Category Archives: Licensing/Permits/Stamps/Report Cards

Legal Hitchhiking?

(CDFW Photo by Athena Maguire)

Lingcod hitchhiking on a rockfish caught on a shrimp fly (CDFW Photo by Athena Maguire)

Question: If I am using a legal shrimp fly rig to fish in California waters for rockfish and a legal-sized lingcod bites and holds onto an otherwise legal-sized rockfish, can I legally gaff and possess that legal-sized hitchhiking lingcod? I am assuming the lingcod has not been hooked in the mouth on my shrimp fly rig, but has merely bitten and held on to the rockfish all the way to the surface. Would this be legal? (James O. Peterson)

Answer: Yes. The take of “hitchhiking” lingcod with a gaff is legal as long as the fish is of legal size. Gaff hooks cannot be used to take or assist in landing any finfish shorter than the minimum sizes limit. Gaffs also cannot be used to take salmon, steelhead, sturgeon or striped bass.

What does new mandatory deer hunt reporting mean for hunters?
Question: I’ve noticed the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) are now requiring all deer hunters to report their deer tags. Every person who is issued a deer tag must submit a report for the tag either online or by mail after the hunt, even if they did not hunt or did not harvest a deer. Does this new regulation mean that mandatory validation of all deer tags by an authorized individual is no longer the case? If not, why? Doesn’t mandatory reporting cover all circumstances, except for the poacher types? Given that we are required to participate in more and more validation reports, is it possible that down the line this information will be used to close a zone or severely limit tag numbers? Will more and more zones be transformed into draw only, such as what occurred with the B zone a few years ago? (Bill A.)

Answer: The reporting regulation did nothing to change validation requirements. Hunters have always been allowed to transport deer from the kill site to where it’s going to be validated and the tag must still be validated. Many folks are authorized to validate deer tags (see the current California Mammal Hunting Regulations booklet, pp. 2-13 for full list), but if one of those people are not available, the online reporting system will provide a number to at least prove that the tag has been reported.

According to CDFW Wildlife Programs Manager Craig Stowers, this is a harvest report (not a “validation report”). Successful deer hunters have always been required to report their take. However, due to hunter failure to report, tags picked up in the field and never sent in for processing, or even losses in the mail, we know darn well that we don’t get all the successful take reports.

Harvest information is an important component of population estimates, so you are partially correct in that this information is used to set tag quotas. California’s deer populations are stable, but given the high demand for tags, it is highly likely we will see more zones go to draws in the future. There is no system we could design and implement that will allow deer hunters to get any tag they want, whenever they want.

Here’s one example of how the harvest report system could help deer hunters: calculations of the hunter success ratios that so many hunters seem to use to make their hunt selections. Many hunters get tags they don’t use, but we used to include those hunters in the success calculations. This reporting system gives us a handle on that so we can provide tighter, better information than we ever have before.

Two anglers sharing one rod?
Question: If there are two guys with fishing licenses and they are fishing from shore, is it legal for them to share one fishing pole between them? If so, can both anglers continue fishing until they both get their limits of fish? (Kong C.)

Answer: This would be legal, but CDFW recommends that each angler have their own bags or stringers for the fish they catch in order to keep them separate. It is not legal for one person to catch their limit and then to continue fishing to help their friend get their limit. If each person keeps their own fish separate, there will be no confusion if asked by a warden to display the fish they’ve caught.

Eotech or red dot sights?
Question: Can I legally hunt deer in California with my Eotech Holographic sight on a rifle? Since it has a lighted dot but does not project a visible light outside of the viewfinder, I assume it would be legal but want to be sure. (Ken M., Redding)

Answer: As long as the sight does not emit a directional beam of light, then it may be used (Fish and Game Code, section 2005). The problem comes when a light is emitted out away from the rifle or bow sight to give the hunter what some would consider an unfair advantage over the game. A light might also substantially contribute to hunting before or after legal hours.

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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

Shotgun for Protection When Fishing?

(USFWS photo)

(USFWS photo)

Question: I would like to know if I can carry my 12-gauge shotgun for protection when I’m fishing from the shore. I have a fishing license and the chamber would be empty. Would it be legal? (Aaron A.)

