Do Lost Crippled Birds Count Toward Bag Limit?

Ethical hunters will make every attempt to find a downed bird and count it to their bag whether they find it or not. (USFWS photo)

Ethical hunters will make every attempt to find a downed bird and count it to their bag whether they find it or not. (USFWS photo)

Question: I was informed that a downed crippled bird that was not recovered, even though a true effort was made to find the downed bird, still counts toward your bag limit. Where is this stated in the regulations? (Aaron W.)

Answer: It is not in regulation. It is an ethical hunter issue. Ethical hunters will make every attempt to find a downed bird. Even if that bird is never located but the hunter knows it was hit, the ethical hunter will still count it towards their bag limit. Ethical hunters do what is right even when they think no one’s looking.


Fishing and retrieving lobster hoop nets
Question: I understand that each person that drops a hoop net must be the same person that retrieves it. How do you monitor this? If we have four people in the boat and 10 nets, are we supposed to somehow mark each net to distinguish whose is whose? (Bill J.)

Answer: The law states that the owner of the hoop net or the person who placed the hoop net into the water shall raise the hoop net to the surface and inspect the contents of the hoop net at intervals not to exceed two hours.

The intent of this law is to require a minimum checking interval of every two hours at least by whoever placed the net in the water and not to cite somebody for pulling up their buddy’s net. Wildlife officers understand if you are working together as a team, but any net placed into the water is your responsibility to raise and inspect every two hours. Depending on someone else to do that for you may result in you receiving a citation if they fail to comply with this requirement.


Yo-yo fishing
Question: I know jug fishing, yo-yo fishing and the use of trotlines with 20+ hooks per line are the norm in the South. I am interested in yo-yo fishing in California for catfish and possibly trying a two-jug trotline with 10 to 12 hooks on the line to catch catfish. My question is: In California, are private (non-commercial) fishermen limited to fish with just one line with three hooks max? In reading the regs, it seems that an extra pole endorsement is just that, for an extra pole, not an extra line. (Mark H., San Bruno)

In regard to yo-yo fishing and trotline fishing, here is an article from 2007 Outdoor Life: http://www.outdoorlife.com/articles/fishing/2007/09/tackle-free-fishing

Answer: You must closely attend your lines at all times and you are limited to two lines with a maximum of three hooks on each line with a two-pole stamp. Otherwise, you must use a single line with three hooks maximum when fishing bait, or three lures per line which could each have three hooks. It is illegal to allow lines to simply fish themselves while attached to a float. For a similar previous question and answer, please go to: http://californiaoutdoors.wordpress.com/2008/11/.


Hunting around Lake Shasta
Question: I have a few questions about hunting in northern California by Lake Shasta. I want to go there to hunt for pig and turkey at the same time when the season reopens. Am I allowed to carry ammo for pig and turkey on me at the same time as long as it is all lead-free? Also, I heard something about a limit on how much ammo may be carried on you at one time? I’m not looking to carry hundreds of rounds but did want to have a spare box plus my clips on me. (Kevin F.)

Answer: Yes, it would be legal to hunt pigs and turkeys simultaneously as long as any shotgun shells for pigs are slugs and not shot. A hunter who possesses shot size larger than No. 2 could be cited while turkey hunting, but the regulation limiting shot size that may be possessed when taking turkey does not address slugs.

Methods authorized for taking big game (wild pig) include shotgun slugs, rifle bullets, pistol and revolver bullets, bow and arrow and crossbow (2015-2016 Mammal Hunting Regulation booklet, page 27, section 353).

Methods of take for resident small game (wild turkey) are shotguns 10 gauge or smaller. Shotgun shells may not be used or possessed that contain shot size larger than No. BB, except that shot size larger than No. 2 may not be used or possessed when taking wild turkey (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 311(b)).

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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.

Best Practices for Disposing of Fish Remains

Only certain ocean fish are allowed to be filleted at sea. Check section 27.65 (c) in the Ocean Fishing Regulations booklet

While returning fish carcasses after filleting back into the waters where taken can be appropriate for recycling nutrients, you should first check to be sure there are no regulations prohibiting the practice at your location. Doing so from a party boat at sea, like this one, is perfectly legal to do. (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: Is it a good practice to dispose of fish or crab carcasses/guts back into the waters they came from? It would seem that returning the fish remains would be a better ecological practice than sending it to the landfill. What is the best sustainable practice? (Ben M.)

