Tag Archives: Diving

All That Glitters Is Not Legal

(Photo by DFG Marine Biologist Derek Stein)

Question: I have been studying up on different methods of spear fishing while free diving and have read about the use of “glitter” as an attractant for bait fish. I have an idea to sprinkle glitter in the water so that when the bait fish come to investigate, the large game fish will follow and be caught as they attack the bait fish!

What are your views and the legal ramifications of this method? I understand chumming is not legal for taking game animals in our state, but the use of artificial lures is. With my idea the game fish would not be chummed by this method but instead just attracted by the collection of bait fish. If this method actually works, would it be legal?  (Theodore G., Stockton)

Answer: You have an innovative idea there. Unfortunately, even if your plan to lure unsuspecting fish to you by sprinkling shiny, sparkling glitter in the water were to work, you could be cited for doing so. Placing glitter in the water is littering and is prohibited under Fish and Game Code, section 5652.

The activity you describe would be considered chumming. According to DFG Game Warden Michele Budish, chumming is defined as “placing any material in the water, other than on a hook while angling, for the purpose of attracting fish to a particular area in order that they may be taken” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.32). Chumming in the ocean is allowed, but chumming in freshwater is permissible only in specific areas and for certain fish species (see CCR Title14, sections 2.30 and 2.40).


Rare abalone die-off in Sonoma County
Question: I was diving in Sonoma County last weekend (Aug 28) in Fisk Mill Cove. The water was dirty as if there was a plankton bloom and visibility was only four to five feet. On my very first dive to about 12 feet I looked into a cave in the rocks with my light and saw something I’ve never seen before in 50 years of diving for abalone. There was an abalone laying upside down and clinging to a piece of kelp rather than clinging to a rock like usual. My dive partner told me he picked up two similar abalone on one dive. They were also in a rock cave just laying upside down on the rocks. Later we met two other divers who had been diving at Timber Cove the day before and they too came across a couple of abalone laying upside down on their shells among the rocks.

Have you heard or seen this before? Are these abalone dying? Is the plankton bloom doing something to the abs? Are the abs suffocating from the plankton bloom? Are the abalone ok to eat? (T. Yamashita)

Answer: What you observed last weekend in Sonoma County is a rare die off event and your observations are similar to many reports we’ve received from other abalone divers in the area. All of the reports mention abalone observed lying upside down on the bottom and the water a dark brown color with visibility less than a foot. Reports have come from Fort Ross State Park, Russian Gulch, Timber Cove and Salt Point State Park where the abalone are dying.

According to DFG Senior Marine Biologist Ian Taniguchi, these abalone deaths coincided with local phytoplankton blooms (red tide), accumulations of drift kelp and calm ocean conditions. Similar invertebrate die-offs have occurred along the North Coast in the past, typically inside protected coves and under similar ocean conditions. The abalone deaths may be due in part to the large phytoplankton bloom, but the investigation is still ongoing. While we don’t know exactly what’s causing the die-offs, we do know they are not due to Withering Foot Syndrome – a fatal disease found in some Southern California abalone.  Withering Foot Syndrome is specific to abalone (in this case, sea stars appear to be dying as well) and causes the abalone’s body to shrink (also not the case in this instance).

Large phytoplankton blooms can make some filter-feeding shellfish like mussels and clams toxic to humans and cause paralytic shellfish poisoning. Abalone are not filter-feeders though – they eat kelp and other seaweeds. At this time, the abalone season is still open and all harvest regulations remain in effect

The California Department Public Health (CDPH) is collecting samples of shellfish for analysis from the affected area and advises recreational consumers to be cautious and not consume seafood that may have been affected by the bloom. CDPH will post their analysis results as soon as they are available at http://www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/Pages/DDWEM.aspx.

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

Must Abalone Divers Carry Measuring Gauge and Fishing License Underwater?

Diver measures abalone with fixed-caliper measuring gauge (Photo by Ken Bailey)

Question: I believe the regulations say you must carry an abalone gauge and a fishing license when diving for abalone. Does that mean both need to be on my person when diving or is having those items in my float tube sufficient? (Mr. Chee)

Answer: It depends on the circumstances. The short answer is that they may be left in the dive tube only if the dive tube remains in your immediate possession.   The long explanation follows:

According to Department of Fish and Game (DFG) Lt. Dennis McKiver, all individuals including divers must have an Abalone Report Card in their immediate possession while fishing for or taking red abalone (California Code of Regulations Title 14, Section 29.16(a)). In addition, every person while taking abalone shall carry a fixed-caliper measuring gauge (CCR Title 14, section 29.15(f)). As long as the dive tube is in the immediate possession of diver, then the diver may leave their Abalone Report Card and abalone gauge in their dive tube. It is required that “undersize abalone must be replaced immediately to the same surface of the rock from which detached,” therefore it is always best if you carry your measuring gauge with you.

Let’s say you surface with an abalone and then have to swim a distance to retrieve your dive tube and abalone gauge, only to measure and discover the abalone is undersize. Now that you have had to swim away from the location where the abalone was taken, you may not be inclined or able to return and find “the same surface of the rock from which detached.” If you are being watched by the warden and fail to replace the abalone “immediately to the same surface of the rock from which detached,” then you might be cited for violating CCR Title 14, section 29.15(d), failure to immediately reattach abalone to the same surface of the rock from which detached, and also section 29.15(f), failure to carry a measuring device while taking abalone as required. The measuring device should remain in your immediate possession, so your best bet is to anchor your float tube close by so it doesn’t drift away while you are diving and your gauge and license are always close at hand.