Answer: In many locations along California’s coastline it would be unlawful to have a firearm with you. There are rules specific to state and national parks, wildlife refuges (Fish and Game Code, section 10500(b)) and marine sanctuaries, as well as local and county laws that would make it unlawful to carry a firearm while fishing along the coastline. In order to answer your question, we would need to know where you intend to carry the shotgun. In addition to the locations above, it is unlawful to carry a loaded gun in a public place in an incorporated city (Penal Code, section 25850), e.g. the entire shoreline of San Francisco. Simply having the live ammunition attached to the firearm in any manner constitutes “loaded” for purposes of this section.

Photography in marine protected areas
Question: It is my understanding that on land, CDFW takes care of things in Marine Protected Areas, and in the water, it is the responsibility of NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries. Can one take pictures within the marine protected areas on land or sea and sell them for commercial purposes or does one need a permit? (Lisa W.)

Answer: MPAs are managed by several different agencies, so the answer will vary depending upon the MPA. If the MPA is part of the state park system, you may be required to obtain a permit for commercial photography from the California Film Commission (CCR Title 14, section 4316.) If the MPA is part of a county park, a permit may be required depending on the county. For example, San Mateo and San Francisco counties both require permits for commercial photography in their county parks.

One pig tag for each feral pig taken?
Question: Am I correct in assuming that, similar to deer tags, one must have one pig tag for each feral pig taken, or does the purchase of one pig tag legally allow for taking multiple feral pigs? I saw your comment on a recent feral pig question where you said there is no daily bag limit on feral pigs, but I am assuming that this would mean one would still have to have multiple tags for multiple feral pigs taken over a given time frame. (W.B.)

Answer: Yes, you are correct. Although there is no daily limit for wild pigs, you must possess a tag prior to pig hunting for each pig you intend to take.

Pistachio farmers shooting ravens on my property?
Question: I live about 50 acres away from a pistachio orchard. The owners of that orchard drive around and shoot at the ravens out of their truck. They park in front of my property and shoot at the ravens. I called the sheriff and he said to call Fish and Wildlife since the farmers have a depredation permit and so it’s out of their hands. The farmers also told the sheriff that they are shooting blanks. Since this has started happening, I have found three dead ravens on my property. One was right next to my horses’ watering trough and the other two were out our back door near our barbecue grill.

The orchard owners can see when we are home or away by our vehicles. We live on 10 acres and our house is in the middle of the property. I feel unsafe and creeped out. I came home today to find the third dead raven. Are they allowed to do this? How can I keep them away from my property? Do I have any rights or does their permit supersede my rights? I’ve been taking pictures of the dead ravens. One is even in my freezer. What is my next step? Is there a season they kill the ravens or do they have free rein to do what they want? I have a child and animals and I’m afraid for their safety. (Cindy P.)

Answer: The first place to start is to contact your local wildlife officer to report this. If you don’t have their direct number, contact your local CDFW office. A list can be found on our website at The wildlife officers should be able to look up the conditions of the owners’ permits and make sure they are acting within the parameters allowed by the permit. At a minimum, it is illegal to shoot within 150 yards of any occupied dwelling without the permission of the occupant. There is no open hunting season for ravens.

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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

Sea Lions Are Eating All My Bait!

The increased abundance of pinnipeds has also resulted in a growing number of negative interactions with humans and incidents of property damage (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

California sea lions and Pacific harbor seals have been federally protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act since 1972. The increased abundance of pinnipeds has also resulted in a growing number of negative interactions with humans and incidents of property damage (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: Is there anything I can do to deter or discourage sea lions from eating all my crabbing bait? I know that seals and sea lions are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act but I’ve heard there are exceptions for recreational fishermen to deter them to prevent damage to private property, including gear and catch. What can I legally do to chase off these seals/sea lions or at least prevent them from chewing up my bait cages and hoop nets? Is it legal to shoot them with paintball guns? (Sam L.)

Answer: California sea lions and Pacific harbor seals have been federally protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act since 1972, and thus harassing, capturing, killing or attempting to do so is prohibited and carries a hefty fine. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in recent years the populations of these animals have increased dramatically and are now considered healthy and robust.

Unfortunately, with the good often comes the bad – the increased abundance of animals has also resulted in a growing number of negative interactions with humans and incidents of property damage. People seeking legal methods for deterring marine mammals in order to protect their property, fishing gear and catch from damage by sea lions and seals can find recommendations and approved methods on NOAA’s website,

Shooting wrong deer
Question: If you are out hunting and shoot a spike by mistake, what should a person do? What kind of trouble could a hunter get into for that if reported to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW)? (Steve C.)

