Tag Archives: freshwater fishing

How to Identify Hatchery vs Wild Trout

Angler with a wild Klamath River Steelhead that was soon released. (DFG Photo)

Angler with a wild Klamath River Steelhead that was soon released. (CDFW Photo)

Question: How do you tell a hatchery trout from a wild trout in Central Valley rivers? The regulations for the Stanislaus River below Goodwin Dam state you can keep two hatchery trout or hatchery steelhead. Hatchery steelhead have clipped adipose fins. If I catch a trout and it has an adipose fin, do I just assume it’s not a hatchery trout? (Judi A.)

Answer: Hatchery trout or hatchery steelhead are those showing a healed adipose fin clip (adipose fin is absent). Unless otherwise provided, all other trout and steelhead must be immediately released. Wild trout or steelhead are those not showing a healed adipose fin clip (adipose fin is present) (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 7.50).


Squirrels for crabs
Question: Can legally taken California ground squirrels (a non-game mammal) be used for bait in Dungeness crab traps? (Bret H.)

Answer: Yes, ground squirrels can be used as bait, but remember they are also vectors of a number of flea borne diseases, so use caution when handling them.


Hunting around my house
Question: I live in a rural area. Can I legally hunt within 150 yards of my own residence? Can I hunt within 150 yards of anyone else’s if I have their written permission? (Jess K.)

Answer: Yes. These are safety zone restrictions but as long as there are no other local laws or ordinances that prohibit hunting or the discharge of a firearm, then you can hunt within 150 yards of your own residence or any other residence where you have obtained express permission of the owner or person in possession of the premises (FGC section 3004(a). (LED Feb 14)


Catch and release fishing during a closed season
Question: In the freshwater regulation hand book under Section 1.38 it states: “CLOSED SEASON. That period during which the taking of fish, amphibians, reptiles, mollusks or crustaceans is prohibited.” This leads to my question regarding whether a person can still fish during a closed season as long they release all the fish they catch? In other words, I would practice catch and release and use barbless hooks to protect the fish from further harm. The regulation restricts the taking of fish, but no fish will be taken. I am very confused. Can you help clarify? It’s kind of twisted and confusing. (Robin O.)

Answer: Fishing during a closed season is prohibited, period. Even though you don’t intend to take any fish away with you, the definition of take is to “Hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill fish, amphibians, reptiles, mollusks, crustaceans or invertebrates or attempting to do so” (CCR Title 14, section 1.80). Therefore, despite your best methods, even the attempt to fish is prohibited.

There are few exceptions, but the take of crayfish other than with hook and line is authorized when a stream is otherwise closed to fishing (CCR Title 14, section 5.35(e)). Typically, crayfish may be taken only by hand, hook and line, dip net or with traps not over three feet in greatest dimension (CCR Title 14, section 5.35). Most crayfish have no limit and the season is open all year. However, Shasta crayfish are protected and so there are specific river and lake closures listed for their protection in the 2014-2015 California Freshwater Fishing Regulations booklet (see page 21), as well as online at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/regulations/. Look for subsection (d) of this section for the closed waters to avoid.


Taking crabs by SCUBA
Question: I am heading to the beach this weekend, I bought a fishing license and I am planning to do some SCUBA diving. Can I take a big bag with me and collect up to 35 rock crabs from the ocean using SCUBA? (Jimmy P.)

Answer: Yes. Take of all crabs of the Cancer genus, except Dungeness crabs, but including yellow crabs, rock crabs, red crabs and slender crabs is allowed all year. While using SCUBA, crabs may be taken by hand only with no hooked devices in possession (CCR Title 114, section 29.80(g)).

The limit is 35 and the minimum size is four inches measured by the shortest distance through the body, from edge of shell to edge of shell at the widest part, except there is no minimum size in Fish and Game districts 8 and 9 (around Humboldt Bay). They may be brought to the surface of the water for measuring, but no undersize crabs may be placed in any type of receiver, kept on the person or retained in any person’s possession or under his direct control; all crabs must be measured immediately and any undersize crabs must be released immediately into the water (CCR Title 14, section 29.85 (b)(c)).

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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

When Cattle Run Feral …

Feral cattle (photo from  Wikimedia Commons)

Feral cattle do not exist in Fish and Game regulations. To harvest them may constitute cattle rustling and land a person in jail with a hefty fine! (Wikimedia Commons photo)

Question: I know of people seeing feral cattle in a wilderness area where I hunt. The area is miles from the nearest maintained trail at elevations where bighorns are found. Rangers also confirm the cattle are feral, as in left behind by the ranchers who used to run cattle in the area. What are the laws regarding taking feral cattle in California? I know other states, such as Colorado, allow it year round, unregulated. (Stephen M.)

Answer: “Feral cows” do not exist in Fish and Game regulations because all cattle are considered domestic (not wild or feral) livestock and are someone’s property. California may have feral pigs but there is no such thing as a feral cow. Cattle all belong to someone until that right of ownership is relinquished, and ranchers do lease cattle grazing rights on public property.

It would be a felony to kill another’s cow without their permission (grand theft) and therefore unlawful for you to “harvest” cattle from the wilderness area, or any other place for that matter, without written permission. When cattle do gain access to a wildlife area, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has the authority to relocate them under the provisions of the California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 550(b)(16).

Bottom line … if you try to do this yourself, you may be arrested for cattle rustling and find yourself in jail for up to six months along with facing a hefty fine.


