Category Archives: Licensing/Permits/Stamps/Report Cards

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 http://www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/mpa/guidelocations.asp). 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 http://map.dfg.ca.gov/marine/ ) 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 (www.dfg.ca.gov/m/MPA/) 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 (www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/mpa/). 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 https://cdfwmarine.wordpress.com/2015/06/02/mpa-maps/). If all else fails, you can email your MPA questions to AskMPA@wildlife.ca.gov 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 CalOutdoors@wildlife.ca.gov.

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 CalOutdoors@wildlife.ca.gov.

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 www.pierfishing.com. A guide that shows the differences between the crab species is available online at www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/dungeness_crab.asp#cancroid.

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 www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/invertebrate/crabs.asp.


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 CalOutdoors@wildlife.ca.gov.

Explosive Numbers of Wild Turkeys Causing Havoc

Wild Turkeys (CDFW photo)

Wild Turkeys (CDFW photo)

Question: I live in the San Francisco East Bay and in my neighborhood there has been an explosion in the numbers of wild turkeys roaming freely and they are causing havoc wherever they go! These birds destroy flower beds and yards with their endless search for food. They relieve themselves frequently leaving a mess able to be tracked into peoples’ residences and family vehicles. A small child’s toys may even come into contact with their biological waste. These turkeys travel in large groups. I have even counted two separate groups numbering 25 large turkeys. They don’t have many natural predators except maybe larger dogs, but the turkeys steer clear of those yards. Cats only fear them. The only predator that can make a difference is MAN. Any suggestions? (Jimmy W.)

Answer: There are a few things that you and your neighbors can do. First of all, do whatever you can to discourage them from getting too comfortable on your property and becoming permanent residents. Talk to all of your neighbors to make sure no one is feeding or providing them water (e.g. fountains, dog dishes, bird baths, etc.). Also, make sure no one is leaving pet food out. You and your neighbors can always try hazing them with non-lethal methods, such as a quick spray with a hose or a motion-detecting sprinkler.

To curtail the problems with unwanted droppings under their roosts, remove the areas where they perch or else use bird spikes to make perches inhospitable. You can also try stringing visible lines to disrupt their flight paths. If none of these actions prove effective and the turkeys are causing substantial property damage, and if you’ve exhausted all other methods, your last option may be to contact the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) for  issuance of a depredation permit to authorize the lethal removal of the turkeys. Relocating turkeys is not an option.


Can shore anglers use a kayak to drop baited lines over fish?
Question: While my wife and I were camping at Lake Comanche last week we observed two young men arrive in a pickup with a small kayak in the back. As they prepared to fish in the pond section, one of the guys took the kayak out to look for fish using his polarized sunglasses while the other set their rods up on the bank. Once the guy in the kayak found where the fish were hanging out, he went back to the bank and prepared four very large baits. One of the baits looked like roe and three others looked like chicken intestines. He then loaded them one at a time into his kayak and rowed back out to drop the baited lines over the fish he’d found while his friend held the rods on the bank. They repeated this action until all four baited lines were fishing. We didn’t stay around to see what they caught, but when they were leaving in the dark I asked them how they did. Their reply was that they’d caught several fish.

Were these men fishing legally? If not and we observe this action again, should we call CalTIP? (Robert H.)

Answer: Each angler could use bait to fish with two rods if they both had second-rod validations. If one of them handled all four rods while the other dropped the baits, it could be a problem because one person would then be angling with four rods. To comply with the letter of the law, they would have to switch roles after two of the lines were set. They could also only use up to three baited hooks on each line.


What’s wanton waste of fish?
Question: What would be considered deterioration or waste of fish? I understand that leaving them on the shoreline or in a garbage can would be waste, but would it also apply to using the whole fish as fertilizer or something like that? (Zach T.)

Answer: Anglers are expected to make reasonable efforts to retrieve and utilize any fish taken. It is unlawful to cause or permit any deterioration or waste of any fish taken in the waters of this state (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.87). Although most fish taken under the authority of sport fishing licenses are utilized for human consumption, the regulation does not prescribe how fish are to be used.


