Tag Archives: freshwater fishing

Bowfishing from a Moving Vehicle?

Bowfishing for carp in Big Bear Lake (Photo courtesy of John Poimiroo)

Bowfishing for carp in Big Bear Lake is one of the methods used by water managers to help control the growing invasive carp population. Big Bear is also a popular lake for bowfishing anglers and carp fishing derbies. (Photo courtesy of John Poimiroo)

Question: I get stopped and questioned by officers fairly often while bowfishing. I have been trying to find out more information about the bowfishing regulations but the freshwater sport fishing guide is unclear to me. Is it legal to bowfish from a moving vehicle, like from the bed of a pickup? Is it legal to bowfish in the California Aqueduct or State Water Project? I was told by an officer that it was not. (Justin F.)

Answer: No arrow or crossbow bolt may be released from a bow or crossbow upon or across any highway, road or other way open to vehicular traffic (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 354(e)). In addition, no person may nock or fit the notch in the end of an arrow to a bowstring or crossbow string in a ready-to-fire position while in or on any vehicle (CCR Title 14, section 354(i)).

Regarding where and what you may take while bowfishing, “bow and arrow fishing is permitted only for the taking of carp, goldfish, western sucker, Sacramento blackfish, hardhead, Sacramento pikeminnow and lamprey, all year, except in:

• Designated salmon spawning areas (Fish and Game Code, section 1505).

• The Colorado River District where only carp, tilapia, goldfish and mullet may be taken.

• The east fork of the Walker River between Bridgeport Dam and the Nevada state line where only carp may be taken” (CCR Title 14, section 2.25).

Bullfrogs may also be taken by bowfishing under some conditions (CCR Title 14, section 5.05).


Hunting on an Indian reservation?
Question: The Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT) Reservation is in deer zone D12 along the Colorado River. D12 maps show that all of this land is legal to hunt with a California hunting license and deer tags right up to the Colorado River. Can I legally hunt on CRIT Reservation land because it is within California D12, or should I stay away from reservation land? (Anonymous)

Answer: A person who is not a tribal member and wishes to hunt on the CRIT Reservation would have to comply with both California and tribal law, which requires a hunting license issued by the CRIT in addition to a California hunting license and deer tag. You should contact the CRIT’s Fish and Game Department and consult the CRIT Natural Resources Code for further information about hunting on this Reservation. CRIT contact information and the CRIT Natural Resources Code is available at http://www.crit-nsn.gov/.


Rules on drones in Marine Protected Areas?
Question: What are the rules regarding drones? Specifically, are there any regulations regarding flying drones in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)? (Jeanée Natov)

Answer: It is a violation to fly any aircraft, including any airplane or helicopter, less than 1,000 feet above water or land over the Año Nuevo State Reserve, the Farallon Islands Game Refuge, the Point Lobos State Reserve, the California Sea Otter Game Refuge, and Anacapa, San Miguel, Santa Barbara and San Nicolas Islands, except for rescue operations, in case of any emergency, or for scientific or filmmaking purposes under a permit issued by the department after a review of potential biological impacts (Fish and Game Code, section 10501.5).

Federal regulators of the FAA and NOAA also restrict the use of drones. Flying motorized aircraft (except valid law enforcement) is prohibited less than 1000 ft. above any of the four zones of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary which are listed in Appendix B (Code of Federal Regulations Title 15, section 922.132(a)(6)). Individuals should consult the MPA- specific regulations in section 632 of Title 14 for special restrictions for individual MPAs. There may be additional regulations prohibiting disturbance of nesting and rafting birds offshore that are covered under federal law.


Firearm for self defense during archery season?
Question: During an archery hunt, can a member of your group who is a licensed hunter, but does not have a deer tag, be in possession of a firearm strictly for self-defense? I will be archery hunting for the first time this year and I plan to travel into the backcountry on foot. A friend who will be coming with me has always had reservations about traveling in bear/mountain lion habitat unarmed due to some unfortunate run-ins in his past. (Kevin K.)

