Category Archives: Licensing/Permits/Stamps/Report Cards

When Cattle Run Feral …

Feral cattle (photo from  Wikimedia Commons)

Feral cattle do not exist in Fish and Game regulations. To harvest them may constitute cattle rustling and land a person in jail with a hefty fine! (Wikimedia Commons photo)

Question: I know of people seeing feral cattle in a wilderness area where I hunt. The area is miles from the nearest maintained trail at elevations where bighorns are found. Rangers also confirm the cattle are feral, as in left behind by the ranchers who used to run cattle in the area. What are the laws regarding taking feral cattle in California? I know other states, such as Colorado, allow it year round, unregulated. (Stephen M.)

Answer: “Feral cows” do not exist in Fish and Game regulations because all cattle are considered domestic (not wild or feral) livestock and are someone’s property. California may have feral pigs but there is no such thing as a feral cow. Cattle all belong to someone until that right of ownership is relinquished, and ranchers do lease cattle grazing rights on public property.

It would be a felony to kill another’s cow without their permission (grand theft) and therefore unlawful for you to “harvest” cattle from the wilderness area, or any other place for that matter, without written permission. When cattle do gain access to a wildlife area, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has the authority to relocate them under the provisions of the California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 550(b)(16).

Bottom line … if you try to do this yourself, you may be arrested for cattle rustling and find yourself in jail for up to six months along with facing a hefty fine.


Colorado River stamp no longer required?
Question: I hear that the Colorado River Stamp was discontinued for 2014. If so, what license or stamps do I need to fish in the Colorado River now? (Glenn U.)

Answer: Yes, the Colorado River Special Use Validation has been discontinued. California and Arizona have entered into an agreement for the reciprocal recognition of licenses to fish any portion of the Colorado River that is the boundary between California and Arizona. With a California sport fishing license or an Arizona sport fishing license, you can fish from either shore, or from a boat, in the portion of the Colorado River that makes up the California-Arizona boundary and connected adjacent water that is the boundary between Arizona and California. Anglers holding California sport fishing licenses abide by California regulations, and anglers holding Arizona sport fishing licenses abide by Arizona regulations. This agreement does not apply to canals, drains or ditches used to transport water for irrigation, municipal or domestic purposes.


When is it legal to shoot across water?
Question: In one of your Cal Outdoors answers you laid out the parameters of hunting from a boat. How can this be legal if you are not allowed to shoot across water? (Keith and Julie B.)

Answer: While it is illegal to shoot across a roadway, it is not illegal to shoot across water as long as the shooter is able to clearly see their target and can do so safely. Shooting from any “platform” which is not stable is unsafe, and discharging a rifle across a body of water is extremely dangerous due to the likelihood of the bullet ricocheting in an unintended direction. Shot shells do not present this danger to the same degree.


Taking non-licensed passengers along as observers while fishing?
Question: As an avid fisherman with a private vessel, I often take friends out hoop netting or fishing. Often these friends are perfectly happy to operate my boat while I tend the fishing line(s) or hoop nets. Do these companions need to have a fishing license as long as we follow the bag limits and limits on nets and lines in the water for a single fisherman? It is often a spur of the moment decision to go out, and sending my guest off to get a license for one or two hours of fishing is inconvenient at best. (Jack Z.)

Answer: You are welcome to take non-licensed passengers along to observe you while fishing or hoop netting as long they do not engage at all in any of the actual sport fishing activities. It is only in the commercial fishing industry where those who assist with the boat handling and other tasks need to have their own commercial fishing license.

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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.

Diving for Lobsters with Hoop Nets

DFG Marine Biologist Travis Buck holds a California spiny lobster caught in a traditional hoop net (DFG photo)

CDFW Marine Environmental Scientest Travis Buck holds a California spiny lobster caught in a traditional hoop net (CDFW photo)

Question: In regards to catching California spiny lobster, the regulations say the following: Both rigid and collapsible hoop nets may be used from piers and boats. When fishing from a boat, five nets per person are allowed with no more than ten traps on a boat. When fishing from a pier, two hoop nets per person are allowed. Divers are limited to catching lobster by (gloved) hand only.

This leads me to my question. Is it legal for a snorkeler/diver/free diver to swim their hoop nets out to the desired location to drop and then retrieve their traps by hand, while floating in the water? This seems like a good option for people who do not own boats to set traps from and for divers when visibility is so poor that it’s impossible to see lobsters to catch by hand. (Joshua)

Answer: No, you cannot legally take fish hoop nets out to a fishing location while free or scuba diving. The law says that when diving for crustaceans (free or scuba diving), you may take crustaceans by the use of hands only (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.80(g)). If you are in the water, you are diving. You can scout where you want to set your nets when diving, but then you need to stop diving and get out of the water to set and retrieve your hoop nets. If you don’t want to buy or borrow a boat, you can set traps from a kayak, a long board or even a stand up paddle board. Just be sure to wear a life jacket if you do!


Property rights via access by ATV down a dry river bed?
Question: During the last week of deer season, I approached a man riding a 4-wheeler who was obviously hunting since he had a rifle case. He was riding down the dry river bed for over a mile where it’s private property on both sides of the river. He argued with me that he had a right to be there as long as he stayed under the high water mark. I told him he could not be there and could not cross private property at all unless if in a boat and didn’t touch the river bar/land. He got huffy with me so I let it go and he proceeded on his way. What is the law when it comes to a river running through private land? (Heather D.)

