Category Archives: Licensing/Permits/Stamps/Report Cards

How Are Sturgeon Weathering the Drought?

Sturgeon photo1

White Sturgeon (CDFW photo)

Question: I have a question about sturgeon. Are they being negatively affected by the drought? Since sturgeon have been around millions of years, they must have endured many droughts and so hopefully this drought will not hit them as hard as maybe some other species that are less hardy and more sensitive to changes. Is this true? (Anonymous)

Answer: That’s an excellent question, but the answer is complicated. According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Environmental Program Manager Marty Gingras, plenty of sturgeon in California will likely outlive this drought because of the state’s adaptive management of white sturgeon harvest (green sturgeon is a threatened species so harvest is illegal) and protection from poaching.

Sturgeon and salmon are anadromous species, but salmon mature and then die in just two to three years. By comparison, female sturgeon typically mature after 15-plus years, can spawn more than once (though not annually) and can live many decades. These characteristics mean that sturgeon are resilient, but it also means they can easily be overfished. California’s sturgeon fisheries were (with minor exceptions) closed from 1901 through 1953 due to overfishing. Commercial harvest of white sturgeon is illegal and recreational harvest is now managed through area closures, bag limits, size limits and gear restrictions.

Most sturgeon spawn in the Sacramento River and young-of-the-year fish migrate downstream to rear in the San Francisco Estuary. Large numbers of young sturgeon survive the migration only in years with nearly flooding Sacramento River flows during both winter and spring. For sturgeon it is as though 2014 is the eighth straight year of drought. Although a relatively-good “cohort” of white sturgeon spawned in 2006 will soon be harvestable, we expect the fishery to decline substantially.

Adaptive management of California’s white sturgeon through predictable ebbs in abundance is key to conservation of the species and its fishery.


Deer tag validation required from private property?
Question: If I take a legal buck on my own property, then tag and process it on site, do I need to get the tag validated since it will require me to transport the carcass off my property? (Ruth W.)

Answer: Yes. All deer must be validated even when taken on private property. Remember, wildlife belong to the people of the State of California, not to the owners of land where animals live. The law states the animal’s tag must be validated regardless of where taken and may not be transported initially except for the purpose of taking it to be validated (Fish and Game Code, section 4341).


Dorado limits higher in California
Question: I went fishing out of San Diego twice this fall. The first time we fished in California waters off San Clemente Island and the second time we fished in Mexican waters. I understand the daily bag limit for Dorado in Mexico is two fish, but can’t find it in the regulations booklet for California. What is it? (Chuck K.)

Answer: Dorado do not have a specific bag limit in California and so they fall under the general bag limit of 10 fish of any one species with no more than 20 finfish in combination of all species (California Code of Regulations, Title 14, section 27.60(a)).


When cancer treatment threatens premium draw deer hunt?
Question: I was diagnosed with a rare blood cancer in April and have had chemo for four months. I am doing great and am in good shape to go hunting, but I just found out I must have a bone morrow transplant and it looks like it will be around the time of the premiuml draw tag hunt. Can I return this tag and still get my points back? Doctors at Stanford are trying to let me go hunting but it may not happen. (Dennis S.)

Answer: So sorry to hear about your cancer and the treatments you’re going through! In order to return the tag without penalty, I suggest you contact our License and Revenue Branch at (916) 419-7573 immediately. You must return the tag before the season begins along with a letter explaining why you can’t complete the hunt. With some tag drawings there will be an alternate list available with hunters standing by in case of a cancellation. No alternate lists are established for premium deer tags though, so your tag will not be reissued to anyone else. There is a preference point appeal process available. Please go to CCR, Title 14, section 708.14 for the details. And best wishes that your upcoming cancer treatments go well.


Motorized turkey decoys?
Question: Are there any restrictions on using motorized or string motion decoys while turkey hunting in California? (Scott C.)

Answer: No.

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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.

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Deer Hunting in an Area Closed Following a Fire

Mule deer on scenic hillside (USFWS photo)

Mule deer on scenic hillside (USFWS photo)

Question: My son and I have drawn G37 tags. We have been trying for 15 years to draw this once-in-a-lifetime hunt. My concern is that the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) has closed a big portion of this area because of the Rim Fire and the El Portal Fire. Is there anything that the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) can do to get these closed areas open? We don’t want to exchange our tags for the G37 hunt, we would like the USFS to open the closed areas that are in the G37 zone that burned. We and the other hunters would appreciate whatever CDFW can do for us. Thank you. (Dennis and Brent S.)

