considered a domestic breed of bovine (like cattle, goats and sheep) and thus no Fish and Wildlife laws regulate them. American buffalo hides are not restricted by CDFW and so they may be imported or possessed as long as they were obtained legally. However, the live importation of other species of true buffalo (e.g. African Cape Buffalo, etc.) or their hides is restricted by law (CCR Title 14, section 671).

Is it legal to catch carp and trout by hand?
Question: I recently read a post from people saying they had caught carp by hand in a lake. Is this legal in California? I have caught trout by hand in streams when I was younger, but wasn’t sure if that was legal either. Can you please clarify? (Nick)

Answer: There are no freshwater finfish species that can be legally taken by hand from any California lake waters within the state (only exception: a few fish species are allowed to be caught by hand during specific times in a few non-lake areas, as per CCR Title 14, sections 1.76 and 2.30.)

Electronics and hunting?
Question: Is there any law against mounting a camera to the scope of a rifle to record my hunting experience? (Barry N.)

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

Bowfishing in the Surf?


Bowfishing (photo courtesy of Indian Head Ranch)

Question: Is it legal to bowfish in the surf? Regulations say bowfishing is not allowed within 100 yards of the mouth of a stream. I’m guessing on the beach it is ok for finfish, like spotfin croakers? However, I do know some beaches prohibit bowfishing because they consider a bow and arrow a deadly weapon. Do you know which ones? (David T.)

Answer: You should check with your local police or sheriff’s department first to determine if there are any city or county ordinances prohibiting the use of bow and arrow fishing tackle. If not, it is legal to bowfish in the surf under the following conditions: Spears, harpoons and bow and arrow fishing tackle may be used for taking all varieties of skates, rays and sharks, except white sharks. Such gear may not be possessed or used within 100 yards of the mouth of any stream in any ocean waters north of Ventura County, nor aboard any vessel on any day or on any trip when broadbill swordfish or marlin have been taken. Bow and arrow fishing tackle may be used to take finfish other than giant (black) sea bass, garibaldi, gulf grouper, broomtail grouper, trout, salmon, broadbill swordfish, white shark, green sturgeon and white sturgeon (California Code of Regulations, Title 14, section 28.95, 27.90 and 27.91).

Can you hunt waterfowl not listed in the regulations?
Question: I know there are quite a few types of ducks that are not listed in the waterfowl regulations (e.g. teal, mergansers, etc.). If a species is not specifically mentioned, does this mean that they can or cannot be hunted? (Joe D.)

Answer: The waterfowl regulations apply to all species of geese, ducks and mergansers. Coots have different regulations. As long as the waterfowl species you wish to take does not have more specific regulations than the general bag limits, then that non-specified waterfowl species can be included in your general bag.

Retrieving game from private property?
Question: Where can I find the regulations on retrieving game that has moved onto another’s property after being shot? I believe that it is legal but I can’t find the regs. (Joe D.)

Answer: There are no regulations which allow you to recover game that ends up on private property. You are expected to retrieve all game you harvest and not to cause wanton waste by failing to recover something you’ve shot, but you must get permission from the landowner to legally enter their property. If you are not able to reach them for permission, you may contact the local game warden or sheriff and request assistance.

Buying diamondback rattlesnakes from Texas for taxidermy?
Question: I want to buy dead western diamondback rattlesnakes for taxidermy from a seller in Texas. From what I read in the regulations, it is OK. The shipper just needs to label the box with the contents. If this is legal, can you please provide the code section regarding buying/importing dead rattlesnakes? (Bryan W.)

Answer: Dead rattlesnakes can be purchased and imported into California (Fish and Game Code, section 2353). You will just need to make sure the shipment comes with a completed Declaration for Entry form identifying what it is and where it’s coming from. This declaration must be submitted to the department or a designated state or federal agency at or immediately prior to the time of entry. Declaration is not required if shipped by common carrier under a bill of lading.