Carrying more than one firearm while hunting?
Question: While hunting, is it legal to carry more than one firearm, not including handguns? I cannot locate any regulations that prohibit carrying a rifle and a shotgun together. (Jason H.)

Answer: Generally, carrying multiple firearms while hunting is not prohibited by Fish and Game laws. However, there may be restrictions if you are hunting in a specific wildlife area or refuge or during a restricted season, such as an archery-only season.

According to retired DFG Capt. Phil Nelms, exceptions to this general rule occur in certain areas and during seasons when all firearms are prohibited. Such exceptions include certain wildlife areas, refuges, areas with county firearms closures and archery only seasons/zones.

For the authorized methods of take for various categories of game and nongame birds/mammals, please check the hunting regulations (sections 311, 353, 465, 475 and 507 (for waterfowl)). The regulations are available online at www.dfg.ca.gov/regulations/.


Selling vintage Native American jewelry containing bear claws?
Question: I realize buying and selling bear claws is prohibited in California, but is there an exception in the law for vintage Native American jewelry? These pieces often include bear claws in their designs, which are an important part of their culture. They also, of course, in no way cause any damage to the current bear population. (Neil Z., Burbank)

Answer: Unfortunately, the purchase or sale of the pieces or parts of any bear is prohibited and the law does not provide any exception for Native American art pieces (Fish and Game Code, section 4758).


Disabled American Veteran Reduced Fee Licenses
Question: I am a disabled American veteran. Can I purchase the reduced fee fishing license online? How about the reduced fee hunting license online? (Randolph Toy)

Answer: No, you will need to purchase these licenses initially from a DFG office because you will need to fill out the reduced fee forms. Once you are in the system, you will be able to purchase these licenses online in the future.

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

Turning a Waterski Kneeboard into an Abalone Diving Rig?

Red abalone with tealia (Photo by DFG Marine Biologist Derek Stein)

Question:What is the definition of a boat or vessel? I ask because I am altering an old waterski kneeboard into a specialized abalone diving rig with a small anchor so I can accurately place my board closer to abalone. It’s a smaller version of a surfboard. It has no sails, rudders, oars or motor but does have an anchor. The anchor will be a marker for me to follow down on my next breath. I am wondering though if by adding this anchor I am making it into what will be construed to be a vessel? (Devin G.)

Answer: There is no prohibition against using a kneeboard instead of a float tube, which is much more common for abalone. A diver may use an anchor on a float tube or kneeboard if they choose to, but most just tie a line to a piece of kelp to keep the tube in place. What you describe is a legal device to access an abalone diving spot as long as you are not using SCUBA equipment. A kneeboard would not be considered a boat or vessel so you will not need to tag your abalone and fill out your card until you return to shore.


Retaining just one claw when crabbing?
Question: Our fishing club is planning a fishing trip for local crab out of the Santa Monica Bay area. Some people in the group insist we should only keep one claw from each crab so they can be put back to grow another claw and still live. I know with lobsters we are instructed to leave them whole until they are ready for consumption to allow the game warden to verify it’s a legal catch. Is it legal to keep only one claw, or do we need the entire crab to allow the game warden to verify? (Jerry E.)

Answer: You are required to take the whole legal-sized crab to prove your crab is of legal size. Possessing just claws would be a violation because the size of the crabs they came from cannot be determined (Fish and Game Code, section 5508). Crabs also carry a lot of meat in the body. Crab season for all crabs of the genus Cancer (except Dungeness crabs) is open all year. The size limit in Southern California is four inches and the part of the crab that we measure is the main body shell (edge of shell to edge of shell at the widest part).

While crabs may be able to regenerate lost claws under good conditions, crabs with only one claw have a far tougher time fending off predators than if they had both claws for protection. Predators will go after any weakened animal, so just removing a claw may be considered a waste of fish – also a state violation.


A two-day nonresident hunting license to shoot pigs?
Question: My friend is coming to California soon and I’d like to take him out pig hunting. Since we’ll only have a couple of days available to hunt, can he just purchase a two-day nonresident license to cover him on the days we hunt? It seems like a waste to buy a full license for only a few days of hunting. (Jared H., Coalinga)

Answer : Unfortunately, no. The two-day hunting license is only valid for taking resident small game and nongame birds/mammals and is not valid for big game species in California.. Your friend would be required to buy an annual nonresident license and a current nonresident wild pig tag.


Coastal Access?
Question: I have a coastal/waterway access question. If a stream with a state highway marker goes under the Pacific Coast Highway and into a beached cove, can I walk down the center of the stream to the ocean and go for a swim? The land surrounding the stream is private, and the landowners would like to assert that no access to the cove is allowed, even from a boat. (Mike Pinkerton)

Answer: In California land is deeded under flowing stream channels, so you would be trespassing. If the land is posted with no trespassing signs at 1/3 mile intervals, fenced or under cultivation you could be cited for this violation (Penal Code, section 602.8). The water you described is state water and as long as you were floating on the water, such as in a boat, there would be no violation.

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