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.

What Information Can Be Collected from Banded Birds?

USFWS Bird Bands (Credit: Matt Ewalt, Creative Commons)

USFWS Bird Bands (Credit: Matt Ewalt, Creative Commons)

Question: While hunting ducks a few months ago at my hunt club, my son shot a double banded wood duck. It had the normal metal band on one leg and on the other leg it had a pink plastic band with the number 9 on it. The club next to us raises wood ducks and we were wondering if it may have come from there? How can I best describe to my kids why some ducks are banded? (Mike O.)

Answer: Bird banding is one of the most useful tools in the modern study of wild birds. Banding birds with uniquely numbered leg rings is meant to reference where and when each bird is banded, its age, sex, and any other information the bander thinks crucial to report to scientists. Information from bands subsequently found and reported provides data on the range, distribution and migration habits, their relative numbers, annual production, life span, and causes of death of countless species of birds. Having this information increases scientists’ ability to understand bird habitat and behavior and assists them in their management and conservation efforts (source: USFWS website).

As far as the bands you found, it depends on what kind of metal band the bird had. If the band was issued from the USFWS, then you can go to their website www.pwrc.usgs.gov/bbl and easily find out where it came from. If it is not a USFWS issued band, that likely means an organization may be providing nesting habitat via wood duck nest boxes, and then banding them as part of a federally-permitted study. Between the two bands, hopefully you can track some information down.


Animal cruelty
Question: My daughter and I were going to the store on Saturday when we noticed a possum that had just crossed the road and was near the gutter on the other side of the road. The car in front of us veered to the other side of the road and ran over the possum on purpose!! I have been told that possums are a protected animal. Who do I contact to report this? I was shocked and very angry that someone would do this on purpose! I have pictures of the car, the license plate and of the possum. I would appreciate any help in this matter. There is no excuse for this kind of cruelty. (Kathi V., Orange County)

Answer: Although opossums are not native to California, they are classified as nongame animals pursuant to Fish and Game Code section 4150, and they may not be taken in the manner you have described (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 472). However, these kinds of violations can be difficult to prove and prosecute because the drivers will likely claim it was unintentional and that they were distracted and swerving because of other issues inside the car such as a coffee spill, dropped cell phone, etc. The driver might also claim he was attempting to avoid the animal but the animal got confused and ran back in the direction the car was veering, which does happen sometimes. Despite these possible scenarios however, what you described could be investigated as an illegal method of take. Hopefully, this was something you will not come across again. But if you do, you can call the 24-hour CalTIP hotline at (888) 334-2258 or report by text message via “tip411 (numerically, 847411).


What are the rules for mounting trail cameras?
Question: What are the rules or requirements regarding putting a trail camera in a public park? We’re trying to find a friend’s lost dog and have gotten tips that she’s in a local public park. No one can ever find her during the day though so we want to put up a trail camera at night to try to confirm if she is there. If it makes any difference, one of the parks where we think she might be is next to an elementary school. I just want to know if it’s legal, and if so, if there’s anything special that needs to be done to put up the trail camera. (Kevin H.)

Answer: This is not under the jurisdiction of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). This decision will need to be made by the manager or the agency that manages the park as to whether they have any policies that permit or disallow this practice.


Fishing access to the California Aqueduct?
Question: I see many videos on YouTube regarding fishing along the California Aqueduct. As a main water supply line for California, I would think most areas would restrict access. Is there any information I can look up to find where the access areas are? I think most areas on the videos are in Southern California. I am looking for access to the California aqueduct around Central California. (Daniel S.)

Answer: There are many fishing access points along the aqueduct, and many have signs posted as well. To find some of these places, please check out our online fishing guide at www.wildlife.ca.gov/fishing/guide or our mobile fishing guide at www.dfg.ca.gov/mobile.

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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.

