Tag Archives: Deer

When the USDA Checks Wild Waterfowl, is it a Bad Sign for Hunters?

Mallard pairQuestion: On the last day of hunting at Modesto Reservoir we had a lady from the United States Department of Agriculture that swabbed our ducks and geese for parasites, etc. I asked her why she was doing this and she smiled at me. So then I said, “Is it that Foster Farms has been having problems with viruses?” She just smiled again and nodded her head.

I can’t help but wonder what Foster Farms is up to but can bet they are up to no good for hunters. They had problems with their chickens in Livingston and other places so I can’t help but wonder if they are trying to tie this to our waterfowl. I think there is a good story here for somebody who wants to take the time to make the phone calls and dig it out! (Ron W.)

Answer: While this is an interesting question, Ron, there’s no conspiracy going on here against waterfowl hunters. I asked Krysta Rogers, Avian Specialist and Environmental Scientist for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), and here’s what she had to say:

“In response to the recent detections of avian influenza in Washington in December 2014, the United States Department of Agriculture and United States Geological Survey, in coordination with state wildlife agencies, initiated active surveillance through swab sampling of hunter-harvested waterfowl in several states, including California. Avian influenza viruses naturally circulate in wild bird populations, primarily in species that are associated with an aquatic habitat. Therefore, monitoring wild waterfowl for avian influenza activity is one of the most efficient surveillance tools for determining what viruses are circulating worldwide. Between 2006 and 2011, CDFW participated in similar surveillance efforts to aid in the detection of avian influenza viruses. As with the previous surveillance, state and federal wildlife agencies do not foresee any impacts to wild waterfowl populations or to hunting.

“Recently, in the western United States, two main viruses have been detected, H5N2 and H5N8. Both viruses have previously been found in other parts of the world. While these viruses are not known to cause significant disease in wild waterfowl, they can cause high mortality in domestic poultry. Surveillance of hunter-harvested waterfowl has resulted in additional detections of these viruses in California, Oregon, Utah and Idaho. The H5N2 virus has been detected in backyard poultry flocks in Washington and Idaho while the H5N8 virus has been detected in a backyard poultry flock in Oregon and a commercial turkey flock in Stanislaus County, California.”


Managing multiple fishing rods on the Sacramento River?
Question: If two anglers are anchored on the Sacramento River bait fishing for sturgeon and both have second rod validations allowing them to fish with four rods collectively, if one person then hooks up, is it legal for the other person to reel in the other three rods while that person is fighting the fish? In other words, is it legal for the person not trying to reel the fish in to clear the other three rods? (Monty R.)

Answer: Yes, provided the anglers are fishing in a location where the second rod validation is operative. Legally, since each fisherman is only authorized to fish with up to two fishing poles, the fisherman trying to bring in the other three poles would have to first secure one of his fishing rods so that it is no longer being used to fish. That would leave two fishing poles to reel in, which would be within the angler’s legal authority to do.


Dead heads
Question: I’ve been up shed hunting and recently have found a couple mountain lion kills. Can I legally take the dead heads? How do I prove it’s a dead head and not a poached deer? (Brice R.)

Answer: You should avoid picking up anything that is fresh but it is not illegal for someone to pick up bleached antlers. In addition, you can sell sheds that you have found but they must have been manufactured into products or handcraft items, or have been cut into blocks or units which are to be handcrafted. You cannot sell whole antlers with heads attached (Fish and Game Code, section 3039(c)).


Selling sea urchin jewelry
Question: Is it legal to use legally harvested/farmed California uni biproducts for jewelry to be sold in retail? I have a local fish market that sells large amounts of the purple urchins they obtain from Catalina Seafood. I obtain the eaten shells and use the spikes for crafts. Is it legal to sell them in California as well as globally? (Alexandra F.)

Answer: Commercially-taken sea urchin spines can be sold in jewelry, but sport-harvested marine resources may not be sold, bartered, traded, etc.

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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.

