Tag Archives: ammunition

Rainbow Trout in Anadromous Waters

Rainbow Trout (CDFW photo by Harry Morse)

Rainbow Trout (CDFW photo by Harry Morse)

Question: I have taken up fly fishing again after a long while away. This past weekend I went fishing on the Russian River and caught two rainbows/steelhead (one a hatchery fish and the other a wild fish) and both were about 10 inches long. I am wondering if I have to report fish of that size on my Steelhead Report Card in the future. I recorded them this time out of an abundance of caution, but I don’t want to over-inflate the run estimates needlessly. (Kyle K., Healdsburg)

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, rainbow trout are O. mykiss found in land-locked freshwater with no access to the ocean, while 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 before returning 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 are treated as rainbow trout, and those bigger than 16-inches are treated as steelhead. Fishing for steelhead, meaning any O. mykiss in excess of 16-inches, in anadromous waters will require the 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.


Can other law enforcement agencies enforce CDFW regulations?
Question: I am a current sworn recruit in a Southern California Sheriff’s Department Academy. I will be working in a county with a heavy hunting and fishing population and an abundance of wildlife areas. I am just curious, and have been earnestly trying to find the answer on my own accord without luck, about a specific phrase in Fish and Game Code, section 2012. It states:

§ 2012. All licenses, tags, and the birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, or amphibians taken or otherwise dealt with under this code, and any device or apparatus designed to be, and capable of being, used to take birds, mammals, fish, reptiles or amphibians shall be exhibited upon demand to any person authorized by the department to enforce this code or any law relating to the protection and conservation of birds, mammals, fish, reptiles or amphibians.

My question is: who are the persons authorized by the department to enforce this code or any law relating to the protection and conservation of birds, mammals, fish, reptiles or amphibians? Are local police and county sheriffs authorized by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to enforce the Fish and Game Code? If it does exist, is there any statute that expresses that authority? (Calen A., M.A.)

Answer: Only CDFW wildlife officers are authorized to enforce the “exhibit upon demand” authority of Fish and Game Code, section 2012. Police officers and county sheriffs are authorized to enforce most hunting and fishing laws but are not authorized to enforce Fish and Game Code Section 2012.

Aside from CDFW wildlife officers, only Rangers and Lifeguards of the Department of Parks and Recreation are authorized to use that law, and then only while on duty in a state park, state beach, state recreation area, state underwater park, state reserve, or other similar facility. Although other law enforcement officers can’t make a formal demand under section 2012 to see someone’s licenses, fish, game, or equipment, they can still enforce fish and game laws and inspect these items if they are in plain view or with the person’s consent.


Discharging a firearm along public roadway
Question: As a firearms instructor and hunting enthusiast, I am continually asked the question, “When hunting and on foot (outside of a vehicle), can you discharge a firearm or other weapon (e.g. compound bow) from or along a public roadway?” Is there a minimum distance from a public roadway? For example, an inhabited structure or barn at 150 yards away? (Don S., Fresno)

Answer: It unlawful to discharge a firearm or release an arrow or crossbow bolt over or across any public road or other established way open to the public in an unsafe and reckless manner (Fish and Game Code, section 3004(b)). Discharging a firearm from or upon a public road or highway is also prohibited (Penal Code, section 374c). In addition, it is a felony to willfully discharge a firearm in a grossly negligent manner that could injure another person (Penal Code, section 246.3). Many cities and counties have also adopted ordinances further restricting where firearms may be fired, so hunters should consult their local law enforcement agency for specific information about the area where they wish to shoot.


Halibut fishing in SF Bay
Question: If I’m trolling for halibut in the San Francisco Bay, can I use another line that has only dodgers and flashers on it without any hooks to attract the fish closer to my boat? I will only have one pole or line with a hook on it. (J.V., Rodeo)

Answer: Yes.

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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.

Peace Officer, Archery Hunting and Off-duty Weapon

CPW bow hunter_Tyler Baskfield_22336

A peace officer, whether active or honorably retired, may carry a firearm capable of being concealed on his or her person while engaged in the taking of deer with bow and arrow, but shall not take or attempt to take deer with the firearm.