Answer: If you shoot a spike deer by mistake, you should immediately contact your local CDFW office and/or your local wildlife officer to report it and explain what the situation was that caused the mistake. You may still be cited for wrongly harvesting an animal that you are not authorized to take, and if convicted you could lose your deer hunting privileges for the following year in all wildlife violator compact states. If you try to conceal the animal, don’t tag it, take it home or leave it in the field without field dressing it, you may be cited for additional violations that entail higher fines and penalties. And these actions could lead to an extended revocation of your deer hunting privileges in all Wildlife Violator compact states, or may lead to the revocation of all hunting privileges in California and all wildlife violator compact states.

Archery for quail
Question: I am planning on archery hunting for quail this year. Do the same laws from shotgun apply to archery? Does the quail have to be flying before shooting at it? Or if archery hunting, can the quail be standing on the ground or sitting in the trees? (John V.)

Answer: The early archery-only season for quail ended on Sept. 4, but using archery equipment generally allows you to hunt both during the archery-only season (listed under California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 300) and during the general season. Otherwise, the bag and possession limits are the same.

Whether to shoot the birds when flying vs. when they are standing on the ground or roosting in trees is not a legal question but rather an ethical decision that you must make. Under the widely accepted “fair chase” principles that most hunters abide by, shooting upland game birds or waterfowl under conditions other than when they are flying would violate this principal and be considered unethical.

Six months residency requirement
Question: If a taxpayer is considered a California resident for tax purposes and pays about $6000 a year in California income tax, plus California sales tax, but has lived overseas for part of the year, why can’t they purchase a resident fishing license until after they have physically resided in California for six months? Under fishing regs it would be legal to purchase a license in January, leave the country and return in 11 months and the California license is still valid within the same year. What is the point of this rule? (Bob R.)

Answer: While there are many ways the legislature could have defined residency, for purposes of purchasing hunting and fishing licenses, Fish and Game Code section 70 defines a resident as “any person who has resided continuously in the State of California for six months or more immediately prior…” to the date of application for a license or permit. The law also includes specific provisions regarding persons on active duty in the military and persons enrolled in the federal Job Corps. The purpose of this law is to provide criteria to establish residency for the purpose of purchasing hunting and fishing licenses.

According to CDFW License Program Analyst Glenn Underwood, the law does not say that you cannot leave California while you are a resident. However, if you live outside of California, your identification is based outside of California, or you buy resident licenses in another state or country, then you will not be able to purchase a resident California license. Many people attempt to purchase resident licenses in more than one state.

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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

Fishing With Glitter May Bring More Than Big Fish

CDFW photo by marine biologist Derek Stein

(CDFW Photo by Marine Scientist Derek Stein)

Question: I have been studying up on different methods of spear fishing while free diving and have read about the use of “glitter” as an attractant for bait fish. I have an idea to sprinkle glitter in the water so that when the bait fish come to investigate, the large game fish will follow and be caught as they attack the bait fish!

What are your views and the legal ramifications of this method? I understand chumming is not legal for taking game animals in our state, but the use of artificial lures is. With my idea the game fish would not be chummed by this method but instead just attracted by the collection of bait fish. If this method actually works, would it be legal? (Theodore G., Stockton)

Answer: You have an innovative idea there. Unfortunately, even if your plan to lure unsuspecting fish to you by sprinkling shiny, sparkling glitter in the water were to work, you could be cited for doing so. Placing glitter in the water is littering and is prohibited under Fish and Game Code, section 5652.

The activity you describe would be considered chumming and chumming is defined as “placing any material in the water, other than on a hook while angling, for the purpose of attracting fish to a particular area in order that they may be taken” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.32). Chumming in the ocean is allowed (as long as the chum is not considered to be litter), but chumming in freshwater is typically not permissible except in specific areas and for certain fish species (see CCR Title14, section 2.40).

Prohibited from retrieving deer from private property
Question: I recently shot a doe with my A31 tag in Los Angeles County (Archery Only-Either Sex). It appeared to be a lethal shot from 22 yards with decent shot placement. I tracked the blood to a privately owned ranch 100 yards away. I stopped tracking it when it appeared she went onto the ranch property. I then approached the ranch manager to get permission to continue tracking my deer. The owner initially agreed but after one of her coworkers talked to her, she retracted her permission (approximately 10 minutes from the time we spoke in her office). She requested that we leave her property at once as she didn’t want people to think they approved of hunting. I didn’t have enough time to locate my deer and left broken-hearted.