Although They Sell Deer Chow, Don’t Be Deceived

Even if you find deer chow for sale in your local feed store, it is not legal to use to feed deer or any big game in California. (Photo of a white-tailed deer courtesy of USFWS)

Even if you find deer chow for sale in your local feed store, it is not legal to use to feed deer or any big game in California. (Photo of a white-tailed deer courtesy of USFWS)

Question: I was at my local feed store today and was astounded to find bags of Purina Deer Chow for sale, and another feed for wild pigs. I know it is illegal in California to feed big game animals, including deer, bear, elk, wild pigs and pronghorn. So why is it okay to sell deer food? I asked the proprietor and they said that it was not illegal to sell the food and that their customers wanted the product. Isn’t this a little bit like saying it is okay to sell drugs, even if it is illegal to use them? What is the rationale for allowing the sale of a product when its use is banned? (Roy “Confused in Caspar” Falk)

Answer: Although feeding deer or any big game species is prohibited in California, deer are allowed to be fed in other states. Hunters are even allowed to bait them in some states, probably even with this feed. The deer picture that they show on the package is of a white-tail deer which we don’t have here in California. Feeding deer unnaturally concentrates the animals in a very confined location and increases the potential spread of disease. It also makes them more vulnerable to predation by mountain lions and coyotes who quickly figure out where to find concentrated numbers of deer. CDFW has investigated many cases of deer feeding that inadvertently attracted mountain lions which killed the deer the people were trying to feed.

You’re right to feel confused and I’ve asked the same question. It doesn’t seem right since it sends the wrong message to the customers, but the Fish and Game Code generally doesn’t regulate the products that feed stores and pet stores may carry. Many also sell ferret food, and those animals are illegal to possess in California.


Why do fishing and hunting license fees increase every year?
Question: Why do fishing and hunting license fees and various cards and tags increase in price every year? This concerns my friends and me as we are of the older population of California and are on fixed incomes. Hunting and fishing are some of the only pleasures we have to enjoy in our old age, but it is becoming so costly we won’t be able to afford it if you keep raising prices. (Bill D.)

Answer: California law establishes fishing and hunting license fees each year, not the Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). The base fee for sport fishing licenses is established in Fish and Game Code, section 7149 and the fees for stamps and most report cards are established in other sections of the Fish and Game Code or California Code of Regulations, Title 14.

According to CDFW License Program Analyst Glenn Underwood, the Fish and Game Code, section 713 requires license fees to be adjusted in response to increases (or decreases) in costs of goods and services using an index called the “Implicit Price Deflator.” This index is a gauge of the change in the cost of goods and services from year to year.

For example, as hatchery, law enforcement and wildlife management costs have increased, license fees needed to increase to keep pace with these rising costs. Essentially, license fees are adjusted to compensate for inflation. If license fees were not adjusted for inflation, then funding for fish and wildlife management and protection would actually decrease because the “buying power” of a dollar has declined over the years.

License fee increases over the past five years have ranged from a low of 1.2 percent in 2013 to a high of 2.8 percent in 2011. The average index over the past five years has been 1.91 percent. For 2014, the cost of goods and services increased by 1.3 percent and 2015 license fees increased accordingly. If the cost of goods and services were to decrease, then license fees would actually decrease the same percentage. However, when is the last time the cost of living actually decreased?

Although fishing and hunting license fees have increased throughout the years, the increase ensures that the CDFW has adequate funding to manage California’s diverse fish and wildlife resources and provide the public with enjoyable fishing and hunting experiences.


Hunting by javelin?
Question: I just tried javelin throwing for the first time and it sparked an idea that I could hunt with this for big game mammals. But I can’t find it specified anywhere in the mammal hunting regulations booklet. Does this mean that since it isn’t mentioned it’s illegal to use to take down an animal? (Brent L.)

Answer: Yes, you are correct. Hunting by spear or javelin is not a legal method of take for big 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.

 

How Well Can Waterfowl See?

Wood duck (Photo © Carrie Wilson)

Wood duck (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: How well can ducks actually see? Can they see color? I know deer see different shades of gray, but what about ducks and geese? (David V.)

Answer: Waterfowl can control the curvature of both the lens and cornea (mammals, including humans, only control the lens). This is basically how birds can see extremely well while flying and while in the act of diving/feeding. In addition, their eyes act independently and they use one at a time to allow for depth-perception since nearly all waterfowl have monocular, not binocular, vision (they can’t stare forward at objects).

Another unique thing about waterfowl is they can see in almost all directions. A few ducks are the exception to the rule, but usually the eye placement allows them to view in many different directions at the same time. Secondly, waterfowl have a very high number of cones (which dictates color vision in humans) which allows them to see sharp images and have color vision where colors are more vivid than humans’ ability. The breadth of color vision is much wider than our own since UV light can be observed by waterfowl (UV light is absorbed by lenses in humans). This allows waterfowl to fly at night or feed in the dark or at low light conditions.


