Category Archives: Wildlife Management

Can Friends Pay for a Friend to Fish for Them?

Travis Tanaka with a giant yellowfin tuna, 243 lb

Travis Tanaka with a giant 243 lb yellowfin tuna caught on a long range boat out of San Diego (Photo by Travis Tanaka)

Question: What if four people got together and all paid the boat fare so that one person in the group could take a long range fishing trip? Three of the people are not anglers. After the trip, all of the fish caught by the one angler would then be split evenly between the four people. Would this be alright or somehow considered selling of fish? (Doug S., Montebello)

Answer: Fish caught under the authority of a sport fishing license may not be bought, sold, traded or bartered (Fish and Game Code, Section 7121). This means if these people all helped pay the fare for another person to take a fishing trip with the expectation of receiving some of the fish caught back in return, that would be illegal. Anglers who lawfully catch fish may always give fish away to whomever they wish, but it is not legal for non-anglers to pay for another person’s trip with the understanding or expectation of receiving fish in return for that money.


Why can’t California hunters deer hunt during the rut?
Question: While watching hunting shows on TV, I see that most of them are hunting during the rut. Why can’t deer and elk hunters in California also hunt during the rut? (Terry C.)

Answer: It’s all about providing more hunting opportunities to more people. According to Game Species Conservation Program Manager Craig Stowers, seasons are set with certain harvest objectives in mind. Later in the season as the animals go into the rut (breeding period) they become more bold in their attempts to find a mate, and are thus easier to hunt. If the season was held during the rut, the hunter harvest success rate would be higher, and fewer hunters would be able to hunt before the harvest objectives were reached.

Hunter survey data shows most hunters simply want an opportunity to hunt. The archery and gun seasons begin in different zones around the state in July and August, respectively. By starting the season early and allowing it to run until late fall when the animals are just going into the rut, more hunters have more opportunities to participate.

In addition to regular season hunts, there are also several special late season hunts offered that are timed to take place during the rut. These are highly sought-after tags, though, and they are distributed only through the big-game drawing. Most of California’s deer hunting takes place well before the rut begins (general seasons are timed to close about a month before the rut gets started) for two reasons:

1)    Hunting during the rut greatly reduces hunter opportunity (hunting success rate is higher and so fewer tags can be issued to achieve the harvest objectives).

2)    To create the least amount of disturbance possible during this critical phase of their life cycle.

The bottom line is deer managers try to strike a balance between providing hunter opportunity and success while not exceeding harvest objectives.


Photo I.D. required when hunting or fishing?
Question: While hunting or fishing, besides carrying the appropriate license(s), do I also need to have photo identification in possession or can I leave it in my vehicle? (Gino A.)

Answer: You will need to verify 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 game warden. If you’re getting cited for something, the game warden 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 game warden. One exception, commercial fishermen do have to carry photo identification.


Catching lobsters and crabs in crab traps?
Question: Is it legal to fish for both lobsters and crab at the same time using hoop nets for the lobster and a crab pot for the crabs? My concern is that when we return to harbor, a game warden may question which method was used to take which species. The crab pot is a Northern California type that is “soaked” for days and has escape ports. The hoop net is a basic hoop net. (Joel S.)

Answer: You may fish for lobsters and crabs at the same time but only with hoop nets or by hand. Crab traps are legal to use in the north but are illegal for sport fishermen to use south of Point Arguello (California Code Regulations Title 14, Section 29.80(e)). While most lobsters occur in Southern California below Point Arguello, for any that do occur north of this point, crab traps may not be used.

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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.

Ground Squirrels for the BBQ?

Ground squirrels may be taken at any time. However, before tossing one on the barbecue, you should be aware of the possible health dangers (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

California ground squirrels may be taken at any time. However, before tossing one on the barbecue, you should be aware of the possible health dangers (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: I heard there are some concerns with eating ground squirrels in general. Is there some truth to this? If so, why do I see recipes to cook and eat them? Are they like chicken and pork where if you ensure the meat is cooked thoroughly, you should be okay? I like to go squirrel hunting with my son, but since tree squirrels may not be hunted now, ground squirrels are our only option. Any guidance would be helpful! (Highhorse L.)