Sturgeon card required for anglers under 16 years old?
Question: If I am taking fishermen that are under 16 who do not yet need fishing licenses sturgeon fishing, do they need sturgeon tags? (John B., Livermore)

Answer: Yes. Anglers under 16 are exempt only from having to purchase a sport fishing license. However, they must still purchase and carry report cards for any fishery with report card requirements and follow all other sport fishing regulations.

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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.

Why Not Wolves in California?

Gray wolf captured and GPS-collared by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) (Photo courtesy of ODFW)

Gray wolf captured and GPS-collared by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) (Photo courtesy of ODFW)

Question: Even though gray wolves are slowly expanding back out into their historical ranges, why have they not returned to California? Other western states have them. What makes California different? What’s the status of the wolf planning effort? Is there funding for it? (Emma M.)

Answer: The biggest considerations on natural reestablishment of gray wolves into California are the smaller populations of prey species available (compared to other western states), the growing population of people and the decline in habitat to support them.

According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Wildlife Program Manager Karen Kovacs, while the gray wolf’s prey species is similar to other western states (deer and elk), California cannot compare with the other states on the numbers of prey animals. In general, wolves in the western states prey on elk. And while some states have hundreds of thousands of elk, our state has less than 10,000 elk. California has more deer than elk, but again, less than what other western states have.

Human population in California is also different. California has more than 38 million people and infrastructure to support that population including highways, development, reservoirs, intensive agriculture, etc., all of which contribute to a loss of deer and elk habitat, hence a loss of potential wolf habitat.

One other difference is that California has very limited information regarding the prior presence of wolves in the state. Very little verifiable information exists, including about two wolves collected in the 1920s. So just how widespread and what those historical numbers are is unknown.

The draft Wolf Plan will address these considerations and other consequences of wolves in California. The wolf planning process with the stakeholder working group is completed. We are in the process of revising the draft based on peer review and the last round of comments from the working group. We anticipate having the revised draft available for public review along with holding two public meetings for additional input to the department. We will then make any necessary changes and finalize the Wolf Plan. Timeframe is late spring or early summer. There is no specific funding identified at the present time.

California has no intention to reintroduce wolves as other states have done. For more information on gray wolves and the work being done in California, please go to: www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/nongame/wolf/


Filleting fish onboard vessels?
Question: I want to make sure I have this filleting of fish onboard vessels correct. If I am fishing in San Francisco Bay and catch a 36-inch striped bass and a 48-inch leopard shark, I cannot remove the fillet from either fish until I am off my boat, correct? If so, can I remove the tail, head and fins from the fish? If I move to the Delta District to fish, are the filleting restrictions different? Thank you, as always, for helping to clarify these regulations. (Howard A.)

Answer: Both striped bass and leopard sharks have minimum length requirements and no established minimum fillet lengths, so neither can be filleted until you are back on shore. Heads and tails must also stay attached so that the fish can be measured to confirm they are of legal size, unless the fish is still of legal size after removing the head and tail. No person shall fillet, steak or cut into chunks on any boat or bring ashore as fillets, steaks or chunks any species with a size limit unless a fillet size is otherwise specified (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 27.65(c)). In addition, no fish may be possessed on a boat or brought ashore in such condition that the size and/or species cannot be determined (Fish and Game Code, sections 5508 and 5509), unless it is being prepared for immediate consumption on the boat.


Can youth hunters earn preference points?
Question: If my 9-year-old daughter has her hunting license, can she apply for preference points for any big game species, even though we know she can’t big game hunt until she is 12? (Shelley D.)

Answer: No. Hunters can only apply in the big game drawing once they are eligible to hunt for big game. Applicants for premium deer license tags, pronghorn antelope license tags, or elk license tags must be at least 12 years of age on or before July 1 of the license year for which they are applying. Youth hunters are not eligible to apply, even if it’s just to earn preference points (CCR Title 14, section 708.11).