Answer: If it helps put you at greater ease, dangerous encounters by hunters with bears and lions are extraordinarily rare. As long as the person is not hunting with archery equipment, does not have a tag, and is simply accompanying you, then he may carry a firearm. You must be in a location where it is legal to carry a firearm, and your friend cannot assist in the take in any way.

With limited exceptions for active or retired peace officers, archery hunters may not possess a firearm while hunting in the field during any archery season, or while hunting during a general season under the provisions of an archery-only tag (CCR Title 14, section 354(h)).

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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.

Night Fishing or Sleep Fishing?

(Creative commons photo)

(Creative commons photo)

Question: The other night while camping/fishing at Clear Lake, the whole campground was bombarded by a sting of rangers at 4 a.m. waking up campers with flashlights in our eyes to check fishing licenses. I was in my tent looking through the window at my poles and popped out when I heard someone walking up on our campsite. It was a ranger and he said I was not allowed to sleep with my poles in the water (I wasn’t asleep, but that’s beside the point). My poles were about 6-8 feet from me and he told us that if we wanted to sleep we had to reel them in. Our poles had bells on them and glowsticks. He said we weren’t “actively fishing.” Is this correct? Catfishing at night with a bell on your pole and being woken up by a jingle jingle has always been pretty standard stuff. Can you please clarify this? (Adam S., Lodi)

Answer: The ranger was correct. If you have your hook and line in the water, it must be closely attended. Angling is defined as taking fish by hook and line with the line held in the hand, or with the line attached to a pole or rod held in the hand or closely attended in such a manner that the fish voluntarily takes the bait or lure in its mouth (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.05). If you are angling with a pole not in your hand, you should be closely attending and watching it and able to immediately grab the rod to reel it in if a fish bites your hook.

The reason for the law is to reduce hooking mortality for fish that swallow a baited hook and then struggle against the line. If the hook is impaled, the line will restrict gill movement. If you were to catch an undersized bass or trout at night, it may not pull hard enough on the line to disturb you from the tent, and then the fish would likely be dead when you checked your line the next morning.

Bottom line … fishing from inside your tent, whether you’re asleep or not, is not considered “actively fishing” or closely attending to your fishing line.


Can restaurants prepare and serve customers’ sport-caught abalone?
Question: I have a question regarding abalone used for commercial restaurant use. Would it be illegal for someone to catch abalone (legally according to current regulations) on their property, and then sell and serve it to customers at their own restaurant located on their property? Are restaurants allowed to sell wild abalone at all? (Katelyn S.)

Answer: No, it is not legal for someone to catch abalone under a California sport fishing license and then serve it as a meal to a paying customer no matter where the restaurant is located. Fish and invertebrates caught under the authority of a sport fishing license may not be bought, sold, traded or bartered (Fish and Game Code, section 7121). Sport-caught abalone may be given away but cannot be sold in any form, even if it’s being made into a meal.

In most cases, sport-caught abalone,may not even be possessed in a restaurant. The only exception would be if the person who lawfully took or otherwise legally possessed the abalone remained present on the premises while the restaurant cook/chef prepared the abalone for consumption by the person who lawfully took it (FGC, section 2015).

Currently, there is no legal commercial fishery for California’s native abalone (FGC, sections 5521 and 5521.5). However, there are licensed abalone aquaculture farms in the state that raise abalone for the commercial market, as well as commercial fish businesses that import wild-caught and aquaculture abalone into California through a special CDFW importation permit. No non-native, live abalone may be imported into California, though.


Bone collector donates preserved specimens to local schools
Question: I am a bone collector. I have been collecting my entire life but have recently been able to clean and preserve specimens at a museum level. I mainly collect local native species that have fallen victim as “road kill” but I also collect on hikes and at the beach. After I clean and preserve a specimen, I donate it to local schools. I was wondering if there might be any licensing available for this kind of work. I would love to have some documentation to share in the event I run into the authorities. I have a biology degree and happily offer all specimens for educational benefit. Thank you for your time and consideration.  (Anonymous)

Answer: To legally do what you are proposing, you will need to have a scientific collecting permit issued through the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to operate as a biological collector for various schools or institutions in need of specimens. See California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 650 for further information. Mountain lions require a special permit. See CCR Title 14, section 251.4

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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.