Answer: Returning fish carcasses after filleting back into the waters where taken is sometimes, but not always, appropriate for recycling nutrients. Open ocean environments are more appropriate for this practice but be advised of fillet restrictions. And while it differs from port to port, many harbor masters will not allow carcasses to be dumped inside of harbors because too many decomposing fish carcasses may deplete the oxygen supply in the water. This has been a severe issue in many areas in recent years when concentrated fish oil from too many carcasses in bays or harbors caused seabirds to get sick and die. This occurred when excessive amounts of fish oil contaminated their feathers and they become flightless.

Returning fish carcasses back into freshwater environments may or may not be appropriate, and sometimes it’s outright prohibited. Be aware of the rules in the areas where you plan to do this. In shallow waters and along shorelines, especially in high elevation mountain lakes, there may be local or municipal regulations prohibiting this practice.

Public parks and lakes may also have no-dumping policies within a certain distance from shore due to health concerns and the smell and image of discarded fish carcasses in waters where people are swimming and recreating.

Bottom line … while returning fish carcasses after filleting back into the waters where taken can be appropriate for recycling nutrients, you should first check to be sure there are no state, city or municipal regulations prohibiting the practice at your location.


Is a junior hunter allowed to hunt wildlife refuges by themselves?
Question: I purchased a hunting license at 17 years old and it’s a junior hunting license. Now that I am 18 years old (and still have a junior hunting license) can I hunt wildlife refuges by myself or do I need to be accompanied by a person with an adult hunting license. (Andrew C.)

Answer: Yes. Now that you are 18, you may hunt wildlife refuges independently even though you have a junior hunting license.


Spearfishing in San Francisco Bay?
Question: Is spearfishing for halibut and striped bass allowed in San Francisco Bay? I believe the law changed when it became legal several years ago to spear striped bass. I know that people now spearfish for stripers lawfully in the Sacramento River. Can they do so in the bay as well? And what about for halibut? (Alistair B.)

Answer: Yes, spearfishing is now allowed for striped bass and continues to be allowed for halibut. You may not possess a spear within 100 yards of the mouth of any stream (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 28.90(a)), and there may be local laws due to safety considerations that do not allow SCUBA diving in parts of the San Francisco Bay.


How many rounds are allowed in a hunting firearm?
Question: How many rounds are legal in a hunting firearm while hunting? I think it’s 10 but somebody else says it is five. Can you please shine some light on the subject for us? (Juan M., California hunter)

Answer: Most rifles hold three to five rounds, but the Penal Code allows for up to 10 rounds. There are no Fish and Game Code sections that restrict the number of rounds a rifle may hold. It would be unlawful to purchase or use a rifle purchased after the enactment of the 10-round restriction found in the Penal Code. There are ammunition restrictions depending upon where you are in the state and what species you are hunting. It is unlawful to use or possess a shotgun capable of holding more than six cartridges at one time to take any mammal or bird (Fish and Game Code, section 2010). Shotguns capable of holding more than three rounds when taking game birds and game mammals is prohibited (CCR Title 14, sections 311, 353 and 507). Beginning in 2019, all ammunition used while hunting must be certified as nonlead ammunition.

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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.

Laser Sights for Bowfishing?

Bowfishing (Creative Commons photo)

Bowfishing (Creative Commons photo)

Question: When bowfishing for game fish, like carp, is it legal to have a green 5mW visible laser on your bowfishing bow or crossbow? I know that visible lasers on a bow or crossbow are prohibited for the use of hunting animals on land, but I’m just not sure about for fish in freshwater. Having a laser helps compensate for light refraction in the water because aiming at a fish that is not where it looks like it is can be quite tricky.

Also, besides the regulations in section 1.23 and section 2.25, are there any special seasons or rules that I have to follow for using a crossbow? I ask because I heard that crossbows in California can only be used during rifle season for land game.

Using a crossbow to bowfish is only mentioned one time in the freshwater regulation booklet, most of the text says “bow and arrow fishing.” I want to be prepared to explain to a park ranger or wildlife officer (given I am in an area designated for bowfishing) that I can use a crossbow. What code sections should I cite or what should I say? (Alexander A.)