Answer: Unfortunately, there’s nothing we can do to require them to reopen the burned area. The fire closures are implemented whenever the USFS decides they are warranted. The best we can do is to refer you to the USFS district office so you can talk directly to those making the decisions. That might be your best hope.

And regarding your tags, even if you did want to exchange your tags, there are no refunds for deer tags. There are no exchanges for premium tags either. We can exchange restricted and unrestricted deer tags provided the following: 1) the earliest season for their zone has not already started, 2) tag quota for the tag they want to exchange is not yet filled, 3) tags remain in the zone they want to exchange for, and 4) you pay the current exchange fee. For more details, please check California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 708.14(j).


Shark took my salmon!
Question: While fishing off of Shelter Cove for salmon a while back, a large shark latched onto a salmon hooked on the line. After a few minutes of fight, the shark raised its head out of the water and bit through the salmon it had in its jaws, leaving the salmon head and 6 to 8 inches of flesh. My question is, by regulation, do we have to count the head as one of our take? We kept the head in the fish box and salvaged as much of the flesh as we could so as not to waste resources. (Rick W., Shelter Cove)

Answer: Since you landed the remainder of the salmon, you must count the fish toward your bag limit. However, since the fish was not retained in a whole condition, it would have been illegal to possess since it could not be measured to determine if it met the legal length requirement. So, while salvaging as much of the flesh as you could so as not to waste resources may have been the “right” thing to do, legally, you should have sent the head and remaining carcass back to the ocean to let other marine organisms utilize it. And if you had sent the carcass back down without salvaging the remainder of the fish, it would not count toward your daily bag limit.


How to pay for not returning lobster card?
Question: I did not return my lobster card last season, and I would like to know how/where I can pay my fine so I can get another card for this coming season.

Answer: When you go to purchase your 2014-2015 lobster report card, the clerk should tell you that you need to pay your $20 non-return fee first. After paying this fee, you should be able to purchase your new lobster report card.


Nonlead for all hunting on a wildlife area?
Question: I won a G12 deer tag this year (either sex shotgun only, Gray Lodge Wildlife Area). Because this is a popular waterfowl hunting area, am I legally allowed to use lead slugs or do I need to use nonlead slugs? (Philipp K.)

Answer: Yes, you may use lead slugs. In 2014, the use of lead slugs to hunt on state wildlife areas is not prohibited. However, this may be the last year that you can use lead ammunition for big game at the Gray Lodge Wildlife Area. In 2013, Assembly Bill 711was approved by the Governor and chaptered into law by the Secretary of State. AB 711 added several sections to the Fish and Game Code, one of which (3005.5(b)) requires a complete ban on the use of lead ammunition when taking wildlife for any purposes anywhere in the state by July 1, 2019. This section also requires the Fish and Game Commission to develop a phase-in regulation by July 1, 2015, designed to impose the least burden on California’s hunters while still implementing the intent of the law. (For more information regarding implementation of AB 711, please go to http://www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/hunting/lead-free/.)

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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.

How to Fish the Lobster Opener?

California Spiny Lobster (CDFW photo by Derek Stein)

California Spiny Lobster (CDFW photo by Derek Stein)

Question: I know that lobster season opens at 12:00:01 Sept. 27, 2014. If the hoop wet time is a maximum two hours, can I drop my hoops at 10:15 p.m. Sept. 26, 2014 and pull them after midnight? (George G.)

Answer: No, attempting to take lobsters is “fishing” and so if you drop your hoop nets before the season officially opens, you will be fishing out of season. Lobster season officially opens during the first minute of the first day of the season (12:00:01 a.m., Saturday, Sept. 27). The two hour wet time requirement is designed to require the net to be checked every two hours once it is legally in the water. So this means that even if you legally drop your hoop nets in the water a second after midnight, they must be serviced by 2:00:01 a.m.!


Protocols for packing deer out?
Question: I am preparing for my deer hunt and planning to hike 2½ miles one way into a place to try to harvest my deer. If I am successful I will need to pack the animal back out by myself, and this may be an all-day sucker. If this animal is large enough, I am probably going to have to quarter it and hump it out. If this is the case, do I take the head and antlers out with the tag on them, then make successive trips back in, or how do people normally do this? I don’t want to take the head out and put it in the back of my truck, risking someone might take it, and then bring another load out and find I have no evidence. Do you have a suggested protocol I should follow? Thanks. (Rick L.)