Explosive Numbers of Wild Turkeys Causing Havoc

Wild Turkeys (CDFW photo)

Wild Turkeys (CDFW photo)

Question: I live in the San Francisco East Bay and in my neighborhood there has been an explosion in the numbers of wild turkeys roaming freely and they are causing havoc wherever they go! These birds destroy flower beds and yards with their endless search for food. They relieve themselves frequently leaving a mess able to be tracked into peoples’ residences and family vehicles. A small child’s toys may even come into contact with their biological waste. These turkeys travel in large groups. I have even counted two separate groups numbering 25 large turkeys. They don’t have many natural predators except maybe larger dogs, but the turkeys steer clear of those yards. Cats only fear them. The only predator that can make a difference is MAN. Any suggestions? (Jimmy W.)

Answer: There are a few things that you and your neighbors can do. First of all, do whatever you can to discourage them from getting too comfortable on your property and becoming permanent residents. Talk to all of your neighbors to make sure no one is feeding or providing them water (e.g. fountains, dog dishes, bird baths, etc.). Also, make sure no one is leaving pet food out. You and your neighbors can always try hazing them with non-lethal methods, such as a quick spray with a hose or a motion-detecting sprinkler.

To curtail the problems with unwanted droppings under their roosts, remove the areas where they perch or else use bird spikes to make perches inhospitable. You can also try stringing visible lines to disrupt their flight paths. If none of these actions prove effective and the turkeys are causing substantial property damage, and if you’ve exhausted all other methods, your last option may be to contact the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) for  issuance of a depredation permit to authorize the lethal removal of the turkeys. Relocating turkeys is not an option.


Can shore anglers use a kayak to drop baited lines over fish?
Question: While my wife and I were camping at Lake Comanche last week we observed two young men arrive in a pickup with a small kayak in the back. As they prepared to fish in the pond section, one of the guys took the kayak out to look for fish using his polarized sunglasses while the other set their rods up on the bank. Once the guy in the kayak found where the fish were hanging out, he went back to the bank and prepared four very large baits. One of the baits looked like roe and three others looked like chicken intestines. He then loaded them one at a time into his kayak and rowed back out to drop the baited lines over the fish he’d found while his friend held the rods on the bank. They repeated this action until all four baited lines were fishing. We didn’t stay around to see what they caught, but when they were leaving in the dark I asked them how they did. Their reply was that they’d caught several fish.

Were these men fishing legally? If not and we observe this action again, should we call CalTIP? (Robert H.)

Answer: Each angler could use bait to fish with two rods if they both had second-rod validations. If one of them handled all four rods while the other dropped the baits, it could be a problem because one person would then be angling with four rods. To comply with the letter of the law, they would have to switch roles after two of the lines were set. They could also only use up to three baited hooks on each line.


What’s wanton waste of fish?
Question: What would be considered deterioration or waste of fish? I understand that leaving them on the shoreline or in a garbage can would be waste, but would it also apply to using the whole fish as fertilizer or something like that? (Zach T.)

Answer: Anglers are expected to make reasonable efforts to retrieve and utilize any fish taken. It is unlawful to cause or permit any deterioration or waste of any fish taken in the waters of this state (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.87). Although most fish taken under the authority of sport fishing licenses are utilized for human consumption, the regulation does not prescribe how fish are to be used.


Sturgeon card required for anglers under 16 years old?
Question: If I am taking fishermen that are under 16 who do not yet need fishing licenses sturgeon fishing, do they need sturgeon tags? (John B., Livermore)

Answer: Yes. Anglers under 16 are exempt only from having to purchase a sport fishing license. However, they must still purchase and carry report cards for any fishery with report card requirements and follow all other sport fishing regulations.

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

What Information Can Be Collected from Banded Birds?