I don’t like seeing animals die or suffer for no reason. I would never have shot if I would have known I couldn’t recover her. I believe I did everything legal and correct but it shouldn’t be right that a deer goes to waste because of the bias of a property manager.

Is there anything I could have done to recover my deer? Do I have any rights or is there anyone I could have contacted? I’m still sick over the situation. (Luke G., Loma Linda)

Answer: It’s unfortunate that this happened. Although the law prevents one from wasting the deer, the law does not permit the trespass to retrieve it. Perhaps, if you’d contacted the local game warden, they may have been able to contact the ranch manager or owner for some possible assistance to prevent the deer from going to waste.

According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Lt. Todd Tognazzini, when archery hunting it is recommended to hunt farther from private property boundaries to avoid this type of problem as deer taken with archery usually travel farther after a lethal wound than those shot with a rifle. Tognazzini says he has never been refused when a fresh and legitimate blood trail is found leaving public land onto private property.

Where does inland end and ocean begin?
Question: I would like to fish with two rods in the Delta but don’t know whether the regulations are in the freshwater books or in the ocean books. Is the Delta part of the ocean regulations or is it considered inland waters? Where does it change from ocean to inland if considered inland? (Brian S., Felton)

Answer: You can legally fish in the waters of the Delta with a second rod stamp. Inland regulations apply from upstream of the Delta to Carquinez Bridge. The definition of inland waters vs ocean waters is, “Inland waters are all the fresh, brackish and inland saline waters of the state, including lagoons and tidewaters upstream from the mouths of coastal rivers and streams. Inland waters exclude the waters of San Francisco and San Pablo bays downstream from the Carquinez Bridge, the tidal portions of rivers and streams flowing into San Francisco and San Pablo bays, and the waters of Elkhorn Slough …” (CCR Title 14, section 1.53).

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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

Which Fish Species Can Be Filleted at Sea?

Only certain ocean fish are allowed to be filleted at sea. Check section 27.65 (c) in the Ocean Fishing Regulations booklet

Only certain ocean fish species are allowed to be filleted at sea. Please check the 2015 Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet (section 27.65[c] on pages 33-34) for an outline of which species may be filleted at sea while on a boat, and which may not.

Question: I need to get the straight answer regarding filleting game fish while on a boat. In the ocean/bay waters, do I need to keep stripers and leopard sharks intact until I get home or can I keep the fillets in one piece with a one inch or more square of skin left on each fillet? Also, are the rules different for inland waters regarding the filleting of fish? (Howard A.)

Answer: You can find an outline of which species may be filleted at sea while on a boat and which may not under section 27.65(b) and (c) on pages 33-34 in the Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet. Only those listed as allowed to be filleted can be filleted. Striped bass and leopard sharks are not on this list and so may not be filleted at sea.

  • Section 27.65(c): Fish That May Not be Filleted, Steaked or Chunked: No person shall fillet, steak or cut into chunks on any boat or bring ashore as fillets, steaks or chunks the following: any species with a size limit unless a fillet size is otherwise specified in these regulations. California halibut may be filleted or brought ashore as fillets south of Point Arena (Mendocino County).

Since the regulations specify minimum lengths for stripers (18 inches total) and leopard sharks (36 inches total), but no fillet lengths, neither species can be filleted while on a boat or brought ashore as fillets, steaks or chunks.

Hunting with a .22 caliber rimfire in a lead free zone?
Question: I was wondering if you could still hunt with lead .22 caliber rimfire in a lead free zone. I’ve been looking for lead free .22 caliber rimfire rounds and its very slim pickins out there. (Cory S.)

Answer: Although the availability of nonlead ammunition may be improving with time, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recognizes it can still be hard to find some calibers. It will take additional planning to participate in hunts where nonlead ammunition is required. We encourage hunters who intend to participate in these hunts to plan well ahead to be sure they have legal ammunition. There are a number of lead free .22 rimfire rounds that are manufactured, and stores in the California condor range may be most likely to have them in stock. We recommend searching on the Internet and calling ahead to local retailers. Remember that .22 rimfire is only legal to use when hunting small game and nongame animals. Current law does not require use of nonlead ammunition when taking rabbits or tree squirrels, unless you are hunting on CDFW lands, but nonlead ammunition will be required statewide for all hunting beginning July 1, 2019.

About Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) web map
Question: I read a journal article recently about California’s Marine Protected Areas (MPA) but cannot locate a website showing exactly where the MPAs are. Do you have anything posted online where I can go or something you can send me? (Jamie)

Answer: Printed MPA guidebooks are available via some of the same vendors that sell fishing licenses so that you can easily obtain them (see If you have problems finding a guidebook, please contact your local CDFW office and ask them to send you one.

If you like the utility of Google Maps, you might appreciate MarineBIOS (see ) a map that you can use to zoom in close on marine protected areas to get a fix on the boundaries. MarineBIOS lets you choose your “basemap.” You can use satellite imagery, a street map or other basemaps, whatever makes the most sense for your situation. (Click on the green basemaps button in the upper left-hand corner of the screen to access these options).

If you have a smartphone or other mobile device with GPS capability, you can use the map on MPAmobile ( to show you where you are in relation to any MPAs, and you can look up information on individual MPAs.

All this information and more is available online at ( On this web page, in the Popular Resources box to the right, you’ll find the top four big blue buttons lead you to these resources, so these should help you learn where California’s marine protected areas are.

A new Marine Management News blog post also describes resources you can use to learn about MPAs (see If all else fails, you can email your MPA questions to and we will be glad to assist you.

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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

What’s the Level of Wildlife Officers’ Search Authority?

CDFW Wildlife Officers have broad search authority. Hunters and anglers are required by law to exhibit upon demand all licenses, tags, wildlife, fish, and any device or apparatus designed to be, and capable of being, used to take fish and/or wildlife.

CDFW Wildlife Officers have broad search authority. People are required by law to exhibit upon demand all licenses, tags, wildlife, fish, and any device or apparatus designed to be, and capable of being, used to take fish and/or wildlife (CDFW photo)

Question: Do California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) wardens have the authority to search a sportsperson’s truck, boat, cooler, etc. without a warrant or probable cause? If so, how would an abalone check point (for example) not be a blatant violation of the Fourth Amendment of the constitution? I’m all for stopping poachers, but not at the cost of violating what makes our country so special. Thanks. (John McClellan)

Answer: In the hunting and fishing context, wildlife officers are authorized to conduct compliance inspections that would likely require warrants or probable cause in other contexts. Hunting and fishing are highly regulated activities. The fish and wildlife belong to the people of the state and not to any individual. Many states, including California, recognize this and have enacted statutes to allow Wildlife Officers to conduct regulatory inspections when interacting with those who are engaged in hunting and fishing activities. Some of these include:

• Authorization to inspect boats, buildings other than dwellings, and containers that may contain fish or wildlife (Fish and Game Code, section 1006)

• Authorization to “enter and examine any…place of business where fish or other fishery products are packed, preserved, manufactured, bought or sold, or to board any fishing boat…or vehicle or receptacle containing fish…and may examine any books and records containing any account of fish caught, bought, canned, packed, stored or sold.” (Fish and Game Code, section 7702)

Also, people are required to exhibit upon the demand of a wildlife officer all licenses, tags, wildlife, and any device or apparatus designed to be, and capable of being, used to take wildlife (Fish and Game Code, section 2012)

The courts have consistently upheld these inspection authorities. As for check points, CDFW has used check points for the past 25 years as a focused and effective means of educating resource users and deterring violations of our wildlife laws. In a state as vast as California with a population of over 38 million people and with a staff of only 400 sworn officers, CDFW needs to ensure that the funds and manpower resources we have are put to the most efficient use possible. Conducting checkpoints allows us to contact thousands of people who are using our public trust resources with a handful of officers. For those who are not using our public trust resources, the check points provide us an opportunity to educate them about our state’s wildlife resources and our role in protecting those resources. The courts have established minimum standards that must be followed when we conduct checkpoints, but just like DUI checkpoints, wildlife checkpoints have been upheld by the courts.

Helping friends fill their deer tags?
Question: If a group of friends go hunting for a week, and one of the hunters tags a buck on the first day, can he continue to carry his loaded rifle with him and help his friends fill their tags? If not, can he only help with spotting and drives without a weapon? (Rod P., Napa)

Answer: Once a hunter takes a deer and fills his tag, he may accompany other hunters but cannot assist them in any way in the take of additional deer. In addition, he should leave his rifle behind. Otherwise, if encountered in the field with a rifle or other method of take, wildlife officers may determine the person assisting the hunters is also actively hunting.