Answer: Most hunters in your situation like to bring a small saw to cut the antlers and skull cap from the head as you are not required to keep the whole head of a deer you legally harvest. The law requires that upon taking a deer, you must immediately fill out the tag completely and attach it to the antlers (or ear if an antlerless hunt) and then keep it for 15 days after the close of the season. In your case, the antlers and skull cap could be placed in your locked car in a box or plastic bag until all your meat is hauled out. Depending upon the type of terrain and the size of the deer, many hunters either take out quarters of their deer, or elect to bone it out in the field.

You might also consider using a game-carrier with wheels so that you can keep your game with you at all times while packing it out. Any wildlife officer that contacts you during this process will likely want to check your tagged antlers, but wildlife officers understand that it isn’t always possible to carry the whole deer to your car in one trip.


Ocean salmon loophole?
Question: There has been a lot of discrepancy recently due to a bit of a loophole in the ocean salmon regulations. I have been given different answers by a number of people and would like to have it clarified. I live in Santa Cruz, and in the past few weeks there have been a lot of incidental salmon catches in shallow water while targeting rockfish or lingcod. Because it is entirely incidental catch, I don’t see a problem keeping it even though it was caught on a barbed hook. As long as it was of legal size and landed with a net, it should be ok. Of course, if you choose to keep it you would have to switch to salmon-legal gear, but until you did keep one, you can’t prevent one from slamming an iron as you’re reeling up. So basically, if I am targeting rockfish using the appropriate gear, and I catch a salmon while doing so, could I land it using the required net, and if it was 24 inches, keep it and then resume fishing with salmon legal gear? (Azure C., Santa Cruz)

Answer: You are incorrect about a loophole. It is unlawful to take salmon (north of Point Conception) with a barbed hook, period. No more than two single-point, single-shank barbless hooks shall be used and no more than one rod per angler when fishing for salmon or fishing from a boat with salmon on board. If an angler hooks a salmon while fishing for rockfish using barbed hooks, the fish must be immediately released.


Auto hook setter legal?
Question: I do a lot of fishing in lakes and the Delta. Can an auto hook-setter be used on local lakes and rivers? Please help! (Anonymous)

Answer: Yes.

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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.

Fish Parasites – Will Cold Smoking Kill Them?

(CDFW photo by Debra Hamilton)

(CDFW photo by Debra Hamilton)

Question: I recently caught a number of trout that had what I believe to be parasites called “Lernaea” attached to them in various places. I know after reading another posting from this column titled “Parasites and Trout” that these “are killed during cooking, effectively eliminating any possibility of infecting humans eating the fish,” but I am considering smoking them. Would these parasites pose any threat if the trout were cold smoked rather than cooked, or would the curing that takes place eliminate any threat as well? Presumably if they were hot smoked there would be no threat because the fish are then cooked. I appreciate any info you can provide. Thanks. (Keith R.)

Answer: First off, Lernea and other external parasitic copepods of fish are not transmissible to humans.

As far as fish brining and smoking (even hot smoking), according to Dr. William Cox, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Program Manager of Fish Production and Distribution, there are other parasites that warrant more serious consideration, such as anasakine nematodes and human tapeworms. These parasites are not reliably killed by brining, smoking or even freezing. The only way to ensure they are killed is to thoroughly cook your fish. Generally, we are not worried about those parasites in freshwater fish caught in California. But, nematodes are a concern and they are commonly found in saltwater fish of all species.

For any additional questions related to human health issues, please contact the California Department of Public Health www.cdph.ca.gov.


How are deer hunting zones determined?
Question: What is the history of the deer hunting zones in California and how were they formed and decided upon? I assume the decision on the zone boundaries, tag quotas, seasons, etc. involved the Fish and Game Commission, science gathered by wildlife biologists and land managers, the public, etc. When did the random drawing fund-raising tags for big game begin? (Travis B.)

­Answer: California deer zones were originally developed in 1978 to reduce deer hunting pressure in certain areas of the state. Here’s how they came about.

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, there was a tremendous demand for lumber to satisfy a growing demand for housing. Timber harvest created large areas of early successional habitat upon which mule and black-tailed deer thrived. By the 1960s and 1970s, changing land use practices began to change the landscape. Fire suppression, grazing and commercial/residential development projects caused the loss or degradation of deer habitat. With the reduced areas of deer habitat (and land available for hunting), the result meant higher concentrations of hunters in certain areas.