Answer: This is a very complicated area of the law and will vary based on the characteristics of the waterway, the ownership of the land, the agencies involved and a number of other factors. In other words, before people get on their ATVs thinking they have the right to ride down dry river beds through private property, they should do some research to see exactly who owns or manages the land, what the characteristics of the dry waterway are and be absolutely sure they have a right to be there and won’t be trespassing. All situations are not the same and the laws may vary from place to place.


Pooling crabs?
Question: What is the boat limit for taking crabs other than Dungeness? I plan to have between two and four people (all with fishing licenses) on my private boat and need to know the answer to this question. Thank you very much for your help. (Jay T.)

Answer: You may not pool your crabs since boat limits apply only to finfish and not to invertebrates (CCR Title 14, section 27.60 (c)). With crabs, individual bag and possession limits apply. For crabs of the Cancer genus (excluding Dungeness crabs) including yellow crabs, rock crabs, red crabs and slender crabs, the limit is 35 crabs per person. Each crab must measure a minimum of four inches from edge of shell to edge of shell at the widest part (except there is no minimum size in parts of Humboldt County).


Bow and arrow hunting with a slingshot?
Question: Can a slingshot be used as a bow or crossbow? Would it be legal to hunt with an arrow and slingshot? (Anonymous)

Answer: Yes, a slingshot can be used as a bow or crossbow as long as it can cast a legal hunting arrow (except flu-flu arrows) a horizontal distance of 130 yards, and as long as it meets one of the definitions of bows and crossbows listed in the Title 14 regulations. To be sure your slingshot meets the requirements, please go to http://www.dfg.ca.gov/enforcement/, click on “CA Code of Regulations, including Title 14” and look up Title 14, section 354, subdivisions (a), (b) and (f).

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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 Handle Loaded Firearms around Wildlife Officers?

Game warden Nicole Kozicki checks a waterfowl hunter's hunting license

Wildlife Officer Nicole Kozicki checks a waterfowl hunter’s shotgun and hunting license

Question: What should a person do when approached by a wildlife officer for inspection? Should they put the gun onto their car so that it’s in plain sight? Should they tell the officer to wait while they unload the gun? Should they place the gun on the ground? What is the proper protocol in this type of situation? Please advise. (Rheannon O.)

Answer: First of all, placing a loaded long gun in or on a vehicle which is in a place open to the public is a violation of the law. Vehicles should automatically be considered a poor choice to place or to store a loaded firearm. When a wildlife officer approaches, the first thing you should do is follow the directions that the officer gives you. Absent any directions, here are some good options:

  1. Some people unload their firearm in a calm manner to show respect for what a loaded firearm can do and respect for the officer. This shows the officer you are handing him a safe unloaded firearm. If you are within talking distance, ask the officer if he/she wants you to unload the firearm. If directed to unload, make sure to control the muzzle away from anyone.
  2. Many folks simply hand the firearm to the officer, and that is also acceptable. If you do, make sure to tell the officer the gun is loaded.
  3. Setting the gun on the ground is acceptable so long as the muzzle is pointed in a safe direction, but depending on the terrain (mud, sand, etc), this may not be a prudent choice.

Transporting a friend’s lobsters after a multi-day trip
Question: There will be three of us going to Catalina to hoop for lobsters with a multi-day permit. One guy will only be able to hoop two of the three days and then will have to take the Flyer back to go to work. Can my friend and I transport this guy’s catch back for him as long as we have his license/report card with us without being in violation of limits? He will not be able to take his catch with him. (Larry H.)

Answer: No. Multi-day permits require that “All passengers must disembark at place of return as stated” on the permit (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 27.15(b)(5)). Your friend can “gift” you his lobsters, but they will count towards your overall take/possession limit. You and your friend are allowed to take/possess only your own limits. In this situation, your friend must go home with his catch or else all three of you are allowed to catch no more than a limit for two people.


Retaining just one claw when crabbing?
Question: Our fishing club is planning a fishing trip for local crab out of the Santa Monica Bay area. Some people in the group insist we should only keep one claw from each crab so they can be put back to grow another claw and still live. I know with lobsters we are instructed to leave them whole until they are ready for consumption to allow the wildlife officer to verify it’s a legal catch. Is it legal to keep only one claw or do we need the entire crab to allow the wildlife officer to verify? (Jerry E.)

Answer: You are required to take the whole legal-sized crab to prove your crab is of legal size. Possessing just claws would be a violation because the size of the crabs they came from cannot be determined (Fish and Game Code, section 5508). Crabs also carry a lot of meat in the body. Crab season for all crabs of the genus Cancer (except Dungeness crabs) is open all year. The size limit in Southern California is four inches and the part of the crab that we measure is the main body shell (edge of shell to edge of shell at the widest part).

While crabs may be able to regenerate lost claws under good conditions, crabs with only one claw have a far tougher time fending off predators than if they had both claws for protection. Predators will go after any weakened animal, so just removing a claw may be considered a waste of fish – also a state violation.


Minimum age to apply for a deer drawing?
Question: Can you apply for a deer drawing if you are only 11 but will be 12 before the hunt starts or do you have to be 12 before you put in for the drawing? (Jacob W.)

Answer: You must be 12 years old by July 1 to apply.

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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.