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

Aggressive Deer Gone Rogue in Local Park

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Steelhead vs. Rainbow Trout – What’s the Difference?

Angler with wild Klamath River Steelhead (released).

Angler with wild Klamath River Steelhead (prior to release).

Question: I’d like to try steelhead fishing for the first time on the American River. I will purchase a regular California fishing license and adhere to all regulations, but do I have to purchase the steelhead card if I don’t intend to keep any steelhead? If so, why can’t one be fishing for regular (rainbow) trout in the same river without a steelhead card? (Lilly K.)

Answer: It can be a bit confusing because steelhead trout and rainbow trout are the same fish. Its scientific name is Oncorhynchus mykiss (O. mykiss). Generally speaking, O. mykiss found in land-locked freshwater with no access to the ocean is a rainbow trout and steelhead trout are O. mykiss fish found in anadromous waters, which are waters with unimpeded access to the ocean where they live the majority of their life and come back to freshwater to spawn.

For practical purposes and to facilitate compliance, fishing regulations differentiate between rainbow and steelhead in anadromous waters by a 16-inch size threshold. O. mykiss smaller than 16-inches is a rainbow trout, and bigger than 16-inches is a steelhead. Fishing for steelhead, meaning any O mykiss in excess of 16-inches, in anadromous waters including the Lower American River below Nimbus Dam in Sacramento County, will require purchase of a Steelhead Report Card, even if you practice catch-and-release (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 5.88).

The report card provides important data to fishery scientists and requires an entry for each day that you fish and statistics on all fish caught and released. Fishing for O. mykiss less than 16-inches does not require a steelhead report card.


Does sardine fishery closure mean no more sardines for live bait?
Question: I heard in the news last week that the sardine fishery will be closing because it’s been overfished. Is this true? If so, how will this impact sport fishermen who rely on sardines for live bait? What about for fishermen who catch them incidentally on hook and line or who target them on sabiki and similar rigs off piers, jetties, etc.? (Steve C.)

Answer: The season for the current directed commercial sardine fishery has closed. There will also be a prohibition for next season for the same fishery due to a declining stock, but the decline is not due to overfishing. Anglers will be happy to know that these closures have no effect on either live bait or recreational take of sardine. These catches are not considered as part of the prohibition on directed commercial take. Currently, there is no limit on the recreational take of Pacific sardine (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 27.60(b)).

Biomass (population numbers) and commercial catch of Pacific sardine have fluctuated since the early part of last century. Over the past couple of years, the biomass of Pacific sardine has been declining. These fluctuations and the recent decline are primarily due to natural large scale changes in oceanic temperature, and studies show that biomass has fluctuated on a decadal scale for thousands of years. For more information on management of the West Coast Pacific sardine stock, please see the Pacific Fishery Management Council website (www.pcouncil.org/).

For more information about Pacific sardine history, research, and management in California, please visit California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW’s) Pacific sardine web site at www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/cpshms/pacificsardine.asp.


Spotting abalone for friends while on probation?
Question: I was cited for an abalone violation for failure to tag immediately out of the water last year (I went up to my car to grab a pen and ran into a ranger). My probation states 12 months of no fishing. Would it be legal to still go out with my buddies and spot abalones for them? I would obviously not carry an abalone iron. (Jingsong W.)

Answer: No. The law defines take as “hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill, or attempt to hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill” (FGC, section 86). If you are helping your buddies by spotting abalone for them to harvest, you are pursuing and hunting for abalone, which constitutes take.


Black bear claw necklace?
Question: I have a necklace that contains black bear claws that were legally taken in Wisconsin a couple of generations ago. They were part of a rug until it fell apart from age and moths. I would like to pass it along to my grandson as he is involved in Cub Scout activities. It would be a gift being passed down from one generation to another. Is it legal for him to possess it in California? In keeping with the scouting traditions, I want to make sure we are doing things legally and properly. (Robert S., Texas)

Answer: Yes, you can give this family treasure to your grandson but Fish and Game Code, section 4758, prohibits the sale or purchase of bear parts in California.

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