Answer: Yes, it legal to have a green 5mW visible laser on your bowfishing bow or crossbow. When bowfishing in freshwater, you need only follow the regulations in sections 1.23 and 2.25. What you say about crossbows for hunting being legal only during rifle season is correct, but as long as you’re fishing and not hunting, this should not be an issue. The main difference between fishing and hunting is that a crossbow is not considered archery equipment for hunting purposes but is considered legal bow and arrow equipment for those fish species that may be taken by bow and arrow. In order to avoid unwanted attention from law enforcement, I discourage you from shining your laser on land.


Using rockfish for bait?
Question: In a recent column you stated that “Any finfish that is legal to take or possess in California may be used as bait in your lobster hoop net.” I assume this rule applies equally to using rockfish as hook and line bait for lingcod, but on my last party boat trip I was prohibited from using a small gopher rockfish for bait by a crewman who insisted that this would be illegal. Is it legal to use a whole rockfish (or a slab cut from a whole rockfish) for hook and line bait? I understand that the bait fish would count toward my limit. (Randy Pauly)

Answer: Yes, as long as the fish you’re using is legal to catch and keep, and as long as you count it toward your daily bag limit, you can legally use it as bait to attract larger predator fish, such as lingcod, to your hook. If the fish you’ll be using for bait has a size limit, you would need to be sure it was of legal size.


How to find a legitimate hunting guide?
Question: Can you direct me to a legitimate site to book a hunting trip? How can we hunt on government land? What are the costs? (Cheri W.)

Answer: You can find a list of guides licensed through the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) at http://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Licensing/Guide (click on “Look up licensed hunting and fishing guides) but no recommendations in support of any particular guide or hunting service. Hence, your best bet is to contact other hunters to ask about their experiences in order to help you decide which guide service to go with.

You can hunt on certain government-owned (public) lands in California. Public lands in California are primarily owned, operated and maintained by CDFW, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the Department of Defense or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Each of these agencies has developed rules and regulations for the lands they administer. They provide details of which lands are open to public access for outdoor recreational activities (including hunting), and the time of year they are open. Some of these lands are open year-round with no access fees, but some lands are open only certain times of the year with an access fee. Moreover, some public lands are entirely closed to all public use, mostly for protection of certain plant and animal species.

Generally speaking, most big game mammal hunting occurs on CDFW, BLM, Military or Forest Service lands. Small mammal and varmint hunting occurs on BLM and Forest Service lands. Waterfowl and upland game bird hunting occurs on CDFW and USFWS lands.

For the regulations governing the use of CDFW lands, please go to http://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Lands. For other land management agencies, please contact them directly for rules or regulations concerning their lands.

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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 Many Feet in the Water to Enter a Legal Hunt Zone?

California mule deer (photo by Carrie Wilson)

California mule deer (photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: While hunting during archery season in August, I ran into a situation that I could use your guidance on. While at my campsite, a hunting partner of mine observed a buck feeding near the creek that we were camped near. I was hunting in D7. Unfortunately for me, the buck was on the north side of Deer Creek, and therefore in X9A. I quickly got my bow while my hunting partner sat quietly at camp and watched. I quietly moved into position and waited for the deer to cross the creek. He never did, so therefore I had to let him go, of course.

When a zone’s boundary is defined by a creek, river or other body of water, when is the animal considered to be within your zone and therefore legal to take? Can you take him when he’s drinking and touching the water? Does he need to have two or four feet in the creek? Does he need to completely cross and be across the creek and completely in your zone? Or does he need to be clear of the creek bed all together? What is the law? (Kevin K.)

Answer: The deer would have had to be at least halfway across the creek to be into the correct zone. Keep in mind that animals shot with bow and arrow or a rifle can travel a substantial distance, so it is wise not to hunt right on the border of a zone. A non-lethal shot could easily take you immediately into the closed zone where your tag is not valid.


Ocean sunfish – you can take them, but what then?
Question: I saw some ocean sunfish laying around on the surface in waters off Sonoma County. Are they legal to take? Is there a website or a listing of which fish are illegal to catch? (Anonymous)

Answer: Yes, ocean sunfish (Mola mola) may be taken by licensed recreational fishermen. While some ocean species have fishing regulations that pertain only to them (e.g. rockfish and salmon), other species do not. Species for which there are no specific regulations, such as ocean sunfish, are covered under section 27.60 on page 34 in the current Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet. The daily bag limit for species covered under section 27.60(a) is: 10 fish of any one species, with a total daily bag limit of 20 fish. This means you can take up to 10 ocean sunfish plus 10 other fish per day, for a total of 20 fish. Fish that fall under this section do not have seasons (open year-round) or size limits.