Diving in MPA reserves with game onboard?
Question: If I am on a commercial sport diving boat and we have legally caught lobster on board, may we go into a marine protected area (MPA) to dive and be assured that we will not get a ticket if we are boarded? We would of course have lobster report cards all properly filled out and the lobsters would be of legal size and taken beforehand in a legal area. Can the boat operator be assured that he will not be cited as well? (Rusty B., Montclair)

Answer: If you have lobsters on board your vessel, you may not dive in a marine reserve with gear that can be used to catch lobster (California Code of Regulations, Title 14, section 632 (a)(7) and (8)). A person can’t have their “fishing gear” deployed in the water when anchored or transiting through a marine reserve or other MPA that prohibits fishing for the species you have onboard. Thus, if a diver dives with a game bag and gloves, then it could be argued they have their lobster “fishing gear” in the water. If divers really want to dive in a marine reserve off their boat with catch on board, they should do everything possible to ensure it does not appear they will be pursuing/taking lobster. This would include stowing their completed lobster report card, along with the lobster and dive bags. A diver wearing gloves and diving with a game bag, or anything else that could be used to take fish, lobsters or abalone (a large dive knife or long stick with a hooked device, etc.) would appear to have another purpose in mind besides sightseeing. It would then be up to the wildlife officer to determine the appropriate action.


Are rules for selling on eBay different?
Question: From my understanding, it is illegal to sell deer skulls, deer antlers or deer mounts in the State of California. I know that eBay is based in California and they allow the sale of deer antlers, mounts and deer taxidermy. Obviously, they are receiving money from the online sale of deer parts so how did that come about, and has there been special legislation to cover it? Was this a decision allowed by the California government, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) or has it just happened this way? (Nate H.)

Answer: Just because eBay is selling these things or allowing them to be sold, doesn’t mean it’s legal. Fish and Game Code, section 3039 generally prohibits selling or purchasing any part of a bird or mammal found in the wild in California. Complete antlers, whole heads with antlers, antlers mounted for display or antlers in the velvet may not be sold or purchased at any time. However, shed antlers or antlers taken from domestically reared animals that have been manufactured into products or handcrafted items, or that have been cut into blocks or units which are to be handcrafted, may be purchased or sold. Deer hides can also be sold.


Who can validate big game tags?
Question: I have a question regarding who can validate big game tags. In the regulations booklet there is a list of persons who may validate/countersign big game tags, but I noticed there is no mention of County Agricultural Standards Inspectors. Each county has Agricultural and Standards Inspectors and/or Agricultural Biologists and Standards Inspectors who enforce the laws and regulations of California. Would a hunter be within their legal right to have their big game tag countersigned by such a person? (Andy R., Escondido)

Answer: No. Only those people listed in the regulations booklet are authorized to validate big game tags (CCR, Title 14, section 708.6).

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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 Don’t Some Deer Shed Their Antlers?

Stag1

Deer that don’t shed their antlers are commonly called “stags”. This is usually the result of some kind of injury (or maybe deformity) of the testicles. Weird looking antlers can also result from injury to the antlers while in velvet. (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: I recently heard about a few Southern California bucks that seem to carry their antlers year round. One person I heard from insisted they were mountain biking and repeatedly saw the same deer in January and in May with a 4×3 rack. While I disagreed with the person telling me this, I admitted I am no biologist and didn’t know what they were seeing. Do some deer out here not shed their antlers? I was under the impression that even though nutrition, water and climate might affect when they shed, that deer always shed their antlers. Can you share some info or point us in the right direction to learn more about the antler shedding process here in SoCal? (Al Q.)

Answer: Deer that don’t shed their antlers are commonly called “stags”. This is usually the result of some kind of injury (or maybe deformity) of the testicles. Testosterone plays a role in both antler development and shedding, so injuries can really affect the types of antlers they have. Weird looking antlers can also result from injury to the antlers while in velvet … but those kind usually fall off normally and are replaced the next year with “normal” antlers.

So, this proves there are indeed exceptions to every rule — even biological ones!


Incidental take while spear fishing?
Question: What happens if a spearfishing diver spots a large fish and shoots and spears it without realizing until too late that it’s a giant (black) sea bass or another prohibited species? Then after the fish is speared and brought to the surface, the spearfisher identifies they have a fish they can’t take or possess and promptly returns it to the ocean. Has the spearfisher violated any laws?

A fisherman (angler) who catches a prohibited species while fishing for other species can argue that the take was unintentional/incidental. Could the spearfisher successfully make a similar argument? (Steve H.)