Late 8 a.m. Start Time for Abalone Unfair

Red abalone feeding on kelp at San Miguel Island (CDFW photo by Derek Stein)

Red abalone feeding on kelp at San Miguel Island (CDFW photo by Derek Stein)

Question: Just a note (complaint) … the start time of 8 a.m. for abalone is very, very unfair. The two lowest tides of the year are in May and June, and you just eliminated them. Rock pickers are put into a shorter collection time and can make even more hurried decisions to take an under-size ab off a rock. You are punishing all rock pickers and putting them in danger by forcing them to dive for abs when they are not good divers (thus, in danger of drowning). The 8 a.m. rule does not adversely affect the divers at all. You already closed off way over half the state of California. There is no way that abalone hunters can wipe out the abalone population. I go rock picking for abalone with six others and we all share these thoughts. (Fred M., San Francisco).

Answer: The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) made recommendations to the Fish and Game Commission (Commission) to reduce the take of abalone because recent scuba surveys had shown lower numbers of abalone at popular abalone sites, particularly in Sonoma County.

According to CDFW Marine Environmental Scientist Jerry Kashiwada, the current Abalone Recovery and Management Plan (ARMP) recommends a 25 percent reduction in the take of abalone when the density (number of abalone in a standard area) reaches the low levels seen in the most recent surveys. Density in the Fort Ross area was so low it reached an ARMP “trigger” for closure to allow the abalone population to recover.

Abalone rock pickers

Abalone rock pickers (CDFW photo by K. Joe)

The Commission had a choice between the 8 a.m. start time, reduction of daily limit to two abalone, reduction of the limit on the abalone card, reduction of the season (more closed months), reduction of take for Sonoma and Marin counties or some combination those proposed changes.

The 8 a.m. start time was initially proposed by CDFW wildlife officers who had been seeing large numbers of rock pickers at all low tides and believed that segment of the fishery was unsustainable. The officers observed rock pickers were taking more time to find legal limits, were less likely to get a limit and were removing and returning more short abalone, many of which were unlikely to survive the handling. The later start time also helps officers by eliminating predawn fishing hours when the light is too dim to observe violations. The effect of the new start time was estimated using data from returned abalone report cards, but the actual effect is unknown since it depended on whether many people would shift to later hours. Data from abalone cards returned this year will provide a clearer picture of the effects of the regulation changes.

The timing of low tides is variable from year to year and while the 8:00 a.m. start reduces the number of low tides available, there usually are some days with suitable tides. The lower numbers of abalone being taken by rock pickers may make it easier to find abalone at higher tide levels than in the past. The activities of sport fishermen might not be sufficient to cause extinction of abalone species but they can reduce abalone populations to the point that the abalone are spaced so far apart that their chances of reproducing are very low. At low abalone population levels, many people might stop participating in the fishery because it is too difficult to find abalone. Reducing abalone populations to low levels also makes them more vulnerable to events like the 2011 die-off that affected abalone in much of Sonoma County.

CDFW is currently in the process of developing a Red Abalone Fishery Management Plan and revising sections of the ARMP. For more information, please visit the CDFW Invertebrate Management Project website.


Can a non-hunter carry an unloaded shotgun when with other hunters?
Question: While hunting on a game bird club, can a non-licensed, non-hunter carry an unloaded shotgun while walking with other hunters? (Anonymous)

Answer: While it may not technically violate the law for you to carry an unloaded shotgun without a license, by doing this with others who have ammunition and are taking game, it will likely generate many questions by the wildlife officer contacting you in the field. Whether or not you have a hunting license is not an element of “take.” You may argue you are not taking game, but the officer has sufficient evidence to prove you are. Do you really want to put yourself through the hassle of going to court? Leave the firearm behind if you want to go with your buddies while they are taking game.

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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.