Please be aware that ocean sunfish are not a species targeted by most recreational fishermen. This species is generally not considered to be good eating. Keep in mind that it’s a violation to waste a fish after you have taken it (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.87), so you might want to research that a little more before finding yourself in possession of a large fish you don’t care to eat.


Carrying shotguns for ducks and doves at the same time
Question: You recently answered a question about having two shotguns in a duck blind. That made me wonder whether the two shotguns can be loaded with different ammo. For example, if it’s dove season, can I have a 12 gauge shotgun for ducks and keep a 20 gauge loaded with lead shot for doves? (Allen S.)

Answer: Yes, you can carry more than one gun, but while waterfowl hunting, you are required to possess only non-toxic shot regardless of the shot size. Both shotguns must be loaded with non-toxic shot.

In addition to non-toxic shot requirements for waterfowl hunting, nonlead ammunition is now required when hunting on all state wildlife areas and ecological reserves regardless of the species pursued. And when hunting during waterfowl season, hunters may only have 25 shells in the field, regardless of the difference of shot size. This means hunters on state wildlife areas are limited to non-lead and only 25 shells total for doves and ducks, combined.

For more information on the phase-out of lead ammunition for hunting in California, please visit http://www.wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/nonlead-ammunition.


Corn for carp bait?
Question: Can you point me in the right direction to see the regulation regarding the use of whole corn kernels as bait, specifically for carp, but in general as well? Numerous people have told me corn is illegal to use in California, but I’ve looked through the regulations book at least four times and can’t find anything saying it’s illegal. (Tony)

Answer: The general bait regulation for inland waters says that treated and processed foods may be used as bait, and there is no prohibition on the use of corn kernels (CCR Title 14, section 4.00). This question comes up quite a bit because some states do not allow corn to be used as bait, but California does.

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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.

Keeping Homes Inhospitable to Nuisance Raccoons

Raccoons are illegal to keep as house pets (USFWS photo)

To prevent raccoons and other nuisance wildlife from taking up residence in and around your house and yard, your best course of action is to concentrate on making your house and yard inhospitable (USFWS photo)

Question: Raccoons come up through the culverts in our neighborhood and are causing a lot of trouble. Last year, there was one that tore a vent off our house and got in the subfloor and tore up our ducts under there. This year one of them attacked my dog in our back yard. The vet bill was very expensive. Can I trap them in live traps and have animal control euthanize them for me? (Kathy C.)

Answer: You can trap them but Animal Control may not want to euthanize them for you. Your best course of action is to concentrate on making your house and yard inhospitable. Bolster up your exterior vents and doors to prevent raccoons and other unwanted wildlife from moving in to use for cover. This also means remove all attractants (dog food, fallen fruit, koi ponds, water fountains, etc.). Even water can be an attractant, especially this year. If you do all of this but continue to have a problem, the law allows that it is legal to kill raccoons at any time when they are causing damage.

Some excellent additional information is available online from the UC Integrated Pest Management Program at http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/menu.house.html#VERT.


Measuring short lobsters without bringing them onboard
Question: When hoop netting for lobsters from a boat, how are we supposed to bring the nets to the surface and accurately measure the lobsters without pulling the hoop nets onboard? The law states that it is illegal to bring any undersized lobster onboard any vessel, but it is virtually impossible to measure them while hanging over the side of the boat, especially when it’s dark, there’s a swell in the ocean and the boat is bobbing up and down. I’m asking because recently a friend of mine was cited for bringing up his net and placing it on the deck of his boat so he could measure his catch. Can you please clarify this? (Miguel Z.)

Answer: Lobsters cannot be brought onboard boats or kayaks for measuring and must instead be measured at the waterline. Pull up the hoop net, step on the line and lean over and measure it … though I know, easier said than done in the dark and in rough seas.

California spiny lobsters must measure a minimum of three and one-fourth inches along a straight line on the mid-line of the back from the rear edge of the eye socket to the rear edge of the body shell. Lobsters may be brought to the surface for the purpose of measuring, but no undersize lobster may be brought aboard any boat and retained. All must be measured immediately upon being brought to the surface. Any undersize lobster must be released immediately into the water. In addition, spiny lobsters shall be kept in a whole, measurable condition, until being prepared for immediate consumption (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.90).