As land use practices changed and deer habitat was lost, by the winter of 1966-67 significant decreases in deer numbers were also observed. These low deer numbers were likely due to a combination of factors including habitat loss and degradation, and severe winter conditions.

Harvest numbers continued to show a downward trend into the 1970s and it was during this time that CDFW began to implement more conservative deer hunting regulations. Fewer deer and intense hunter pressure (particularly on mule deer) required new conservation measures to sustain deer populations. To relieve hunting pressure on mule deer, the decision was made to go to a zone system.

In 1978, CDFW used the best available information (along with the public’s input) to establish hunt zones that reflected the biological needs of the state’s 81 deer herds and their associated habitats. Currently, California has 44 hunt zones with some designated as premium hunts available through a lottery system. The zone/tag quota system currently in place is the result of the changes that began in 1978.


Handing off?
Question: Can two people be in a boat (both with licenses) with one person diving and handing abalone to the other person on the boat? (Janet R.)

Answer: No. Abalone may not be passed to another person until they are tagged and recorded on the abalone report card. “Cardholders … shall not transfer any abalone from his or her immediate possession unless they are first tagged and recorded on the report card” (CCR Title 14, section 29.16(b)(1)). After they are tagged and recorded, the diver can give his or her daily bag limit of abalone to the other person, but the diver cannot take any more abalone that day.


Can mice be used as bait?
Question: Is it legal to use mice as bait for stripers and bass? (Chris M.)

Answer: Despite the fact that there are many artificial lures on the market that look like mice, real mice may not be used in inland waters. Only legally acquired and possessed invertebrates, mollusks, crustaceans, amphibians (except salamanders), fish eggs and treated and processed foods may be used for bait (CCR Title 14, section 4.00). In ocean waters, there are no restrictions on using mice as bait for stripers.

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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.

Ingenious or Illegal?

Red abalone from Santa Cruz Island (Photo by CDFW Marine Biologist Derek Stein)

Red abalone from Santa Cruz Island (Photo by CDFW Marine Biologist Derek Stein)

Question: I am going over abalone laws again for any details that I may have missed and I have one quick question.

Measuring devices: You must have a fixed-arm measuring gauge, capable of spanning an abalone’s shell. It is a violation to take an abalone when not in possession of a gauge, even if the abalone is legal-sized.Ab iron_gauge combo

As you can see in this picture, the gauge is part of the ab iron. Since it has a fixed-arm that is capable of measuring abalone, I assume this gauge is legal. I just wanted to confirm since I am hearing that people are being approached for this type of gauge. Thanks. (Jerry)

Answer: In order for this combination abalone iron / measuring gauge to be legal, it must meet the requirements of both a legal abalone gauge and legal abalone iron.

According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Lt. Dennis McKiver, the law says every person taking abalone “shall carry a fixed caliper measuring gauge capable of accurately measuring seven inches. The measuring device shall have fixed opposing arms of sufficient length to measure the abalone by placing the gauge over the shell” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.15(f)).

While the idea of carrying one device seems desirable, it is difficult to determine the absolute legality of this particular device from this photo alone. The important thing to consider is that a legal gauge must be “capable of accurately measuring” and the fixed opposing arms must be “of sufficient length to measure the abalone by placing the gauge over the shell.” If there is any question, the abalone fisherman should carry an additional legal abalone gauge with them.

All divers must carry an abalone gauge that measures seven inches and any abalone removed from the rock that measures seven inches or more must be retained (CCR Title 14, section 29.15(d)). Wildlife officers frequently find people trophy hunting with only nine or 10 inch gauges in their possession and they end up citing many of these individuals for high grading because they are detaching and replacing abalone that are less than nine or 10 inches, but are otherwise legal to take.


Slingbow for game hunting?
Question: Is it legal in California to hunt small and big game with a slingbow, provided it can cast an arrow legal for the game being hunted at least 130 yards? Referring to the California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 354, slingbows do have flexible material (the band), and a string connecting its two ends (of the band) as the nock, to satisfy the legal definition. (Jason L.)

Answer: These slingshot-style bows would not be legal because bows are defined only as longbow, recurve or compound bow (under CCR Title 14, section 354(a)). The slingbow falls under the definition of a crossbow (CCR Title 14, section 354(b)) “or cured latex band” and could be used for hunting under crossbow regulations.