This form may be photocopied. The original copy of the declaration form shall be retained by the person importing the fish or game into the state. One copy shall be mailed to the Department of Fish and Wildlife, 1416 Ninth St., Sacramento, CA 95814, within 24 hours after entering the state. One copy shall be deposited at the point of entry with any state or federal agency or officer, and one copy shall remain with the fish or game if transported by other than owner or common carrier.

“Point of entry” refers to the city or town nearest your point of entry into California.

Lobster hooping from a public pier?
Question: While lobster hooping from a public pier, the maximum number of nets per person is two. Can a person with two nets deployed for crab/lobster simultaneously use a fishing rod for finfish? What about if the person has a fishing license and lobster card? (Steve G.)

Answer: No, the regulations state that people fishing from a public pier can fish with only two “appliances,” so the two hoop nets and one fishing rod for fin fish would total three. You don’t need a fishing license to fish from a public pier, but anyone fishing for lobsters must have a valid lobster report card.

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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

Sidearm While Duck Hunting?

(Photo courtesy of USFWS)

(Photo courtesy of USFWS)

Question: A friend and I recently had a situation where we found pig tracks at one of the areas where we like to duck hunt. We both found it a little unnerving to be walking in knee to waist high grass armed with only bird shot if a pig were to charge. The area where we are hunting doesn’t explicitly prohibit handguns. We were wondering if California law allows us to carry a handgun, not as a method of take, but rather for defense while hunting waterfowl. I noticed the answer to the question on sidearms while hunting upland game and small game but don’t know if duck hunting has any additional restrictions. Also, if this is allowed, does the ammo in the handgun apply to the nonlead requirement while hunting duck, or is it exempt considering that it is not a method of take? Any help is greatly appreciated. Thanks. (Rhyan P.)

Answer: Unless the area where you’re hunting explicitly prohibits the possession of, or hunting with, handguns, that part should not be a problem. If that is the case, and you feel that your life is in danger, you can shoot the pig. However, you are not authorized to take the carcass unless you have a pig tag and utilized a legal method of take. If you’re hunting in condor country, you must carry nonlead ammunition.

Are crabs with black spots safe to eat?
Question: I just bought two crabs and found one with black spots on the outside shell. I’ve seen these before and usually avoid them, but this time the seller sneaked it into my package. When I called him about it, he said he didn’t know what it is, but it doesn’t permeate the shell. This isn’t true—I’ve seen this stuff on the flesh at the joints. It looks like oil. Can you enlighten me? Besides being ugly, is it unsafe? (Mari V., Berkeley)

Answer: Black spots on the shells of crustaceans are typically composed of melanin, which is the end product of a series of immunological reactions. This means the crab was likely responding to some shell damage that could be caused by physical trauma or a disease agent. In this case, the black spotted crab is probably safe if cooked correctly. However, if the discolored shellfish tissue has an unpleasant taste or texture, or looks or smells unusual, we always recommend not eating it.

Where can I find bail fine information?
Question: How are fines determined and how can someone locate published documentation on fines? (John S., Bakersfield)

Answer: The State Judicial Council publishes the “Uniform Bail and Penalty Schedules” every year. If you perform a web search, most courts will link to the most current edition. The link on our web site is the 2011 edition. Additionally, some fines are mandatory and established by the California legislature. Those can be found in the Fish and Game Code starting with Section 12000. See the California Legislative Information web site to look up the code. With some exceptions for mandatory fines, the uniform bail and penalty schedule is a guideline used by judges. In other words, judges have a great deal of discretion in setting fines and penalties for any violation.

Crossbows for wild pigs?
Question: I am trying to get some clarification on hunting wild pigs with a crossbow. The regulations state that crossbows may be used to take deer and wild pigs only during the regular seasons (California Code Regulations, Title 14, section 353). Since wild pigs can be hunted all year, does that mean that a crossbow can be used (like a firearm) to hunt wild pigs? Can any legal hunter with a hunting license and a pig tag use a crossbow for wild pigs? The regulations have a bit of a gray area here and I would like some clarification please. (Al Q.)

Answer: Yes, wild pigs can be taken year-round with a crossbow.

