Tag Archives: hunting

What’s the Level of Wildlife Officers’ Search Authority?

CDFW Wildlife Officers have broad search authority. Hunters and anglers are required by law to exhibit upon demand all licenses, tags, wildlife, fish, and any device or apparatus designed to be, and capable of being, used to take fish and/or wildlife.

CDFW Wildlife Officers have broad search authority. People are required by law to exhibit upon demand all licenses, tags, wildlife, fish, and any device or apparatus designed to be, and capable of being, used to take fish and/or wildlife (CDFW photo)

Question: Do California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) wardens have the authority to search a sportsperson’s truck, boat, cooler, etc. without a warrant or probable cause? If so, how would an abalone check point (for example) not be a blatant violation of the Fourth Amendment of the constitution? I’m all for stopping poachers, but not at the cost of violating what makes our country so special. Thanks. (John McClellan)

Answer: In the hunting and fishing context, wildlife officers are authorized to conduct compliance inspections that would likely require warrants or probable cause in other contexts. Hunting and fishing are highly regulated activities. The fish and wildlife belong to the people of the state and not to any individual. Many states, including California, recognize this and have enacted statutes to allow Wildlife Officers to conduct regulatory inspections when interacting with those who are engaged in hunting and fishing activities. Some of these include:

• Authorization to inspect boats, buildings other than dwellings, and containers that may contain fish or wildlife (Fish and Game Code, section 1006)

• Authorization to “enter and examine any…place of business where fish or other fishery products are packed, preserved, manufactured, bought or sold, or to board any fishing boat…or vehicle or receptacle containing fish…and may examine any books and records containing any account of fish caught, bought, canned, packed, stored or sold.” (Fish and Game Code, section 7702)

Also, people are required to exhibit upon the demand of a wildlife officer all licenses, tags, wildlife, and any device or apparatus designed to be, and capable of being, used to take wildlife (Fish and Game Code, section 2012)

The courts have consistently upheld these inspection authorities. As for check points, CDFW has used check points for the past 25 years as a focused and effective means of educating resource users and deterring violations of our wildlife laws. In a state as vast as California with a population of over 38 million people and with a staff of only 400 sworn officers, CDFW needs to ensure that the funds and manpower resources we have are put to the most efficient use possible. Conducting checkpoints allows us to contact thousands of people who are using our public trust resources with a handful of officers. For those who are not using our public trust resources, the check points provide us an opportunity to educate them about our state’s wildlife resources and our role in protecting those resources. The courts have established minimum standards that must be followed when we conduct checkpoints, but just like DUI checkpoints, wildlife checkpoints have been upheld by the courts.


Helping friends fill their deer tags?
Question: If a group of friends go hunting for a week, and one of the hunters tags a buck on the first day, can he continue to carry his loaded rifle with him and help his friends fill their tags? If not, can he only help with spotting and drives without a weapon? (Rod P., Napa)

Answer: Once a hunter takes a deer and fills his tag, he may accompany other hunters but cannot assist them in any way in the take of additional deer. In addition, he should leave his rifle behind. Otherwise, if encountered in the field with a rifle or other method of take, wildlife officers may determine the person assisting the hunters is also actively hunting.


Fishing for rockfish and fishing crab snares simultaneously?
Question: Can a kayak/boat angler use one line to take rockfish and then fish a crab snare with another line? In this case, a hand line tied off to his kayak? (Anonymous)

Answer: The law requires that when fishing for rockfish, only one line with no more than two hooks may be used. However, in this case, an angler may also fish for crabs at the same time with a line that attaches to a crab loop trap because these traps will not likely catch rockfish. If approached by a wildlife officer, the angler should be prepared to explain up front that only one line contains two hooks for rockfish and the other line is attached to a crab loop trap. Remember that crab loop traps are restricted to six loops.


Pelagic red crabs
Question: The pelagic red crabs (tuna crabs) are drifting in with the warm El Niño waters and washing up on beaches everywhere. I’d like to use them for bait. Are there any regulations to be aware of? (Andrew S.)

Answer: The limit is 35 pelagic red crabs per day and 35 in possession. There are no size limits and they may be taken only by hand.

