Category Archives: Fish and Game Code

Do Surfperch Fry Count Toward the Daily Limit?

Barred surfperch give birth to live young from March through July. As few as four to as many as 113 young have been counted per female, but the average is 33. Each fry measures about 2.5 in. long at birth (Photo courtesy of Joe Donatini)

Barred surfperch give birth to live young from March through July. As few as four to as many as 113 young have been counted per female, but the average is 33. Each fry measures about 2.5 in. long at birth (Photo courtesy of Joe Donatini)

Question: In Santa Barbara a surf fisherman was seen last week eating baby perch squeezed from a gravid female. How do live fry from perch relate to a daily limit in possession if consumed? Also, if dead fry are expelled from a dying gravid female in an ice chest, do they count toward the daily possession limit of ten? If fish are consumed by surf fisherman while they fish is there a requirement to save the carcass to verify minimum size for species and daily catch limit? The surfperch babies squeezed directly into the upturned mouth is a bit disturbing and prompted me to pose these questions. Thanks. (Hills S., Ventura)

Answer: Disturbing, indeed. The law says the limit is 10 of any one species. Surfperch are livebearers and it is legal for a person to have fish still inside a livebearing species. Technically, fry are not considered individual fish until they are born, so they do not count toward the limit.

(Photo by Richard Gilliam)

Ken Oda fishes for surf perch (Richard Gilliam photo)

However, if the fry are outside the body, then they technically count as a fish. If a female expels fry in a cooler or boat and puts a person over the limit, please return the fry to the water immediately. This will keep you from being over limit and maybe even save a fry or two … or 40.


Shooting barnyard pigeons?
Question: What is the law when it comes to shooting common or barnyard pigeons? After discussing this with a number of friends and hunters, no one seems to have a definitive answer. Can you help? (Jeff S.)

Answer: Barnyard pigeons or “rock doves” are the feral progeny of domesticated pigeons, and their take is not regulated by the Fish and Game Code. While there is no limit for barnyard pigeons, don’t confuse them with bandtail pigeons or racing pigeons. If someone hunting barnyard pigeons outside the bandtail pigeon season accidentally kills a registered racing pigeon, they could be in trouble and cited with a misdemeanor (Fish and Game Code, section 3680). The chance of this happening is very low though.


Automatic fishing pole?
Question: Can a person use an automatic hook set fishing pole? It would be similar to the action of a mouse trap but with an electric latch that would be activated by the user of the pole holder via a push button switch. The electric latch would unhook and that would cause the pole to spring up and hook the fish. The pole holder would be attended to the whole time and the electric latch would have wires to a switch that a person would have in his hands to activate the latch when a bite is noticed, thus having it in hand and fully in control when the latch is released. Does this sound OK? (Roy D.)

Answer: Sure, give it a whirl! There’s nothing in the Fish and Game Code or Title 14 that prohibits the use of an automatic hook set fishing pole as you have described.


Felon as a hunting chaperone?
Question:My wife loves to hunt almost as much as I do. She especially loves duck hunting but is not confident enough to be out there on her own. The problem is I have a felony on my record which prohibits me from being in possession of a firearm. Can I legally just chaperone her as long as I don’t have access to the firearm? (Richard W.)

Answer: I think the answer lies with either your probation officer or the courts. California Fish and Wildlife laws do not address this issue. The best thing you can do is contact either your probation officer or refer to the court documents related to your case for information regarding any restrictions that may apply to you.


Slingbow for bowfishing?
Question: Is it legal to use a slingbow for bowfishing? (Leng M.)

Answer: Yes, a slingbow is legal to use to take a limited number of fish species in freshwater and the ocean. For fishing purposes, the arrow must have a line attached to be legal (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.23). In ocean waters, the slingbow can be used for skates, rays and sharks (CCR Title 14, section 28.95). In freshwater systems, the slingbow may only be used for certain species and in specific areas (CCR Title 14, section 2.25).

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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.

Ethics of Shooting Birds on the Water or on the Ground

Wood duck (USFWS photo)

Wood duck (USFWS photo)

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

Answer: No, there is no law against this as long as there is no light emitted from the camera.

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Carrie Wilson is a marine environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. While she cannot personally answer everyone’s questions, she will select a few to answer each week in this column. Please contact her at CalOutdoors@wildlife.ca.gov.