Importing a water buffalo skull?
Question: I purchased a water buffalo skull with horns in Thailand (Jan 2014). The Thai post office informed me I would need a “customs” form to have it delivered in the U.S. but they did not have them. The skull remains with my son in Thailand.

The skull is clean and dry. There is no remaining material on the skull. The skull was purchased from a buffalo farm for about $60. The animal was not mistreated or tortured. It died a natural death. The farm has a number of skulls for sale.

Can you please tell me what form I need and what I need to do to have it shipped to me here in California? Thank you in advance for your assistance. I enjoy your articles! (Jerry M.)

Answer: California wildlife law does not generally apply to this situation. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would be the contact agency regarding importing parts from a water buffalo into California.

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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

How Well Can Waterfowl See?

Wood duck (Photo © Carrie Wilson)

Wood duck (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: How well can ducks actually see? Can they see color? I know deer see different shades of gray, but what about ducks and geese? (David V.)

Answer: Waterfowl can control the curvature of both the lens and cornea (mammals, including humans, only control the lens). This is basically how birds can see extremely well while flying and while in the act of diving/feeding. In addition, their eyes act independently and they use one at a time to allow for depth-perception since nearly all waterfowl have monocular, not binocular, vision (they can’t stare forward at objects).

Another unique thing about waterfowl is they can see in almost all directions. A few ducks are the exception to the rule, but usually the eye placement allows them to view in many different directions at the same time. Secondly, waterfowl have a very high number of cones (which dictates color vision in humans) which allows them to see sharp images and have color vision where colors are more vivid than humans’ ability. The breadth of color vision is much wider than our own since UV light can be observed by waterfowl (UV light is absorbed by lenses in humans). This allows waterfowl to fly at night or feed in the dark or at low light conditions.

Diving in MPA reserves with game onboard?
Question: If I am on a commercial sport diving boat and we have legally caught lobster on board, may we go into a marine protected area (MPA) to dive and be assured that we will not get a ticket if we are boarded? We would of course have lobster report cards all properly filled out and the lobsters would be of legal size and taken beforehand in a legal area. Can the boat operator be assured that he will not be cited as well? (Rusty B., Montclair)

Answer: If you have lobsters on board your vessel, you may not dive in a marine reserve with gear that can be used to catch lobster (California Code of Regulations, Title 14, section 632 (a)(7) and (8)). A person can’t have their “fishing gear” deployed in the water when anchored or transiting through a marine reserve or other MPA that prohibits fishing for the species you have onboard. Thus, if a diver dives with a game bag and gloves, then it could be argued they have their lobster “fishing gear” in the water. If divers really want to dive in a marine reserve off their boat with catch on board, they should do everything possible to ensure it does not appear they will be pursuing/taking lobster. This would include stowing their completed lobster report card, along with the lobster and dive bags. A diver wearing gloves and diving with a game bag, or anything else that could be used to take fish, lobsters or abalone (a large dive knife or long stick with a hooked device, etc.) would appear to have another purpose in mind besides sightseeing. It would then be up to the wildlife officer to determine the appropriate action.

Are rules for selling on eBay different?
Question: From my understanding, it is illegal to sell deer skulls, deer antlers or deer mounts in the State of California. I know that eBay is based in California and they allow the sale of deer antlers, mounts and deer taxidermy. Obviously, they are receiving money from the online sale of deer parts so how did that come about, and has there been special legislation to cover it? Was this a decision allowed by the California government, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) or has it just happened this way? (Nate H.)

Answer: Just because eBay is selling these things or allowing them to be sold, doesn’t mean it’s legal. Fish and Game Code, section 3039 generally prohibits selling or purchasing any part of a bird or mammal found in the wild in California. Complete antlers, whole heads with antlers, antlers mounted for display or antlers in the velvet may not be sold or purchased at any time. However, shed antlers or antlers taken from domestically reared animals that have been manufactured into products or handcrafted items, or that have been cut into blocks or units which are to be handcrafted, may be purchased or sold. Deer hides can also be sold.