Question: My question is about peace officers carrying a handgun while archery hunting. The way I read the Fish and Game Code, it only states that you may carry a firearm capable of being concealed on his or her person, not that it shall or will be concealed. I always carry a backpack while hunting, and I usually carry my off-duty weapon on the waist belt under a pouch. This is not totally concealed, so is it acceptable or is it going to be left to officer discretion in the field? (Ken)

Answer: Yes, this is acceptable, but make sure to carry your peace officer identification to avoid any confusion.

“A peace officer …, whether active or honorably retired, may carry a firearm capable of being concealed on his or her person while engaged in the taking of deer with bow and arrow …, but shall not take or attempt to take deer with the firearm” (Fish and Game Code, section 4370(b)).


Lifetime fishing license is too long!
Question: I purchased a lifetime fishing license about 10 years ago. What used to be a small piece of paper that I could put in my wallet or keep in my tackle box has grown to where it’s now more than six feet in length. How about giving me a credit card type of license I can recharge every year instead of a new one? This would save a lot of money and be a lot easier to carry. (Michael T.)

Answer
: When lifetime items are renewed online, multiple items (tags, report cards, etc.) ordered together may arrive in one envelope and be printed out together as one long document. This accounts for the document length you describe, but just so you know, you should separate your documents on the dotted line printed between documents to make them more manageable.

According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Associate Governmental Program Analyst Brent George, our License and Revenue Branch at one time considered a credit card system for lifetime license customers. Although the idea has some merit, they found that given California’s large population, and the overall complexity of sport fishing and hunting privileges available throughout the state, this solution is not practical. CDFW always tries to consider all viable options when developing licensing solutions for California’s hunters and anglers.


Spearfishing in Duxbury Reef State Marine Conservation Area
Question: I have a question regarding fishing regulations as they apply to spearfishing in the Duxbury Reef State Marine Conservation Area. The regulation provides that “take of all living marine resources is prohibited except the recreational take of finfish (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 632(a)(2)) from shore and abalone.” Can I swim from shore and spearfish? I would assume the answer is yes because one has to swim from shore to dive for abalone, so swimming from shore to spearfish should similarly be allowed. What about using a kayak to get out to the dive spot? Or, what about inner tubes or boogie boards? (Gary R.)

Answer: Although you may swim from shore to take abalone, you may not spearfish in the Duxbury Reef State Marine Conservation Area. Finfish may only be taken from shore in this area (CCR Title 14, section 632(b)(50(B)).


Need a definite schedule for upcoming grunion runs
Question: I grew up in California but now live in New York. I am coming for a visit and would love to bring my kids to see a grunion run. I have your schedule but want to know if it is a definite schedule. I know they follow the full moon cycle but just want to know if there has ever been a time when you predicted the grunion will spawn on a certain day but they did not? (Andrea C., New York)

Answer: Grunion runs will occur on most southern California beaches, but unfortunately for people trying to see the grunion runs, they may not occur every night on the same beaches and may be limited to small areas of any one beach. Sometimes grunion choose not to run on beaches that are known for grunion runs; only they know why. Long story short, there are no guarantees, but as with most fishing efforts, if you don’t try you certainly will not see or catch any fish!

Grunion will spawn somewhere in their range on the days predicted; if they do not show up on one beach, they are usually at another beach. The schedule predicts the best possible times to view the runs, based on years of documentation of their behavior. Beaches that frequently host grunion runs are listed online under What Every Grunion Hunter Should Know > Best locations, on http://www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/grunion.asp#hunter.

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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.

Which Fish Species Can Be Filleted at Sea?

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

Only certain ocean fish species are allowed to be filleted at sea. Please check the 2015 Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet (section 27.65[c] on pages 33-34) for an outline of which species may be filleted at sea while on a boat, and which may not.

Question: I need to get the straight answer regarding filleting game fish while on a boat. In the ocean/bay waters, do I need to keep stripers and leopard sharks intact until I get home or can I keep the fillets in one piece with a one inch or more square of skin left on each fillet? Also, are the rules different for inland waters regarding the filleting of fish? (Howard A.)

Answer: You can find an outline of which species may be filleted at sea while on a boat and which may not under section 27.65(b) and (c) on pages 33-34 in the Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet. Only those listed as allowed to be filleted can be filleted. Striped bass and leopard sharks are not on this list and so may not be filleted at sea.