Fishing for rockfish and fishing crab snares simultaneously?
Question: Can a kayak/boat angler use one line to take rockfish and then fish a crab snare with another line? In this case, a hand line tied off to his kayak? (Anonymous)

Answer: The law requires that when fishing for rockfish, only one line with no more than two hooks may be used. However, in this case, an angler may also fish for crabs at the same time with a line that attaches to a crab loop trap because these traps will not likely catch rockfish. If approached by a wildlife officer, the angler should be prepared to explain up front that only one line contains two hooks for rockfish and the other line is attached to a crab loop trap. Remember that crab loop traps are restricted to six loops.

Pelagic red crabs
Question: The pelagic red crabs (tuna crabs) are drifting in with the warm El Niño waters and washing up on beaches everywhere. I’d like to use them for bait. Are there any regulations to be aware of? (Andrew S.)

Answer: The limit is 35 pelagic red crabs per day and 35 in possession. There are no size limits and they may be taken only by hand.

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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

Must Hunters and Anglers Carry CDL with License?

Hunters and anglers should carry photo identification along with appropriate fishing/hunting licenses to properly identify who they are (CDFW photo by Debra Hamilton).

Hunters and anglers should carry photo identification, along with their appropriate hunting/fishing licenses, to properly identify themselves to wildlife officers when asked. (CDFW photo)

Question: While hunting or fishing, besides carrying the appropriate license(s), do I also need to carry my state driver’s license? I would prefer to leave it in my vehicle, but I also want to be sure I am in compliance with the law if I run into a game warden in the field. So my question is do I need to carry photo I.D. with my license? (Anthony B.)

Answer: You will need to verify that you are the person holding your own fishing or hunting license. Though photo identification is not mandated by law, being able to identify yourself properly is. If you cannot appropriately identify who you are, you may see yourself in an extended contact with the wildlife officer. If you’re getting cited for something, the wildlife officer may have to take you to jail until you can be properly identified. The bottom line is even though the law doesn’t state you must have photo identification in possession, it would benefit you greatly to carry photo identification, so you may properly identify who you are to the wildlife officer.

Family crabbing trip
Question: My family plans to take a trip to San Francisco this July. Is red crab season still open or is it open all year? If it is open, please let me in on some rules and regulations, such as the limit and the size? Where can I find more information about crabbing in San Francisco and ask more questions? (Kao X.)

Answer: Take of rock crab is open year-round. Red/yellow/rock crab are species that may be kept in San Francisco Bay (no Dungeness crab may be kept from the Bay, even during the open season). Rock crab and other non-Dungeness crab have a daily bag and possession limit of 35 crab that must measure at least four inches across (see California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.85(b) on pg. 50 of the current Ocean Sport Fishing regulations booklet).

There are a variety of piers where people go crabbing in the San Francisco Bay area. Try reviewing piers on the website A guide that shows the differences between the crab species is available online at

Be sure to review the above subsection thoroughly for further fishing regulations that pertain to rock crab (bag limit, size limit, etc.). For more information about crab, you can visit our Invertebrate Management Project webpage at

Transporting cleaned and portioned fish
Question: If I take a long road trip with my boat in tow and catch fish over a few days, my concern is that while I will only have legal quantities in possession, the fish will be cleaned, portioned and vacuum sealed before I return home with my boat in tow. I know it’s legal to clean fish after I am at my vacation home, but in this this situation the quantities of yellowtail, yellowfin, white sea bass, etc. would be impossible to determine even though I am within the possession limits. How would a wildlife officer deal with this situation if I was stopped on the roadtrip home with a cooler full of vacuum sealed fish? (Charlie C.)

Answer: Unless the regulations specifically require that a fish be kept whole until being prepared for immediate consumption, such as lobster and abalone, you may clean and store your fish in any condition you want to, once they are brought ashore. In similar situations, people have chosen to package each fish separately, and retain the carcass, so that if stopped by a wildlife officer, they could show the officer the legal-sized carcasses, which would also aid in identifying the species of fish. That still would be more complicated than if you hadn’t chunked up the fish, but it would be better than a bag of nondescript cubes of fish. If the quantity appeared highly excessive, a wildlife officer might use our Wildlife Forensics Laboratory to determine the exact quantity.

AO tags during rifle season?
Question: Can you use an Archery-Only tag during rifle season if you’re still using archery equipment as your method of take? (Eric C.)

Answer: Yes. The Archery-Only (AO) tag allows hunting with archery equipment only during the archery and general seasons in A, B or D zones and Hunt G10 (military only). You may not possess a firearm or crossbow when hunting under the authority of an AO deer tag, except as otherwise provided.

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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