Who can validate big game tags?
Question: I have a question regarding who can validate big game tags. In the regulations booklet there is a list of persons who may validate/countersign big game tags, but I noticed there is no mention of County Agricultural Standards Inspectors. Each county has Agricultural and Standards Inspectors and/or Agricultural Biologists and Standards Inspectors who enforce the laws and regulations of California. Would a hunter be within their legal right to have their big game tag countersigned by such a person? (Andy R., Escondido)

Answer: No. Only those people listed in the regulations booklet are authorized to validate big game tags (CCR, Title 14, section 708.6).

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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 a Hunter Have Two Shotguns in a Duck Blind?

Geese at sunrise (USFWS photo)

Geese at sunrise (USFWS photo)

Question: Is it legal for one person to have two shotguns in a duck blind? (Bob G.)

Answer: Yes, but while it’s legal to have more than one shotgun in your blind, keep in mind there is a 25 shell limit on most public shooting areas (state and federal refuges). Hunters often forget this and bring a box of shells for each gun they have but then find themselves in violation of the 25 shell limit. Also required, each gun must be plugged and not capable of holding more than three shells in the magazine and chamber combined, and lots of times nothing larger than 10 gauge shells are allowed in these areas. For more information, please check the Upland Game Bird Regulations available at

Can I become a fishing guide if I have a citation on my record?
Question: I want to apply for a fishing guide’s license but am worried because I had a hunter trespass citation many years ago that was honestly unintentional. It was a case of poor mapping and unmarked fence lines. I paid my fine and it never went any further. This was 12 years ago and I have never had any other convictions for any sort of law breaking. Does my single-hunter trespass ticket exclude me from applying for guide status in this state? I am seriously interested in teaching others to care for and respect our outdoor privileges and would love to apply for a guide’s license. I don’t want to go through the process and pay all the costs though only to be denied at the time my application is reviewed. Can you please tell me if my mistake from years ago will cause my application to be denied? (Doug M.)

Answer: Because your citation was 12 years ago, it was your only citation and you took care of the fines, you should not have a problem getting a guide’s license. Applicants are evaluated mostly for recent activity (within five years), or repetitive activity. And for applicants who apply but are denied, any application fees are refunded.

How to accurately measure fish?
Question: What is the legal and proper way to measure a fish, particularly largemouth bass? Is it with an open mouth, closed mouth, fanned tail or pinched tail? I would appreciate some fish measuring guidelines to determine whether a catch is legal. Thank you. (Rick B.)

Answer: The first rule when measuring fish is to lay the fish flat on its side and always pinch the mouth closed. All freshwater fish, including largemouth bass, are measured to total length. This is the longest straight-line distance from the tip of the head to the end of the longest lobe of the tail (California Code of Regulations Title 14, Section 1.62). The most accurate method is to place the fish’s snout against a perpendicular surface and then measure along the intersecting horizontal surface to the end of the tail. Don’t measure using a flexible “tape” over the fish itself or you will be given a longer false reading. All freshwater fish with a minimum size limit are measured this way.

On the ocean side, most saltwater fish with minimum size limits are measured to total length, but there are some that are measured to fork length instead (e.g. bonito, albacore, barracuda and yellowtail). Fork length is the straight-line distance from the tip of the head to the center of the tail fin (CCR Title 14, Section 1.62). So again, lay the fish flat on its side, pinch the mouth closed and take your measurement from the tip of the head to the center of the fork of the tail. These are the only two measurements that you will need to know for the purposes of the regulations when measuring whole fish.

Giving pheasants away to other hunters to keep hunting?
Question: Once I shoot my limit of pheasants, can I give one of my birds to another hunter in the group and continue hunting? (Jerry)

Answer: No. Once you reach your bag limit you are finished hunting for the day. You can give your birds away to other hunters but that does not then allow you to continue hunting that day.

Underwater lights when ocean fishing?
Question:Is it legal to use underwater attractor lights in ocean waters to attract fish to the boat? (John V.)

Answer: Yes. There are no prohibitions from using underwater attractor lights in ocean waters.