Answer: Spear fishermen are responsible for identifying their targets before they pull the trigger and can be held accountable for shooting a prohibited species. They are also responsible for ensuring that any fish they shoot meets the minimum size limit requirements for that species, again, before they pull the trigger.

A short lingcod or illegal giant sea bass, for example, is unlikely to survive after being shot by a spear fisherman who has the ability to select his target carefully; a short or illegal fish is much more likely to survive being hooked and released by an angler fishing from a boat, who cannot selectively target which individual fish he wishes to catch.

If a diver is unsure about the size or identity of the fish he/she’s aiming at, he/she should choose a different target. Shooting a fish that you’re unsure of could be illegal, and we believe that many spear fishermen would consider it unethical, as well.

All of these same principles also apply to hunters. No one with a rifle, shotgun, spear gun or even bow should pull the trigger unless absolutely 100 percent sure that their intended target is of legal size, species, gender, etc. An accurate (or even lucky) shot made, but with an error in judgment, isn’t worth the repercussions of breaking the very laws enacted to protect the state’s fish and game.


Why the health warnings for brown trout?
Question: In the fishing regulations there are safe eating guidelines for Donner Lake. I am trying to figure out why there are different recommendations for brown trout compared to rainbow trout. The guidelines suggest people eat only one serving of browns vs. seven servings of rainbows. Why? (Tim Worley)

Answer: The recommendations in our regulation booklet are from the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA). The recommendations are probably from actual studies done by OEHHA of mercury levels in edible flesh from these two species from Donner Lake.

According to Dr. William Cox, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Program Manager of Fish Production and Distribution, we do not plant brown trout in Donner and so those fish are essentially wild and older in the system. Therefore, they have been on natural diets and accumulating mercury from the naturally occurring insects and aquatic life that comprises their food chain.

CDFW does plant rainbow trout in Donner as part of what we call a “put-and- take” fishery. For most of their lives those fish are not eating natural feeds, and are generally not piscivorous like the brown trout, so they accumulate much less mercury. Humans, especially children and women of child bearing ages, need to limit their intake of mercury because it can have serious health effects, including death.

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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 Problem Deer Are Not Relocated

Mule deer (USFWS photo)

Mule deer (USFWS photo)

Question: I live in the Christian Valley area above Auburn. The deer are overpopulated but they are protected in the area. The deer are starving and eat everything in sight. I’ve bought deer-resistant plants and cover them at night, but then they rip off the covering and devour my plants. I’ve spent hundreds of dollars to try to keep plants on my property. I’ve even bought coyote packets to scare them away, but they tear them off and go right by them. I try to chase these deer away but they are so domesticated now that they have charged me and kicked my dog. I need help! How can I get Fish and Wildlife to transfer the deer to a higher location? I love animals but the deer here are destroying all I’ve put out. (Mary N., Auburn)

Answer: Unfortunately, because most of the deer in your area are migratory, moving them up the hill won’t help as they will soon be moving back because of snow and forage availability anyway. More than that though, according to Game Species Conservation Program Manager Craig Stowers, it is the policy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to not move depredating deer. There are several reasons for this:

1)     Several studies (including one of our own) have indicated the survival rates for these animals are extremely low.

2)     The benefits from all wildlife captures must be weighed against the risks of injury/death to the individual animals and personnel involved. Since the survival rates are so low in these instances, the benefits most definitely do not outweigh the risks.

3)     There is a very real potential for introducing new diseases and/or parasites when moving animals from one area to another without health testing, and the only way that can effectively be done is through a quarantine process. Unfortunately, we don’t have the facilities for that and couldn’t take care of the deer long enough for test results to come back.

4)     Physical deterrence is the only proven long-term solution (fencing or some type of barrier). Even if we could move a large number of deer, there are others which would eventually move in to replace them.

As California becomes more urbanized, these types of problems will continue to increase in frequency. Traditional methods of managing wildlife populations are becoming increasingly unavailable to us, primarily because of public safety issues and changing societal values. CDFW has implemented a pilot project in the San Jose area to address a very similar problem and we are hopeful it can turn into something we can use in the future as these problems are only going to continue.