Transporting migratory game birds
Question: I know the rules state that while bird hunting you must leave a fully feathered wing intact until you get home. When I get back to my trailer at camp (which is considered my second home), can I remove the wings, vacuum seal the bird and freeze it, or do I have to wait until I actually get to my primary home? (Rob D.)

Answer: All birds, including migratory game birds, possessed or transported within California must have a fully feathered wing or head attached until placed into a personal abode or commercial preservation facility or until prepared for immediate consumption. Doves must have a fully feathered wing attached (CCR Title 14, section 251.7(b)).

Waterfowl and other migratory birds that are going to be transported anywhere must have a fully feathered wing or head attached (except for doves, which must have a wing attached). A trailer in camp is not your “abode.”


Selling mounted trophies
Question: I received a collection of museum-quality African game trophies in a divorce settlement and would like to sell them. I recently moved to California but the mounts are still in Alaska. They are not animals that exist in California. Can I sell them on eBay? I want to unload these animals legally. I have read the statutes. I need to know if I can work with someone in Fish and Game, show them the collection, and get their advice. Alaska Fish and Game already gave me an email saying they could be moved to California and sold. (Mary Jane S., Sacramento)

Answer: You should contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about any mounts that you would like to import to California and sell. The sale of birds or mammals found in the wild in California is prohibited by Fish and Game Code, section 3039. In addition, California Penal Code, section 653o prohibits the importation for commercial purposes, sale and possession with intent to sell a number of African wildlife species that may be in your collection.

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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.

Drifting for Ducks

(Photo courtesy of David A. Jones, Ducks Unlimited)

(Photo courtesy of David A. Jones, Ducks Unlimited)

Question: Is it legal to drift down or anchor a boat in a river to hunt for waterfowl? The river is in the “Balance of the State” zone and is surrounded by unincorporated privately owned farmland, with the occasional house or barn visible from the water. I know you cannot discharge a firearm within 150 yards of a dwelling or near a public road, and I know that all motors must be out of the water. Would drifting be considered forward motion? (Anonymous)

Answer: Drifting is not considered “under power.” What you describe would be legal as long as you access the river from a legal access point, and once you’re hunting, your motion is not due to momentum provided by the motor before it was turned off. You must also take into account the retrieval of the birds you take. Should you take a bird that lands on private property that you do not have the authority to access, you run the risk of a hunting trespass for retrieval, or waste of game if you do not retrieve it. Also, you need to remember not to discharge a firearm within 150 yards of an occupied dwelling, and these may be difficult to see from the river. Finally, there may be other state or local ordinances and regulations (such as no shooting zones) or other restrictions that may prevent you from hunting the section of water you want to hunt.


Importing insects?
Question: I would like to start up a business importing exotic dead insects into California to preserve and sell as curiosities. I realize that if they were alive, that’d be easy (No Bueno!), but what about dead ones? I propose to import them dead but not preserved, and then preserve them myself. Would it make a difference if I imported them already preserved? Aside from this sounding like the intro to a bad ‘50s giant bug movie, is what I am proposing to do legal? (Brent G.)

Answer: State fish and wildlife laws don’t prohibit importation or sale of insects, but there are other laws that you may need to be aware of. You should contact the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Some creatures, although dead, may still contain live eggs within. And if any of the species you propose to import are restricted species, border inspectors will not likely differentiate between whether they are dead or alive.


Compound bow fishing for sharks?
Question: Is it legal to bow hunt sharks? Someone told me a man in California took a 550 pound mako shark with a compound bow. (Robert S.)

Answer: Spears, harpoons and bow and arrow fishing tackle may be used for taking all varieties of skates, rays and sharks, except white sharks. Such gear may not be possessed or used within 100 yards of the mouth of any stream in any ocean waters north of Ventura County, nor aboard any vessel on any day or on any trip when broadbill swordfish or marlin have been taken. Bow and arrow fishing tackle may also be used to take finfish other than giant (black) sea bass, garibaldi, gulf grouper, broomtail grouper, trout, salmon, broadbill swordfish and white shark (California Code of Regulations, Title 14, section 28.95).

Regarding crossbows, under hunting regulations, a crossbow is not considered archery equipment. But under fishing regulations, crossbows may be used for bow and arrow fishing tackle. It does not matter what type of bow or crossbow is used under legal bow and arrow fishing, but a line is required to be attached to the bow and the arrow/bolt (CCR, Title 14, section 1.23).