Number of rods while fishing with crab snares?
Question: While out crabbing from our boat, my friend and I like to cast crab snares while waiting to check our soaking crab pots. I don’t see any regulations related to the number of rods we can have out when using only snares from a boat. (Paul S.)

Answer: Regulations for crab snares (referred to as crab loop traps in our laws) can be found in CCR, Title 14, section 29.80. Although there is no limit to the number of poles you use, each loop trap is restricted to no more than six loops (snares).

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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.

Steelhead vs. Rainbow Trout – What’s the Difference?

Angler with wild Klamath River Steelhead (released).

Angler with wild Klamath River Steelhead (prior to release).

Question: I’d like to try steelhead fishing for the first time on the American River. I will purchase a regular California fishing license and adhere to all regulations, but do I have to purchase the steelhead card if I don’t intend to keep any steelhead? If so, why can’t one be fishing for regular (rainbow) trout in the same river without a steelhead card? (Lilly K.)

Answer: It can be a bit confusing because steelhead trout and rainbow trout are the same fish. Its scientific name is Oncorhynchus mykiss (O. mykiss). Generally speaking, O. mykiss found in land-locked freshwater with no access to the ocean is a rainbow trout and steelhead trout are O. mykiss fish found in anadromous waters, which are waters with unimpeded access to the ocean where they live the majority of their life and come back to freshwater to spawn.

For practical purposes and to facilitate compliance, fishing regulations differentiate between rainbow and steelhead in anadromous waters by a 16-inch size threshold. O. mykiss smaller than 16-inches is a rainbow trout, and bigger than 16-inches is a steelhead. Fishing for steelhead, meaning any O mykiss in excess of 16-inches, in anadromous waters including the Lower American River below Nimbus Dam in Sacramento County, will require purchase of a Steelhead Report Card, even if you practice catch-and-release (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 5.88).

The report card provides important data to fishery scientists and requires an entry for each day that you fish and statistics on all fish caught and released. Fishing for O. mykiss less than 16-inches does not require a steelhead report card.


Does sardine fishery closure mean no more sardines for live bait?
Question: I heard in the news last week that the sardine fishery will be closing because it’s been overfished. Is this true? If so, how will this impact sport fishermen who rely on sardines for live bait? What about for fishermen who catch them incidentally on hook and line or who target them on sabiki and similar rigs off piers, jetties, etc.? (Steve C.)

Answer: The season for the current directed commercial sardine fishery has closed. There will also be a prohibition for next season for the same fishery due to a declining stock, but the decline is not due to overfishing. Anglers will be happy to know that these closures have no effect on either live bait or recreational take of sardine. These catches are not considered as part of the prohibition on directed commercial take. Currently, there is no limit on the recreational take of Pacific sardine (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 27.60(b)).

Biomass (population numbers) and commercial catch of Pacific sardine have fluctuated since the early part of last century. Over the past couple of years, the biomass of Pacific sardine has been declining. These fluctuations and the recent decline are primarily due to natural large scale changes in oceanic temperature, and studies show that biomass has fluctuated on a decadal scale for thousands of years. For more information on management of the West Coast Pacific sardine stock, please see the Pacific Fishery Management Council website (www.pcouncil.org/).

For more information about Pacific sardine history, research, and management in California, please visit California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW’s) Pacific sardine web site at www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/cpshms/pacificsardine.asp.


Spotting abalone for friends while on probation?
Question: I was cited for an abalone violation for failure to tag immediately out of the water last year (I went up to my car to grab a pen and ran into a ranger). My probation states 12 months of no fishing. Would it be legal to still go out with my buddies and spot abalones for them? I would obviously not carry an abalone iron. (Jingsong W.)

Answer: No. The law defines take as “hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill, or attempt to hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill” (FGC, section 86). If you are helping your buddies by spotting abalone for them to harvest, you are pursuing and hunting for abalone, which constitutes take.