Answer: Tree squirrel season runs between September  and January. California ground squirrels are not a game animal though, so from a legal standpoint, they have no seasons, bag or possession limits. If taken in the condor zone, ground squirrels must be hunted with non-lead ammunition.

Before attempting to eat them though, according to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) veterinarians, there’s a lot we don’t know about diseases in ground squirrels. We do know they carry fleas and are highly susceptible to plague and probably die within a short period of time after exposure to the disease agent.

Also, anyone even thinking of eating ground squirrels should first make sure there is no chemical ground squirrel control going on in the area because ground squirrels are commonly controlled by anticoagulant rodenticides. If the ground squirrel consumes a non-lethal dose, the rodenticide would still persist in their tissues for a few weeks or months.

Be aware that both the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website www.cdc.gov/plague/and the California Department of PublGround_Squirrel_USFWSic Health site www.cdph.ca.gov/healthinfo/discond/Pages/Plague.aspx indicate the greatest risk of acquiring plague is being around infected rodents like ground squirrels due to their fleas. Humans usually get the disease after being bitten by a rodent flea that is carrying the plague bacterium or by handling an animal infected with plague. During the Middle Ages, plague is infamous for killing millions of people in Europe. Today, modern antibiotics are effective in treating plague. Without prompt treatment, the disease can cause serious illness or death.

Plague is endemic everywhere in California, except the southeastern desert and the Central Valley. It is not active everywhere in that range though, so before your hunt I suggest you contact the county public health department in the areas you will be hunting to find out the status and history of plague in those areas. Watch out for the state-protected Mohave ground squirrel found only in the Mojave Desert. They are not legal to take, so be sure you can tell them apart from the California ground squirrel.

If after reading all this you’re still determined to eat ground squirrels, like with all wildlife, make sure they are cooked thoroughly. Proper preparation and cooking is key to avoiding and minimizing exposure to disease. Bon appetit!


Can my kids spearfish for carp?
Question: I have a question concerning spear fishing for carp. When I was a kid, we used to go into the creeks and spear big carp. On the Russian River during the fall, I would see tens of thousands of huge carp congregating. Can I let my kids go into the water with a mask and fins and spear these 10-20+ pound carps? I would think that would be helpful for the river and we can pass the meat out to our multi-cultural friends. (Anonymous)

Answer: Spearfishing for carp is allowed only in the Colorado River District (all year) and in certain areas of the Valley District, Black Butte Lake and the Kern River (from May 1 to Sept. 15) (CCR Title 14, section 2.30).


Why no harvest odds this year?
Question: Why did the Big Game Digest omit the harvest odds for deer this year? Why do they not publish buck-to-doe ratios either? Other states share that information and it’s a lot more helpful than those colorful articles in this year’s booklet. I am afraid to spend my points blindly. (Todd S.)

Answer: The answer has more to do with timing than anything – harvest and ratio data were simply not available when the Big Game Digest was developed. We are still adapting the harvest analysis to the new Automated License Data System (ALDS). Harvest data first has to be entered into the database, and then the analysis takes place. The deer harvest data was posted on-line as soon as it was available at www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/hunting/deer/deerhunt.html.


Fishing license when practicing fly fishing?
Question: Will we need a fishing license at Big Bear Lake if we are only fly rod casting in the water? We just want to learn how to cast a fly rod and will be using a fly without a hook on it. (Patrick G., Las Vegas, NV)

Answer: You do not need to have a license if the fly is not capable of hooking a fish.

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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 Cal.Outdoors@wildlife.ca.gov.

Please do not reply to this e-mail. DFGNews@wildlife.ca.gov is for outgoing messages only and is not checked for incoming mail. For questions about this News Release, contact the individual(s) listed above. Thank you.