  • Section 27.65(c): Fish That May Not be Filleted, Steaked or Chunked: No person shall fillet, steak or cut into chunks on any boat or bring ashore as fillets, steaks or chunks the following: any species with a size limit unless a fillet size is otherwise specified in these regulations. California halibut may be filleted or brought ashore as fillets south of Point Arena (Mendocino County).

Since the regulations specify minimum lengths for stripers (18 inches total) and leopard sharks (36 inches total), but no fillet lengths, neither species can be filleted while on a boat or brought ashore as fillets, steaks or chunks.


Hunting with a .22 caliber rim fire in a lead free zone?
Question: I was wondering if you could still hunt with lead .22 caliber rimfire in a lead free zone. I’ve been looking for lead free .22 caliber rimfire rounds and its very slim pickins out there. (Cory S.)

Answer: Although the availability of nonlead ammunition may be improving with time, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recognizes it can still be hard to find some calibers. It will take additional planning to participate in hunts where nonlead ammunition is required. We encourage hunters who intend to participate in these hunts to plan well ahead to be sure they have legal ammunition. There are a number of lead free .22 rimfire rounds that are manufactured, and stores in the California condor range may be most likely to have them in stock. We recommend searching on the Internet and calling ahead to local retailers. Remember that .22 rimfire is only legal to use when hunting small game and nongame animals. Current law does not require use of nonlead ammunition when taking rabbits or tree squirrels, unless you are hunting on CDFW lands, but nonlead ammunition will be required statewide for all hunting beginning July 1, 2019.


About Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) web map
Question: I read a journal article recently about California’s Marine Protected Areas (MPA) but cannot locate a website showing exactly where the MPAs are. Do you have anything posted online where I can go or something you can send me? (Jamie)

Answer: Printed MPA guidebooks are available via some of the same vendors that sell fishing licenses so that you can easily obtain them (see http://www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/mpa/guidelocations.asp). If you have problems finding a guidebook, please contact your local CDFW office and ask them to send you one.

If you like the utility of Google Maps, you might appreciate MarineBIOS (see http://map.dfg.ca.gov/marine/ ) a map that you can use to zoom in close on marine protected areas to get a fix on the boundaries. MarineBIOS lets you choose your “basemap.” You can use satellite imagery, a street map or other basemaps, whatever makes the most sense for your situation. (Click on the green basemaps button in the upper left-hand corner of the screen to access these options).

If you have a smartphone or other mobile device with GPS capability, you can use the map on MPAmobile (www.dfg.ca.gov/m/MPA/) to show you where you are in relation to any MPAs, and you can look up information on individual MPAs.

All this information and more is available online at (www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/mpa/). On this web page, in the Popular Resources box to the right, you’ll find the top four big blue buttons lead you to these resources, so these should help you learn where California’s marine protected areas are.

A new Marine Management News blog post also describes resources you can use to learn about MPAs (see https://cdfwmarine.wordpress.com/2015/06/02/mpa-maps/). If all else fails, you can email your MPA questions to AskMPA@wildlife.ca.gov and we will be glad to assist you.

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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.

Is a Fish Caught on Another Angler’s Line Legal to Keep?

(USFWS photo)

(USFWS photo)

Question: I am hoping you can resolve a question that came up in one of our recent fishing club meetings. On a recent trip to Lake Isabella, I caught a very nice rainbow trout (18 inches long!). The way it was caught is the subject of debate within our club. I was fishing on a pontoon boat and when I landed the fish, it wasn’t on my hook. Apparently, the fish had been hooked by someone else previously, and broke off. I don’t know who or when, but when I reeled the fish in it had a couple of feet of the previous fishing line, with a hook and split shot still attached to it. The previous angler’s hook was still hooked into the fish’s mouth. Somehow the split shot and old line became tangled in my tackle. The fish was landed after a brief fight, netted and added to my bag limit. The question is: Is this considered a legally caught fish? We await your response. (Luiz D.)

Answer: No fish may be retained that did not voluntarily take the bait or lure into its mouth (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 2.00(c)). Although you accidentally snagged the broken off line from a previous angler, you may have saved that fish from an otherwise slow death. If that old line had instead gotten hung up on a rock or bush, preventing the fish from freely moving around, the fish could have died of a lack of gill movement or starvation. Since your fish had taken an angler’s bait or lure into its mouth, it was legal to keep. The intention of angling is that the fish take a hook in its mouth, and this was accomplished.