Cotton destruct for crab pots

A sport crab pot with a cotton destruct line that will eventually rot to allow the trap lid to open in the event the trap becomes lost (Photo courtesy of Captain Tom Mattusch of the F/V Huli Cat)

Breakaway lines on crab pots?
Question: Are cotton breakaway lines required on sport Dungeness crab pots? (Clinton M., Petaluma)

Answer: Breakaway lines are not required on sport crab pots, but using cotton twine to secure escape rings and crab pot doors is a very good idea. On lost pots, the cotton eventually rots away and opens the pot so that crabs and other marine life can more easily escape. Without the destruct device (such as rotten cotton or cotton twine), the pot essentially becomes a self-baiting trap). We encourage you to use traps with self-destructing components. Rotten cotton also works well on the elastic or rubber between the band and the hook. When the cotton breaks, the hook falls away and the door opens. The majority of sport crab pots do not have removable escape rings, so cotton between the hook and the elastic is better for the resource.


Duck hunting youth on refuge
Question: I am a minor (17 years old) but possess an adult hunting license. Can I transport a shotgun in my vehicle for duck hunting on one of the California refuges where you only have to be 16 years of age to hunt by yourself? (James M., Modesto)

Answer: Yes, as long as your shotgun is unloaded. Persons 16 or 17 years of age in possession of a valid resident or nonresident hunting license will be issued entry permits and may hunt by themselves, but may not be accompanied by apprentice hunters (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 551(h)).


Second rod stamp required for youth?
Question: My son is 11 years old. When I take him fishing at the lake and he fishes from shore, can he fish with two rods or must he stick with one rod only? (H. Tran)

Answer: Your son can fish with two rods. However, once he turns 16 he will need a fishing license and a second rod stamp in order to fish with two rods.

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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.

Hunting From a Houseboat?

Houseboat on Lake Shasta (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Houseboat on Lake Shasta (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: On Lake Shasta, I have heard of incidents where an archer shoots at deer on the shoreline adjacent to a beached houseboat. Is this a violation of Fish and Game Code, section 3004 which forbids the discharge of a deadly weapon within 150 yards of an occupied dwelling, residence or building? In addition, people on houseboats often throw out fruit and salad scraps for the deer to eat, so the deer have become conditioned to looking for an easy meal from houseboaters when they beach the boats. The deer wander down close to the houseboats where unscrupulous archers in houseboats or small aluminum boats prowl the shorelines near the houseboats looking for an easy kill. I can’t believe it’s legal to hunt deer from boats like this. What’s the law? Thanks for all you do. (John D., Shasta County)

Answer: Archery hunting from boats on Lake Shasta is a common practice and perfectly legal provided certain rules are followed. The lake is managed by the U.S. Forest Service and no hunting is allowed around boat ramps, marinas or campgrounds. Houseboats are considered dwellings (per FGC, section 3004), so hunting and discharging a firearm or bow within 150 yards is prohibited unless the hunters have specific permission from the boat’s occupants in advance. Hunting from boats is legal as long as when shooting the boat is not moving under the power or influence of a motor or sails (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 251(a)(1)). Feeding deer and all big game is illegal, and this includes tossing out fruits and salad scraps for the deer (CCR Title 14, section 251.3). I you see any of this activity going on, please call 1-888-DFG–CALTIP to report violations.


Dogs hunting fish?
Question: Some friends of mine recently sent me photos of their yellow lab “hunting” fish in a stream. They claim the dog can track and then bite the fish right out of the water. The dog then brings the fish (while still flopping) back up the beach to his master, where the fish then get cleaned and cooked. Apparently, this practice is legal back East where my friends live, so now I’m wondering about California. Can dogs be used/trained to “hunt” fish here? Since this is clearly a kind of “take,” is it legal? If so, what kind of license/tag would one need? (Thom C.)

Answer: If you review sections 2.00-2.45 in both the freshwater and ocean sport fishing regulation books, you will find the approved methods of take for harvesting fish, and using a dog is not a listed legal option (California Code of Regulations Title 14, sections 2.00– 2.45).


Sharing a hunt?
Question: My hunting partner has been very assiduous in accumulating points toward a cow elk hunt and estimates that he has two chances in three this year of getting a tag. He invited me along to help cut up the carcass and to share the meat. My question is can I can bring a rifle in case a finishing shot is needed? We would only tag one elk in any case, and naturally my hunting partner would get the first shot. He’s a pretty good shot so I expect the animal to go down quickly. I’m just wondering (Walter M., Lakewood).

Answer: Leave your rifle at home unless you have a tag. The only person authorized to take or assist in taking the elk is the person with the tag.