Aggressive Deer Gone Rogue in Local Park

Black-tailed does with young fawns can be very protective of them when they perceive threats (even people with dogs on leashes). When this happens, they may act  quickly and aggressively to drive the threat away (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Black-tailed does with young fawns can be very protective when they perceive threats and may act quickly and aggressively to drive the threat away (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: I had a weird thing happen the other day. I was walking with my dog in a local Monterey park when a doe deer came right up to us. My dog ran out after her and the next thing I knew I heard yelping and looked out to see the doe standing over my 60 lb. dog, kicking it repeatedly. This cannot be normal! Typically, the deer run away from my dog when he chases them. There’s something wrong with this deer. Can you please come get this rogue deer so that it does not threaten other people in our neighborhood? (Spooked in Monterey)

Answer: While this situation may seem unusual, there is probably nothing wrong with this doe. You should be aware that this is fawning season and it sounds like this doe may have had a young fawn or fawns nearby that it was trying to protect. For California black-tailed deer, fawning season runs roughly April through July, and during this time the does can be very protective and will do all they can to defend their young against predators. These deer may view domestic dogs as a threat even if the dog is being walked by the owner on a leash or even in the owner’s backyard. This doe may have viewed your dog as a potential predator and instinctively acted quickly and aggressively to drive it away from the area in order to protect her fawn(s) against this perceived threat. Does that have lost their fear of people may also act aggressively toward humans who wander too close to their fawns. This is a temporary situation and aggressions usually subside once the fawns become more mobile.

Does will hide their fawns in locations away from other does while they go out foraging. This ensures that the fawns imprint on their mothers and not on another doe. In urban or suburban areas, these fawning sites may quite often be in public parks or secluded backyards where plenty of plant life creates protective cover. Once the fawns become strong enough to travel and can keep up with their mother, the doe will lead them back to where she lives. In the interim, it is best for you and other dog owners this time of year to give any deer you encounter a wide berth and keep your dogs on a leash.

In addition, allowing your dog to chase big game constitutes harassment and you may be cited for it (California Code of Regulations, sections 251.1 and 265).


Fishermen and firearms on boats?
Question: We do not have a concealed carry permit but while camping we keep a loaded pistol in our camper for personal protection. We would prefer not to leave it in the camper while we are out on the boat fishing. Is it legal to carry an unloaded firearm (pistol) on a boat while fishing in the ocean? If so, does it have to be in plain sight or can it be kept in a glove box on the boat? (Lisa G., Granite Bay)

Answer: California Penal Code, section 25400 provides: A person is guilty of carrying a concealed firearm when the person does any of the following:

  1. Carries concealed within any vehicle that is under the person’s control or direction any pistol, revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed upon the person.
  2. Carries concealed upon the person any pistol, revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed upon the person.
  3. Causes to be carried concealed within any vehicle in which the person is an occupant any pistol, revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed upon the person.

However, the above section does not apply to, or affect, licensed hunters or fishermen carrying pistols, revolvers, or other firearms capable of being concealed upon the person while engaged in hunting or fishing, or transporting those firearms unloaded when going to or returning from the hunting or fishing expedition (California Penal Code, section 25640).

A summary of firearms laws is available online at http://dfg.ca.gov/enforcement/ under Helpful Information on the right margin.


Out-of-state hunter safety cert valid here?
Question: I recently moved to California from Michigan and am wondering if I will be required to take another hunter safety class to be able to hunt here? Also, during archery season, are you able to hunt from a tree stand or an elevated platform? (Noah S.)

Answer: California has no restrictions against using tree stands. And no, you will not need to take another hunter education course as long as you can show proof that you have passed a hunter education class in Michigan or can produce a valid hunting license issued to you within the last two years. If you cannot produce proof of a hunter ed class or a recent hunting license, you will need to complete another course to get your hunting license. Information regarding hunter education courses in your area is available online at www.dfg.ca.gov/huntered/index.aspx.

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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.

Returning Fish and Wildlife Back to the Wild

CDFW staff releasing waterfowl after health inspection (CDFW photo)

CDFW Waterfowl Biologist Melanie Weaver releasing a male pintail following a routine health examination (CDFW photo)

Question: If I want to release fish and other shellfishes that I got from the local market into California waters, how do I get permission or a permit? Also, what about birds? Do I need a permit? (Stella T.)