Trout fishing with “dough balls”?
Question: While living back east, we used to use “dough balls” for trout. We made them out of corn meal, flour and water or fish meal, flour and water. Is this a legal bait for trout in California? (Mike)

Answer: Yes, processed foods may be used in California’s inland waters where bait is legal. Therefore, where bait is legal, dough balls would be legal.


Resident sport fishing license still legal after moving out of state?
Question: If I bought a California fishing license earlier in the year but then moved out of state, can I still legally fish with that resident license even if I now have an Idaho address? I’ll be coming back and forth during the year to visit family and am hoping this license will be good at least through the end of the year. (James F., Boise, ID)

Answer: Your resident California sport fishing license is valid through Dec. 31, 2014, even if you move out of state.

“Resident” is defined as: Any person who has resided continuously in the State of California for six months or more immediately prior to the date of his application for a license or permit, any person on active military duty with the Armed Forces of the United States or auxiliary branch thereof, or any person enrolled in the Job Corps established pursuant to Section 2883 of Title 29 of the United States Code (Fish and Game Code, section 70).

“Nonresident” is defined as: Any person who has not resided continuously in the State of California for six months immediately prior to the date of his application for a license or permit (FGC, section 57.)

Next year you will need to buy a nonresident sport fishing license to fish 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.

Protecting Wildlife via Highway Fences

Game fences are installed primarily installed just along traditional migratory routes (USFWS photo of Tule elk bulls)

Game fences are primarily installed along traditional deer and elk migratory routes (Tule elk photo courtesy of USFWS)

Question: I have been hunting deer and elk out of state for years. Every western state I have hunted has installed game fencing adjacent to highways where big game frequents and/or migrates. Why in the heck doesn’t California do this? I live in Grass Valley and Interstate Highway 49 is always being widened, but never does the work include game fencing or game “underpasses.” I have never seen or read any information coming from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recommending game fencing along California highways. (Sven O.)

Answer: We do install game fencing but don’t do it everywhere. Because game fences are expensive, they are primarily installed just along the major migration routes. If designed incorrectly, they can do much more damage than good. Keep in mind that California has more than 2.3 million miles of paved road and it would be impossible to fence all of that no matter how much funding we had available.

According to CDFW Game Program Manager Craig Stowers, CDFW has instead focused primarily on routes that migratory deer move through as they are highly traditional and tend to move through the same areas year after year. Then once we identify where those areas are (mostly by finding road kills, but we can also identify through tracks in the snow and/or telemetry data), we work with CalTrans to mitigate those losses. CDFW has found lots of traditional migratory route areas in the state.

Some good examples of this kind of game fencing work include the miles of fencing and under crossings on I-395 from Bordertown up to the Inspection Station just south of the intersection of 395/89, fencing and undercrossings on I-395 in the Bass Hill Wildlife Area just south of Susanville, the work done in the Loyalton-Truckee deer herd area and the work we completed last year in the I-280 area (in conjunction with Caltrans and UC Davis). Our job on that one was simply to catch the deer, which we did. Caltrans engineers and wildlife experts from UC Davis analyzed the movement data of those deer in an effort to modify roadside fencing and existing undercrossings to cut down the number of deer hit on I-280. Regardless of location, it is a very expensive and time-consuming effort, not only to determine where to install the fencing and/or undercrossings, but also to build them.


Underwater camera to find trout?
Question: Is it legal to use an underwater camera to look for trout that may be hiding underneath the creek/river bank? Does it matter if it’s used while engaged in the actual activity of trout fishing or when not in possession of a fishing pole? (Jim B., Elk Grove)

Answer: An electronic viewing device, such as an underwater camera, would be legal but a non-electronic viewing device (such as goggles, scuba mask, etc.), would be prohibited for taking fish (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 2.09). There’s an exception, though, under the provisions of spearfishing (CCR Title 14, section 2.30).


Keeping a skunk for a pet?
Question: I live in Alameda and want to know if it is legal for me to keep a pet skunk? We will, of course, have the stink glands removed for obvious reasons. (Beatrice V.)

Answer: No. Wildlife must remain wild and cannot be owned. Generally, animals found in the wild in California can never be kept as pets. Only people who qualify for a restricted species permit may possess wild animals, like skunks. Keeping wildlife is prohibited by Fish and Game laws (CCR title 14, section 671) and California health laws due to a high incidence of rabies in skunks in California. All wildlife, even skunks, belong to the citizens of California and cannot be held, domesticated…or have their scent glands surgically removed!