If you had instead snagged this fish by impaling or attempting to impale it in any part of its body other than the mouth by use of a hook, hooks, gaff, or other mechanical implements, this would have been illegal (CCR Title 14, section 2.00(b)). This does not include the lawful use of a gaff to land the fish.


Which firearms and ammo can be used for night hunting?
Question: I am having trouble finding a specific section related to which firearms you are allowed to hunt with at night. Word of mouth has always been that only rimfire rifles and shotguns may be used at night. I know that in other states you can use a regular centerfire rifle so I am wondering if we can also use them here. If not, are we only allowed rimfire and shotguns? Also, are there any exceptions for mounting a flashlight to a gun? (Taylor F.)

Answer: If you are in an area where night hunting is legal, you may only take nongame mammals and furbearers. Night hunting is restricted to the method of take allowed for these animals (under CCR Title 14, section 475). You are not restricted related to the use of rimfire, centerfire, or shotgun, except you may only use and possess non lead ammunition in the condor zone and while hunting on all state-owned lands.

For regulations on the use of lights, please check the California Mammal Hunting Regulations booklet (CCR Title 14, section 264 on page 18 and Fish and Game Code, section 2005 on page 20).


Why is abalone season closing during July?
Question: Just curious, why is abalone season closed in July? (Ashton H.)

Answer: The July break in abalone season was instituted to help conserve the resource. Originally, a two-month summer closure was proposed for the recreational abalone season, but it was reduced to one month – July – to avoid the possible negative economic impacts on North Coast areas that rely on tourism. Because weather and ocean conditions are usually better in July, and many people take vacations and visit the North Coast at that time, July was chosen as the summer month to give abalone a “break” from the heavy take that occurs during the summer. This measure is to help California’s red abalone population remain a healthy resource.


Where’s the best beach to watch a grunion run?
Question: Where is the best beach to take my son to in Southern California to see the grunion? I realize it’s a bit of a guess but I would really like him to see them. Do you have any educated guesses? (Jeffrey D.H.)

Answer: You are correct that it really is anyone’s guess where grunion will run ashore since just about any sandy beach in Southern California is fair game to the grunion! But, for a list of known grunion beaches, please visit our Amazing Grunion web page at www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/grunion.asp#hunter (look under Best Locations). Best of luck! I hope you and your son are able to see a grunion run!

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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.

Collecting and Returning Tidepool Animals

Sea Stars of the California Coast (CDFW photo)

Sea Stars of the California Coast (CDFW photo)

Question: I have two small daughters that are very much into marine life. I thought it would be exciting for them to catch small critters, fish, etc. and put them into an aquarium at home. I figured they could then return the marine life back to the ocean every few weeks. I looked into this online and it appears that you need to obtain a permit to collect marine life in this fashion. Do you think it is possible for me to obtain the proper permits in order to do this with my kids? If so, do you have any idea how I would go about applying and the general costs? (Charles K.)

Answer: Unfortunately, as nice as this sounds, it is not legal for your daughters to do. Here are three reasons why:

  1. First of all, they cannot transport any finfish from the ocean, period. Moving live finfish from freshwater or ocean waters is illegal.
  1. Second, anything that is not legal to take with a California sport fishing license requires a scientific collecting permit and they wouldn’t qualify for one of these because they are issued only to scientists doing bona fide research or to schools or aquariums where the animals taken will be on display for the public to view.
  1. Third, they can remove invertebrates that are legal to take with a sport fishing license (although if under 16 years old they do not need a license), but nothing can be returned alive to the ocean. If they take them, they need to keep them. This is because there’s always a possibility that fish or invertebrates may have picked up parasites or diseases when kept in private aquariums. We don’t want anything being introduced to fish and invertebrates in the wild.

For the time being, it would be best for your girls to stick with fish and invertebrates that they buy from licensed aquarists or stores that sell aquarium species legally. They can, however, visit most tidepools and enjoy the fish and invertebrates in their natural environments … just don’t take them away from their homes.

Driving on a private road with a loaded gun in the vehicle?
Question:
I know that it is not legal to have a loaded gun in a vehicle when on public roads and in public accessible areas, but what about when on privately owned property where all access is controlled via locked gates? (Scott H.)