Answer: It is not legal to move and plant live finfish in any waters of California. Same goes for birds or mammals, regardless of where they came from. In addition to the fact that to do so is illegal, it is also not a compassionate gesture to relocate fish and wildlife to new waters or habitats where they are not accustomed or to environments they are not familiar with or already adapted to. Most fish and wildlife will probably not survive under these conditions, and you run the risk of spreading parasites and diseases to healthy ecosystems that may then endanger the health and well-being of native fish and wildlife living in their natural environments.

“It is unlawful to place, or cause to be placed or planted, in any of the waters of this State, any live fish, any fresh or salt water animal, or any aquatic plant, whether taken without or within the State without first submitting it for inspection to, and securing the written permission of, the department” (Fish and Game Code, section 6400). The law also states that no person having possession or control over any wild animal under this chapter shall intentionally free, or knowingly permit the escape, or release of such an animal, except in accordance with the regulations of the Fish and Game Commission (FGC, section 2121).

Many of the live fish and shellfish found in the local markets are imported into California from other states or countries under an importer’s permit. Besides being illegal, the release of these exotic species into our state waters could devastate the native species with disease or unnatural competition for food or predation. The same would apply to birds and other wildlife.


Turning deceased animals into taxidermy art?
Question: I have a question in regards to acquiring animal remains. If an animal is a legal species to possess and is found as road kill, or is decomposed to bone by nature, how can one go about obtaining the remains legally to use for taxidermy and art? I know this is a sensitive subject since there is no way to prove one “found” an animal, and ethics come into play. But I’m connected to a lot of groups on Facebook from outside of California that have laws allowing people to obtain animal remains that are not from protected species. These pieces are then used and sold as art.

Before continuing with my endeavors though, I want to make sure I can ethically source remains and legal specimens. Or if I can’t just as a citizen, what permits would I need in order to do so? I find it really hard to believe that state laws in Florida vs. California can differ so vastly. And it’s almost impossible to find reliable information on the Internet, so I figured I’d go straight to the source. (Christina G.)

Answer: First of all, any wild bird or mammal (or part thereof) found in California may not be sold (FGC, section 3039). Animals that have been legally taken under the authority of a hunting or fishing license in this state may be preserved through taxidermy consistent with California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recordkeeping requirements, but they may not be sold or purchased (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 695). Road-killed animals generally may not be possessed, with some exceptions for scientific and educational purposes.


Harvesting sea anemone for food?
Question: While eating sea anemone probably seems strange to most Americans they are eaten throughout the world, most notably in Asian countries. When chopped, tossed with flour and fried (think clam strip), it tastes like a cross between crab and clams. Is it legal to harvest sea anemone for food in California? (Brent A., Fort Bragg)

Answer: Sea anemone may not be harvested in the area between the high tide mark and 1,000 feet seaward and lateral to the low tide mark (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.05). In fact, only the following marine invertebrates may be taken in this area:

“Except where prohibited within state marine reserves, state marine parks, state marine conservation areas, or other special closures only the following may be taken: red abalone, limpets, moon snails, turban snails, chiones, clams, cockles, mussels, rock scallops, native oysters, octopuses, squid, crabs, lobsters, shrimp, sand dollars, sea urchins and worms except that no worms may be taken in any mussel bed, unless taken incidental to the harvesting of mussels” (CCR Title 14, section 29.05(b)(1)).

It would be perfectly legal, however, to take 35 sea anemone outside the 1,000 foot intertidal zone, and sea anemone do live outside that zone. A shore picker would have difficulty doing this though unless it was a zone where the intertidal area is very flat.


Any restrictions on crab bait components?
Question: Are there any restrictions on what you can use for crab bait in non-commercial crab traps? (Al and Karen B.)

Answer: No. As long as the bait sources are legal for you to possess, there are no restrictions on what you may use.

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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.