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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

Charity Dinner with Donated Game

Celebrity chef Scott Leyseth from the Sportsmens Channel prepares wild game for a charity event to feed the homeless in Sacramento in Novemer 2013 (Photo courtesy of Holly Heyser)

Celebrity Sporting Chef Scott Leyseth from the Sportsmens Channel prepares wild game for a recent charity event in Sacramento to feed the homeless (Photo courtesy of Holly Heyser)

Question: An organization I belong to wants to do a benefit event with donated fish and game meals prepared for the homeless and the hungry. I know that waterfowl regulations are set by the federal government, but wonder if it may be possible to accept donated wild ducks and geese and turn them into a meal for a few hundred. It would be a one-day event to draw attention to a local shelter and help boost the image of us hunter types as charitable people who help to conserve our resources. At some point, someone is going to be over their possession limit to make this happen. Obviously, we won’t charge for the event, and our organization often leaves a generous donation to the facility, but I always thought there was a possession problem. Whaddaya think? (Scott L.)

Answer: Yes, an event like this can be done. A designated person may receive and possess game birds and mammals from multiple donors to give to or prepare for a charitable organization or charitable entity (under Fish and Game Code, section 3080) as long as they have:

1)    Copies of the hunting licenses and validated tags for the species possessed. They must be issued for the current or immediate past license year and signed and dated by the donor confirming the donation.

2)    The charitable organizations or charitable entities receiving and distributing game birds or mammals for charitable or humane purposes, must maintain the documentation described above for one year from the date of disposal.

Fishing license for collecting seaweed?
Question: Is a fishing license required to collect seaweed? (Jane S., Monterey)

Answer: A fishing license is not required to take seaweed but there is a daily bag limit of 10 pounds wet weight in the aggregate. There are three prohibited species that may not be cut or disturbed: eel grass (Zostera), surf grass (Phyllospadix) and sea palm (Postelsia).

Legal shoot time
Question: If you are sitting in your duck blind waiting for legal shooting time, and you have a shotgun loaded and ready to go (in other words shells in the magazine and chamber), can you be cited for hunting before legal shooting time? Some say yes since you’re loaded up and ready to go, so you are technically “hunting” (even if you have the shotgun sitting in the corner of the blind and never touch it until the legal shoot time). Others say it’s legal because you aren’t shooting … so as long as you don’t fire the gun, you’re good. Who’s right? (Eric M.)

Answer: As long as you make no attempt to take a duck, there is no violation for loading your gun as you wait for legal shooting time. However, having a live round in the chamber while you are waiting is not advised for safety reasons.

Abalone reporting
Question: How do I go about reporting my annual abalone harvest take? I just want to find out where I should go on the website to report my abalone harvest. Otherwise, do I have to mail the original in by mail? Please advise. (Richard S.)

Answer: You have two options. You can either report your abalone harvest date online at, or you can mail your completed Abalone Report Cards to:

California Department of Fish and Wildlife
32330 N. Harbor Drive
Fort Bragg, CA 95437-5554

Cards or card data must be submitted to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) by Jan. 31, 2014, even if the card holder did not take or even try to take abalone. If you choose to report online, you must still retain the card for 90 days in case the CDFW requests you to also mail it in. All card data provides information necessary for annual take estimates. If the abalone card return rate is not adequate for catch estimates, the CDFW will consider penalties for failing to return cards.

Fishing for sturgeon
Question: When sturgeon fishing, is it true we cannot use sinkers on leaders or steel leaders? I don’t find these laws stated in the regulations booklet, so are they true? (Mon S., Stockton)

Answer: When fishing for sturgeon, only one single barbless hook may be used on a line (see California Code of Regulations Title 14, sections 5.80 and 27.90.) The use of sinkers or steel leaders while fishing for sturgeon is not prohibited in most waters, but the use of any hook that is attached closer than 18 inches to any weight exceeding one half ounce is prohibited (CCR Title 14, section 2.10(b)(2)). (Exception: Sacramento River from Keswick Dam to the Highway 162 Bridge, no wire leaders may be used and no sturgeon may be taken.)

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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