Answer: You are correct that it is against the law to carry loaded guns in a vehicle when upon or along a public way (Fish and Game Code, section 2006 and Penal Code 25850). When behind locked gates, however, there are no laws preventing this, although common sense and safety should preclude doing so. Many of the hunting accidents we investigate are caused by people getting into or out of a vehicle with a loaded firearm. Despite this allowance, it is still unlawful to shoot at any game bird or mammal from a motor vehicle, even when on private property (FGC section 3002.)


Cherry picking for the biggest crabs?
Question: I often see Dungeness crab fisherman holding onto crabs in excess of their limit while they continue crabbing. Then after pulling all their pots, they cherry pick the best ones and throw back the extras. Is this legal? Say for example I’m fishing alone and drop three pots. When I retrieve the pots, the first one contains 10 crabs, and I put them all in my fish box. The second pot also has 10 crabs and I also put them all in the box. I pull the last pot, then sort through all the crab and throw back all but the biggest 10 before heading into the harbor. This is how I would prefer to fish but don’t think it would be illegal. Am I correct? (Jesse)

Answer: What you describe is high-grading and is absolutely illegal. Recreational fishermen are limited to 10 Dungeness crabs onboard or in possession. Every crab over the limit that is in the fisherman’s possession, even if just for a short time, could get them cited for possession of an overlimit. Once a limit is in possession, all other crabs must be immediately returned to the water. If the fisherman keeps 10 legal-sized crabs from his first pot, all other crabs in any subsequent pots must be released.

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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.

Blindsided by Fishing Violation

Small California halibut can sometimes be mistaken for other flatfishes (CDFW photo)

Question: While surf fishing for the first time this past November near Santa Monica, my son caught a fish which he thought was a flounder. It was still alive and in a bucket of salt water when a wildlife officer saw it, identified it as a halibut, said it was undersized and released it back into the ocean. We were unaware of species size restrictions so he gave us a handbook. The regulation booklet is a long, dense read to say the least, and complicated unless you fish more actively and are more knowledgeable than we are.

Even though this was a first offense and the fish was still alive, the officer cited my son. He said it would be like a driving violation and we would receive a bail amount notification by mail. That did not happen and now we see that the violation states we must appear this next Wednesday at court in Santa Monica.

When we purchased our licenses nothing was said about regulations or restrictions so we were blindsided by the violation. We had expected to pay a fine but does he need to appear in court? (Craig T.)

Answer: Your son may have a few options. He may call the court at the number listed on the citation to see if the court has a system in place to allow him to “forfeit bail” (pay the fine). He may also be able to look at the court’s website and determine if the court allows for fines to be paid online. He may choose to appear in court and explain his circumstances to the judge. Judges have discretion in these matters and can assess the full fine, reduce or suspend the fine or dismiss the charge altogether. If the court is not set up for either of those first two options, or your son wishes to speak to a judge, he needs to appear in court at the date and time listed on the citation.

We commend you and your son for taking up fishing as a new hobby and despite your unfortunate identification mistake, we hope you will continue. As with any new angler, we recommend you keep a copy of applicable California Sport Fishing Regulations with you while fishing, and perhaps an identification guide that is available in many bait shops or online to assist with learning proper fish ID and the regulations. We recommend the same for new hunters, too.


Donating fish for trip tax write off?
Question: You provided an answer to a question a while back about donating sport caught fish. I know people that go on long range boats out of Southern California often donate their fish when they return to port and get a receipt they can use for a tax deduction. I’m not exactly sure how it works, but I think it’s something like they can deduct the costs incurred in catching the fish they donate, not a deduction for the market value of the fish. The answer to that question could really impact the decisions of long range fishermen on how they deal with their catch, so it might not be a bad idea to look into that question a little further to see if any clarification is needed. I sent a copy of your email to my accountant who also handles the accounts of a lot of Southern California boats to see if he has any input. If I get a response, I’ll let you know. I think it’s worth checking into for sure. (Sherry I.)

Answer: You are correct that sport caught fish may be donated but no monetary value may be placed on sport caught fish. It would violate Fish and Game Code, section 7121. As far as claiming any other tax benefits, you are on the right track in asking an accountant as those decisions would need to be made by the IRS and Franchise Tax Board.


What shotgun capacity for big game, turkeys and waterfowl?
Question: When hunting black bears, pigs, turkeys and waterfowl, what shotgun capacity can I use? (Daniel K.)