Black bear claw necklace?
Question: I have a necklace that contains black bear claws that were legally taken in Wisconsin a couple of generations ago. They were part of a rug until it fell apart from age and moths. I would like to pass it along to my grandson as he is involved in Cub Scout activities. It would be a gift being passed down from one generation to another. Is it legal for him to possess it in California? In keeping with the scouting traditions, I want to make sure we are doing things legally and properly. (Robert S., Texas)

Answer: Yes, you can give this family treasure to your grandson but Fish and Game Code, section 4758, prohibits the sale or purchase of bear parts in 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 CalOutdoors@wildlife.ca.gov.

Why Don’t Licenses Run Annually from Date of Purchase?

Licensing photoQuestion: Why do fishing licenses run from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31 every year rather than from the date of purchase? For example, a person buys his/her license Dec. 1 only to find it expires the end of the month. Then by Jan. 1, they must purchase a new license for the full price. Why not let it go for one full year from the date of purchase? Hunting licenses too run from July 1 through June 30 of the next year. I think license sales would greatly improve if they were changed from date of purchase to the next year. Can someone give a rational answer, please? (Alan E., Los Angeles)

Answer: California has considered changing from a calendar-based sport fishing license to a license that is valid for one year from the date of purchase. But while this seems beneficial, when we looked at the issue thoroughly, we realized that changing to a license that is valid for one year from the date of purchase would significantly reduce funding for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW).

According to CDFW License Program Analyst Glenn Underwood, several other states have made the change to a license that is valid for one year from the date of purchase, and so we contacted these other states to learn from their experiences. We found states that changed from a calendar year license to a license that is valid for one year from the date of purchase experienced a reduction in license sales from 10 to 30 percent in the three years following implementation. Experts from these states explained license purchasing patterns changed when the license system changed to one year from the date of purchase licenses. Customers tended to wait until the last minute to purchase a license, as they knew it would be valid for one year from that date. Then when their licenses expired, customers again waited to renew until they fished again, creating a gap in licensure. After a few years the sum of the gaps was often greater than a year and a complete license sale was lost.

Changing to a license that is valid for one year from the date of purchase would also reduce federal grant funding. Each state in the country receives federal grant money from the Sport Fish Restoration Act (SFRA) which is funding generated from federal excise tax on sales of sport fishing tackle and motorboat fuels. This program funds critical fish habitat restoration projects throughout the state, providing increased fishing opportunities for California anglers. A tiered system is used to allocate grants to the states. In 2014, California received the maximum grant of $16,287,011, which is five percent of the total available to all the states. Federal SFRA grant amounts are based partially on the number of licenses issued in each state. If California license sales declined by as little as three percent, California’s grant would be reduced to a lower tier and the grant amount would be reduced by approximately $2.7 million to $4.5 million, further reducing CDFW’s ability to manage and protect California’s fisheries.

So, while we realize your license restructuring suggestion is popular, it would create a significant reduction in license revenue and sport fish grant funding for CDFW. The resulting reduction in revenue and grant funding would reduce the CDFW’s ability to manage and protect California’s fisheries; and it would reduce the number of fish CDFW could plant for California anglers.


Live turkey decoys?
Question: Is it legal to use a live turkey as a decoy? I can’t find any regulations on live turkey decoys (Todd W.)

Answer: No. The use of live decoys is prohibited when attempting to take resident game birds (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 311(l)).


What’s acceptable abalone diving gear?
Question: Regarding equipment that is permissible for abalone harvesting, is a buoyancy compensator (BC) with integrated weight system ok to use for diving for abalone as long as there is NO air tank attached? (John D.)

Answer: Yes, a BC is for your safety and is OK to use as long as no scuba or air supply of any kind is incorporated.


Free diving for sea urchins?
Question: As a free diver, am I legally allowed to harvest sea urchins? If so, do I need a permit? Also, where in San Diego County can I legally dive from shore for sea urchins? (Derek G.)

Answer: Sea urchins are legal to take in California with a sport fishing license. The season is open year-round for all species of urchin and the limit is 35 urchins (CCR Title 14, section 29.05). These regulations can be found in the Ocean Sport Fishing regulation booklet, along with coordinates and regulation summaries for marine protected areas in Southern California that are closed to the take of sea urchins.

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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.