Carrying rifles through a game refuge?
Question: How do I legally travel through a wildlife game refuge on the way to hunting on the other side of the refuge? With bolt action rifles, we take the bolt out so that it’s not a functioning gun anymore. What about with a lever action gun? How can we legally cross through the game refuge? (Erin)

Answer: The possession of firearms is not prohibited “when traveling through any game refuges when the firearms are taken apart or encased and unloaded. When the traveling is done on a route other than a public highway or other public thoroughfare or right of way, notice shall be given to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) at least 24 hours before that traveling. The notice shall give the name and address of the person intending to travel through the refuge, the name of the refuge, the approximate route, and the approximate time when that person intends to travel through the refuge” (Fish and Game Code, section 10506).

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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 and Spearfishing without a Fishing License

Diver with a California spiny lobster (CDFW photo by Derek Stein)

Diver with a California spiny lobster (CDFW photo by Derek Stein)

Question: I live within 500 yards of the point of entry where I go spearfishing. Does that mean that, according to section 7145, I can just keep my fishing license and lobster report cards at home since they’re within the 500-yard limit? I’m about 200 yards or so from the reef where I dive. (Raf C.)

Answer: Lucky you! When fishing and/or taking lobster, you are required to have your license and spiny lobster report card on your person or in your immediate possession. If diving from a boat, they may be kept in the boat, or if diving from shore, they may be kept within 500 yards of the shore (Fish and Game Code, section 7145(a)). In your case, if your license and report card are located 200 yards from shore (where you enter the water), then you’re OK. Don’t forget that prior to your dive you need to record the month, day, location and gear code on the report card. And when you return, you will have to fill in the number of lobster you kept from that location.


Hunting blinds on public property
Question: I am a hunter myself and while walking on a closed road recently, I noticed someone had built a hunting blind about 25-30 yards off the road with tarps, boards and sticks from the surrounding woods. Can a person legally build a hunting blind in the woods on public hunting grounds and then continue to fix it up to use each year? And if that blind is vacant and not being used, can the person who built the blind claim it as his own or is it first come first serve? (Anonymous)

Answer: It is not legal for someone to build a structure and then leave it on public land. That could be considered littering as well as destruction of public property if public resources are damaged in the process. Thus, your follow up question about whether the blind builder can claim ownership is a moot point.


Abalone diving with homemade snorkel
Question: I made my own snorkel using a flexible hose that is about five feet long. No air supplying motor or any device is attached to it. It’s just a long flexible hose with a check valve in it. If I use it while abalone diving, would I be in violation of any regulations? I am aware of the regulation prohibiting the use of SCUBA gear or surface-supplied air. (Chris L.)

Answer: Although this would be legal, using this type of snorkel would be very dangerous because you must be able to displace used air in your snorkel. You could be seriously harmed from breathing from a long snorkel because the air volume in the snorkel makes it difficult to displace exhaled air. Rebreathing used air can cause death or great bodily harm to a diver. This is why you do not see longer snorkels sold by dive shops.


Fishing in isolated ponds
Question: As our creeks dry up, ponds are formed, with some of them at the road culverts. Is it legal to fish these ponds with a pole, by hand or a dip net? (Jeanne G., Portola)

Answer: In intermittent streams like you describe, what appear to be ponds are actually isolated pools. Although not apparent during the dry season, water may still be flowing, out of sight, under the streambed surface. This is often called “intragravel flow.” Because a creek is still a stream and not actually a pond or lake, the same regulations for the stream will still apply. Fish can only be taken from these waters under the regulations currently applicable for that stream, including seasons, limits, methods of take, etc. To view the current sport fishing regulations for inland waters, please go to http://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Regulations or pick up a copy of the booklet wherever fishing licenses are sold.


Selling deer hides
Question: I’m a hide tanner and recently asked a butcher about getting deer hides from him. He was worried about giving them to me because he seemed to think that I would need to have a deer tag for every deer hide. Can you tell me what the legalities are concerning deer hides? I would like to make use of the hides that are being thrown away. Also, do you know of any deer hide sources for me? (David C.)

Answer: It is legal to buy and sell (or gift) lawfully taken deer hides (FGC, section 4303). The person receiving the hides is not required to have a hunting license or tag. However, it’s a good idea for both parties involved to keep records of the transactions to protect against false accusations that the hides were acquired illegally.

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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.