Answer: Shotguns capable of holding not more than three shells may be used to take all of the species you mention. For more information, please see sections 311 and 353 in the Hunting Regulations book or look online at http://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Regulations.


Sturgeon sex change?
Question: Someone told me that when a sturgeon reaches a certain size, it will become a female. Is this true? (Chi L.)

Answer: No, not true.

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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.

Sidearm While Duck Hunting?

(Photo courtesy of USFWS)

(Photo courtesy of USFWS)

Question: A friend and I recently had a situation where we found pig tracks at one of the areas where we like to duck hunt. We both found it a little unnerving to be walking in knee to waist high grass armed with only bird shot if a pig were to charge. The area where we are hunting doesn’t explicitly prohibit handguns. We were wondering if California law allows us to carry a handgun, not as a method of take, but rather for defense while hunting waterfowl. I noticed the answer to the question on sidearms while hunting upland game and small game but don’t know if duck hunting has any additional restrictions. Also, if this is allowed, does the ammo in the handgun apply to the nonlead requirement while hunting duck, or is it exempt considering that it is not a method of take? Any help is greatly appreciated. Thanks. (Rhyan P.)

Answer: Unless the area where you’re hunting explicitly prohibits the possession of, or hunting with, handguns, that part should not be a problem. If that is the case, and you feel that your life is in danger, you can shoot the pig. However, you are not authorized to take the carcass unless you have a pig tag and utilized a legal method of take. If you’re hunting in condor country, you must carry nonlead ammunition.


Are crabs with black spots safe to eat?
Question: I just bought two crabs and found one with black spots on the outside shell. I’ve seen these before and usually avoid them, but this time the seller sneaked it into my package. When I called him about it, he said he didn’t know what it is, but it doesn’t permeate the shell. This isn’t true—I’ve seen this stuff on the flesh at the joints. It looks like oil. Can you enlighten me? Besides being ugly, is it unsafe? (Mari V., Berkeley)

Answer: Black spots on the shells of crustaceans are typically composed of melanin, which is the end product of a series of immunological reactions. This means the crab was likely responding to some shell damage that could be caused by physical trauma or a disease agent. In this case, the black spotted crab is probably safe if cooked correctly. However, if the discolored shellfish tissue has an unpleasant taste or texture, or looks or smells unusual, we always recommend not eating it.


Where can I find bail fine information?
Question: How are fines determined and how can someone locate published documentation on fines? (John S., Bakersfield)

Answer: The State Judicial Council publishes the “Uniform Bail and Penalty Schedules” every year. If you perform a web search, most courts will link to the most current edition. The link on our web site  www.courts.ca.gov/documents/july2011_jcbail.pdf is the 2011 edition. Additionally, some fines are mandatory and established by the California legislature. Those can be found in the Fish and Game Code starting with Section 12000. See the California Legislative Information web site http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes.xhtml to look up the code. With some exceptions for mandatory fines, the uniform bail and penalty schedule is a guideline used by judges. In other words, judges have a great deal of discretion in setting fines and penalties for any violation.


Crossbows for wild pigs?
Question: I am trying to get some clarification on hunting wild pigs with a crossbow. The regulations state that crossbows may be used to take deer and wild pigs only during the regular seasons (California Code Regulations, Title 14, section 353). Since wild pigs can be hunted all year, does that mean that a crossbow can be used (like a firearm) to hunt wild pigs? Can any legal hunter with a hunting license and a pig tag use a crossbow for wild pigs? The regulations have a bit of a gray area here and I would like some clarification please. (Al Q.)

Answer: Yes, wild pigs can be taken year-round with a crossbow.


Importing a water buffalo skull?
Question: I purchased a water buffalo skull with horns in Thailand (Jan 2014). The Thai post office informed me I would need a “customs” form to have it delivered in the U.S. but they did not have them. The skull remains with my son in Thailand.

The skull is clean and dry. There is no remaining material on the skull. The skull was purchased from a buffalo farm for about $60. The animal was not mistreated or tortured. It died a natural death. The farm has a number of skulls for sale.

Can you please tell me what form I need and what I need to do to have it shipped to me here in California? Thank you in advance for your assistance. I enjoy your articles! (Jerry M.)

Answer: California wildlife law does not generally apply to this situation. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would be the contact agency regarding importing parts from a water buffalo into 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.