Trolling for salmon?
Question: This last weekend while fishing/trolling with my husband for salmon, we had three fish on board and needed one more for the two of us to have limits. My question is – do we need to fish/troll with just one rod as one of us has a limit, or may we fish with two rods until we catch one more fish? (Donna S.)

Answer: You can use two rods until you catch your final fish because boat limits apply in ocean waters. Boat limits are defined as: “When two or more persons that are licensed or otherwise authorized to sport fish in ocean waters … are angling for finfish aboard a vessel…, fishing by all authorized persons aboard may continue until boat limits of finfish are taken and possessed aboard the vessel”.(CCR Title 14, section 27.60(c)).

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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.

Can Gifted Fish Get You a Ticket?

(CDFW Photo by Jeff Weaver)

(CDFW Photo by Jeff Weaver)

Question: My husband and some friends and I were fishing in the Eastern Sierras the second day of the trout opener and we all caught some nice fish. As we were leaving the lake to return to our car, one of our friends who had a long drive ahead didn’t want to keep his fish and offered them to us. We already had our limits but he said, “You can have two limits in your possession so just say you caught mine yesterday.” We took the fish but didn’t feel right about it. Was this actually okay? (Mark S., Torrance)

Answer:No, not the way you did it. While you both were allowed to catch a limit of trout on the opening day and another limit on the second day and then have two limits in possession, by accepting his fish like you did, you could have been cited. Here’s why …

Your friend was within his rights to gift you his fish, and you were within your rights to accept them. However, without proof that these fish were actually taken legally by another licensed angler, any wildlife officer you might meet in the parking lot or along the way that you showed your fish to would determine that you and your husband were in possession of an overlimit.

To avoid a misunderstanding like this, the best way to have handled it would have been to ask the angler giving you his additional fish to write you a note clearly stating this. The note should contain the date, his name, address, telephone number and fishing license number so that the note and your story could be verified, if necessary. Otherwise, you would likely be cited for being in possession of too many fish.


Fundraising dinners to the highest bidder?
Question: What is the regulation regarding charity fundraisers and abalone dinners? We are being asked to offer an abalone dinner for six people at a fundraiser and the highest bidder wins. Although different than actually charging a set price for an abalone dinner, is it illegal to accept a “donation” from the highest bidder?  (Scott E., Walnut Creek)

Answer: You can sell a dinner to the highest bidder, but it can’t be sold as an abalone dinner. You cannot advertise or sell a dinner to someone or through an auction that gives the buyer or bidder an expectation they will receive abalone for the money they spend. Even if the money is a donation to charity or to a non-profit organization, promising abalone (in any form) for money is not legal. Sport-caught abalone (or other fish and game) cannot be bought, sold, traded or bartered. You cannot commercialize sport-caught abalone in any way. If you were to buy abalone from a commercial abalone farm, then you could advertise and promote it as an “abalone dinner.”

The only way to legally do what you are proposing is to make the entire dinner “a donation”. As long as everyone going through the meal line is not “required to pay” there is no prohibition from calling it an abalone dinner.


Fishing licenses on mobile phones?
Question: I understand that some fishermen are taking pictures of their fishing licenses with their mobile phone. If a person forgot to bring his or her license, would a picture be acceptable proof of a license? (Les E.)

Answer: No. California law does not recognize an electronic copy or a picture of a sport fishing license. You are required to have your actual sport fishing license in possession while fishing (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 700 and Fish and Game Code, Sections 1054.2 and 7145(a)) and to present your actual license upon request to any wildlife officier who asks (FGC, section 2012). Fishing and hunting licenses are printed on special waterproof paper to prevent fraudulent duplication. A scanned or digital version of your license on your phone could be easily altered from its original image.

While every angler must have a valid sport fishing license in possession while fishing in California, the law does allow a person diving from a boat to keep the license on the boat, and a person diving from shore may keep the license on shore within 500 yards.


Tree squirrel hunting rifle?
Question:I have question regarding the type of rifle that is allowed to hunt tree squirrels. Can a Benjamin Discovery PCP air rifle be used to hunt tree squirrels during the open season? (Anonymous)

Answer:Yes, any air rifles may be used for all species of resident small game in California (CCR Title 14, section 311(f).) The only restriction is for turkey where the rifle must be at least .177 caliber.

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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.