How is DFG Controlling Feral Pigs?

(DFG photo)

Wild pigs are abundant, and if left unchecked, they will cause significant (damage via their foraging habits) to the state’s native plants and animals, agricultural operations and to parks and recreational areas (DFG photo).

Question: Our class is working on invasive species and would really appreciate it if you could help us with one question. How does the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) help with the control of feral pigs? If you could email us back the answer, we would greatly appreciate it (The Alien Hunters or Pam K.).

Answer: It is great to hear from young citizens who are interested in wildlife issues and are actively seeking to educate themselves about these topics! According to DFG Statewide Wild Pig Program Coordinator Marc Kenyon, the California Legislature in 1957 classified the wild pig as a game mammal which then allowed the Department to manage them as wildlife and regulate their harvest. The Department is the agency with responsibility over game animals in the state and because this classification is in statute, only legislative action could change it. However, the California Fish and Game Commission, a separate entity, has recognized that damage from wild pigs does occur and to that end, a policy has been put into effect that states:

“The wild pig population of the state must be controlled to minimize the threat of increasing damage to California’s native plant and animals, to agricultural operations and to park and recreational activities from the foraging habits of the animals. Consistent with State law and regulations, the Department will prepare and recommend to the Commission regulations which enhance recreational hunting and facilitate the issuing of depredation permits and/or other legally available means to alleviate this problem.”

Please visit the Fish and Game Commission’s website to understand the difference between the Department of Fish and Game and the Fish and Game Commission.

Similar to the Commission, the Department works to minimize the impacts pigs cause. To achieve this, we work with private citizens, other government organizations and natural resources conservation partners to, among other things: 1) curtail the spread of wild pigs; 2) protect agricultural, archaeological and environmental resources and private property from damage caused by wild pigs; and 3) facilitate the removal of pigs causing damage.

To curtail the spread of wild pigs, our wardens enforce laws that restrict the intentional movement of wild pigs from one area to another. We also enlist the help of sport hunters. By educating hunters about the locations of pigs in the state, we feel that we can direct hunters to areas of the state that either have new populations of pigs or serve as ‘source populations.’

To protect our state’s precious resources and private property, we have worked with conservation partners and private landowners alike to facilitate the construction of wildlife-friendly but pig-resistant fences to exclude pigs from certain areas. For example, we are working with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to construct a fence that will exclude pigs from newly restored riparian habitat in Colusa County.

The department may issue ‘”depredation” permits to authorize the permit holder to use lethal control methods to reduce the number of wild pigs on their property and in turn reduce the amount of damage caused. The Department encourages property owners to allow sport hunters to hunt wild pigs.

Based on surveys of sport hunters and returned sport hunting wild pig tags, the department believes that roughly 5,000 to 10,000 wild pigs are killed each year by sport hunters. Over the last 10 years, an average of 55,062 wild pig tags have been sold each year. This has resulted in average revenue each year of nearly $800,000, which helps to fund our management activities.

As you can see, the State Legislature, the Fish and Game Commission and the Department of Fish and Game are dedicated to managing wild pigs to reduce their spread and the damage they cause. We rely on our lawmakers to craft intelligent laws, our biologists to understand the species, and our wardens to catch the law breakers. We all work as one unit to control wild pigs.


Crab Hawk Traps
Question: I bought a “crab hawk-like” castable crab trap at a major sporting goods store in Northern California. Can I use this in San Francisco Bay or in the ocean? I have used this same trap in Washington State. (Cris C.)

Answer: No, crab hawk traps are not legal to use in California. For crab regulations, please check the crustaceans section of the current Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet, available wherever sport fishing licenses are sold, at your local DFG office, and online at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/regulations.

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Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game. While she cannot personally answer everyone’s questions, she will select a few to answer each week. Please contact her at CalOutdoors@dfg.ca.gov.