Residency requirements to buy a fishing license?
Question: I recently went to buy a California fishing license and noted I must declare that I have resided in California continuously for the past six months. My issue is I have residences in California, Idaho and Arizona. I utilize all of them during the year but don’t spend more than six months in any one of them. Do I have to buy a non-resident license in all three states? I’m a little confused so can you please clarify the law for my situation. (G. Dzida, Redlands)

Answer: California law is clear on the definition of a “resident.” A resident is defined as any person who has resided continuously in California for six months or more immediately before the date of application for a license, or persons on active military duty with the armed forces of the United States or an auxiliary branch or Job Corps enrollees.

If you are not a California resident by this definition, you cannot purchase a California resident license. However, if you have an Arizona fishing license with Colorado River Special Use Stamp affixed to it, you may take fish from a boat or other floating device on the Colorado River or adjacent waters that form the California-Arizona border.

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

Golden Sturgeon?

(CDFW photo)

Ryan Mayfield holding a white sturgeon (CDFW photo by Harry Morse)

Question: I caught a couple of sturgeon recently that were golden around the edges of the fins. I called them “golden sturgeon” but have never heard of sturgeon being this color. They were 40-45 inches in length. Could they just be young white sturgeon, or are they something else? (Dan)

Answer: According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Sturgeon Monitoring Program Manager Marty Gingras, California has only green and white sturgeon, and those species have never been hybridized. We’ve never seen or received reports of a white sturgeon that looked golden. A “golden sturgeon” is most likely a green sturgeon that appears a bit golden. Please remember that green sturgeon may not be removed from the water and must be released immediately (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 5.81(b)).

To differentiate between green and white sturgeon, here are a few quick and easy tips:

  • Dorsal scutes (bony plates) – Greens have 1-2 dorsal scutes trailing the dorsal fin, but on white sturgeon they are absent
  • Vent – Greens have the vent between the pelvic fins, but on white sturgeon it’s found toward the tail
  • Belly stripe – Present on greens but absent on white sturgeon.
  • Scutes along the side – Greens have 23-30 scutes while whites have 38-48

The first three characteristics above are most readily apparent and should help correctly identify the species. Sometimes the bluntness of the snout and location of barbels is mentioned, but these are variable and somewhat subjective.

You mentioned the fish you caught were 40-45 inches in length and you wondered if they were young. Unfortunately, not much is known about green sturgeon, but white sturgeon of that size are usually 10-15 years old, and quite likely have not yet  spawned for the first time.

For more information on sturgeon, please visit www.dfg.ca.gov/fish/Resources/Sturgeon/.


Are lighted arrow nocks legal for bowhunting?
Question: I would like to use luminocks or nocturnal lighted nocks on my hunting arrows to help better recover arrows after the shot. I’ve heard current laws were being amended to allow the use of lighted nocks on arrows for bowhunting. I plan to hunt for bear and deer but want to be sure they are legal in California? (Carl)

Answer: Yes. As of July 1, 2013, the following regulation was amended to specifically allow lighted nocks. Please see the last sentence below.

CCR Title 14, section 354(c): For the taking of big game, hunting arrows and crossbow bolts with a broad head type blade which will not pass through a hole seven-eighths inch in diameter shall be used. Mechanical/retractable broad heads shall be measured in the open position. For the taking of migratory game birds, resident small game, furbearers and nongame mammals and birds any arrow or crossbow bolt may be used except as prohibited by subsection (d) below. Notwithstanding the general prohibition of the use of lights in Fish and Game Code section 2005, arrows or crossbow bolts with lighted nocks that do not emit a directional beam of light may be used.


Video while fishing
Question: I am an avid videographer and I like to take a lot of video while fishing. I recently purchased a camera mount that will allow me to take underwater fishing videos while trolling. My plan is to set this up on a separate pole with heavy line to drag behind the boat as we fish. The only thing on the end of the line will be the weight and camera. There will be no lures or hooks on the line. The video will not be used in an attempt to take fish. Instead, I will use it later when I edit videos of my trip to provide hook up and action scenes. Is any of this against fish and game regulations? Can having the camera mounted at the end of the line on a pole not being used for fishing be considered as another rod in the water? Just want to make sure I am not doing anything wrong in case we get checked by a warden. (Gerry M.)

Answer: As long as the rod is used only for video equipment and is not as an additional rod to take salmon, this is all legal.


Replacing lost deer tags
Question: After a long search I am certain I have lost my deer tags. How do I get replacements before my hunt next Saturday? (Jim C., Yuba City)

Answer: Replacing a lost or destroyed big game tag (deer, bear and pig tags) can be done only through a CDFW license sales office and requires signing an affidavit and paying a fee of $9.79.  The duplicate tag can be obtained in person or through the mail.

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