Colorado River stamp no longer required?
Question: I hear that the Colorado River Stamp was discontinued for 2014. If so, what license or stamps do I need to fish in the Colorado River now? (Glenn U.)

Answer: Yes, the Colorado River Special Use Validation has been discontinued. California and Arizona have entered into an agreement for the reciprocal recognition of licenses to fish any portion of the Colorado River that is the boundary between California and Arizona. With a California sport fishing license or an Arizona sport fishing license, you can fish from either shore, or from a boat, in the portion of the Colorado River that makes up the California-Arizona boundary and connected adjacent water that is the boundary between Arizona and California. Anglers holding California sport fishing licenses abide by California regulations, and anglers holding Arizona sport fishing licenses abide by Arizona regulations. This agreement does not apply to canals, drains or ditches used to transport water for irrigation, municipal or domestic purposes.


When is it legal to shoot across water?
Question: In one of your Cal Outdoors answers you laid out the parameters of hunting from a boat. How can this be legal if you are not allowed to shoot across water? (Keith and Julie B.)

Answer: While it is illegal to shoot across a roadway, it is not illegal to shoot across water as long as the shooter is able to clearly see their target and can do so safely. Shooting from any “platform” which is not stable is unsafe, and discharging a rifle across a body of water is extremely dangerous due to the likelihood of the bullet ricocheting in an unintended direction. Shot shells do not present this danger to the same degree.


Taking non-licensed passengers along as observers while fishing?
Question: As an avid fisherman with a private vessel, I often take friends out hoop netting or fishing. Often these friends are perfectly happy to operate my boat while I tend the fishing line(s) or hoop nets. Do these companions need to have a fishing license as long as we follow the bag limits and limits on nets and lines in the water for a single fisherman? It is often a spur of the moment decision to go out, and sending my guest off to get a license for one or two hours of fishing is inconvenient at best. (Jack Z.)

Answer: You are welcome to take non-licensed passengers along to observe you while fishing or hoop netting as long they do not engage at all in any of the actual sport fishing activities. It is only in the commercial fishing industry where those who assist with the boat handling and other tasks need to have their own commercial fishing license.

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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.

Donating Fish to Charity for a Tax Deduction?

(CDFW file photo)

(CDFW file photo)

Question: In a recent column you said it is legal to donate excess fish from a multi-day fishing trip to a church or non-profit shelter as long as no compensation is received. What about a tax deduction? This way the guys with too many fish donate to the churches, the churches feed the hungry and the fisherman gets a deduction and doesn’t have to worry about dead fish to clean. Everyone wins! What do you think? (Dick L.)

Answer: Sorry, but while this might sound like a great idea, donated fish cannot be claimed as a tax deduction because you cannot assign a value to sport-caught fish. The best thing for anglers to do is to catch and keep only what they know they will actually use so that they don’t end up with excess fish to clean and donate.


Night fishing
Question: We love to fish for crappie and are wondering if it is legal to fish for them at night. I am not aware of any California lakes that allow night fishing using lights off of your boat. Is this legal, and if so, what bodies of water allow this type of fishing? Thanks for all of your weekly information (W. Yamamoto).

Answer: Night fishing for crappie is permitted by the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFW) as long as the lake where you plan to fish permits fishing at night (CCR Title 14, section 2.15). Some lakes prohibit night fishing for purposes of access control, safety or security reasons. You will need to contact the agency or concessionaire managing the lake to inquire about their policy.


Fishing from my private dock?
Question: I live right on the river and can fish from my backyard off my private dock. Do I need a fishing license? I heard if it is private property you do not need a license. (Eric)

Answer: What you heard was not correct. You do need a fishing license because it’s not a matter of where you’re standing, it’s a matter of the waters you’re fishing in. All rivers of the state are public waters, and all fish contained in those waters are public fish. Even if a stream or river runs through private property, all of the fish within those waters belong to the people of California, and thus a fishing license is required. The only places where you would not need a fishing license would be if you were fishing in a pond on private property that has no stream or creek water flowing into it or out of it. The water must be completely self-contained so that no fish from outside of the property can swim into it or swim out of it. The only other place where you can fish without a fishing license is on a public pier in the ocean (CCR Title 14, section 1.88).


Hunter Ed reciprocity between states?
Question: I took a hunter education class in Missouri and have a hunter’s safety card issued from there but recently moved to California and would like to hunt here. Do I have to complete another hunter ed course in California or can I just purchase a hunting license using my old card? (Steve H.)

Answer: No, California accepts hunter education certificates from other states as proof you have completed an approved course in the past. You can also present a previous hunting license from another state as proof to buy a California hunting license. But despite the fact you may not need to take a California hunter education class, you still may want to consider one. It’s a good idea for everyone to periodically update their knowledge with a refresher course and a review of the 10 commandments of handling a firearm. Our hunter education program is always improving and most people do benefit from a refresher. For a calendar list of more than 200 hunter education classes offered throughout the state, please go to www.dfg.ca.gov/huntered/classes.aspx).


Casting for squid?
Question: Is it legal to use a standard cast net to catch squid in the ocean or are only dip nets allowed? (Hai L.)

Answer: Hawaiian type throw nets or cast nets are legal to use to take squid if used north of Point Conception. In waters south of Point Conception, only hand-held dip nets are allowed (CCR Title 14, section 28.80).

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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.