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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.

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.

Shouldn’t Wildlife Officers Display Badges?

Anglers fishing along the popular Owens River during the Eastern Sierra Trout Opener weekend (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Anglers fishing in the popular Owens River Valley during the Eastern Sierra trout opener weekend (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: During the 2015 Eastern Sierra Trout Opener, I was checked three times by California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) wardens for license and barbless hooks. I was in compliance each time. On the three contacts the wardens were wearing jackets and hats that did not have any CDFW insignias or badges on them. On two occasions the wardens stated that they were wardens and I could see radio and gun holsters sticking out from under their jackets. They did not show me any credentials or badge. On the other contact the warden pulled open his jacket collar and showed me his lieutenant bars.

My question is what citizen rights do I have to ask to see a badge or credential during a contact, and what is the policy of CDFW for displaying and showing proper credentials when making a contact, not just telling me he’s a warden? I understand the need to be “undercover” before making a contact, but once the contact is made I think more than just saying you are a warden would be necessary. After the third contact where the warden showed me lieutenant bars, this lack of identification was getting a little old and I believe unprofessional. I had no way of identifying these wardens by name or badge number. (Michael M.)

Answer: You have every right to ask to see their credentials. As I’m sure you know, the Eastern Sierra Trout Opener is a very popular event that draws tens of thousands of anglers to the area during that weekend, and you were fishing in a high contact area, so it’s not unusual that you were contacted by wildlife officers, even multiple times. And because that area is so open and highly visible, and because people are easily seen from a long distance away, wildlife officers often wear a cover shirt over their uniforms and a fishing hat to better blend in and look like another angler so that they can more easily watch everyone without being immediately detected. Our goal is to encourage compliance even when anglers don’t see a wildlife officer in the area.

However, if you were uncomfortable with the contact(s) because you could not be sure the person really was a wildlife officer, by all means, you have the right to ask them, or any peace officer who is contacting you in a law enforcement capacity, for their identification. That is definitely a reasonable request and the wildlife officer should not mind showing you their credentials upon request.

By the way, I spoke to the wildlife officer who likely contacted you (at least one of the times!). He welcomed your comments and wanted me to encourage you to request to see his credentials next time and he will be happy to show them to you.


Rifle silencers for a hunter with substantial hearing loss?
Question: I have substantial hearing loss and my doctor recommended surgery to correct my problem. The issue is that my hearing will be very sensitive to noise afterwards and so shooting a rifle could actually damage it greatly. I am wondering if, when hunting, can an exception be made to allow me to use a silencer on my rifle? (Carlos)

Answer: Unfortunately, the answer is no. It is a felony to possess silencers, except for law enforcement and military purposes (California Penal Code, section 33410). Your best bet is to wear hearing protection while hunting. There are many choices out there and some actually enhance your ability to hear ambient noise while minimizing any loud noises, such as gunshots. Wildlife officers use this type of hearing protection during firearms training.


Ab in a Cab?
Question: I found a sub-legal abalone shell in the stomach of a legally caught cabezon. Is a small abalone shell like this legal to possess? My wife likes it and I want her to know it’s legal to possess. (Ken K.)

Answer: Yes!


How many fishing rods in possession at one time?
Question: How many fishing rods can be in one’s possession? I have a second rod stamp but want to know if I can carry more than two rods with me? Although I may be on foot fishing from the bank, I see anglers on the bass tourney TV shows fishing while still having several rods on their boats. What advice do you have? (Joe P., Red Bluff)

Answer: The number of rods in your possession is not the issue, it is the number of lines that you have in the water fishing at one time. You may have as many rods as you wish in your possession – just make sure to use only the number allowed for the species of fish or for the particular waters that you’re fishing.

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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.

Koi-Eating Heron Needs a New Home

Great Blue Heron (USFWS photo)

Great Blue Heron (USFWS photo)

Question: We live in Valley Center (north San Diego County) and had a koi pond with 75 koi. We now have maybe 20 koi. There’s a huge great blue heron that is eating the koi daily. Is there a way for Fish and Wildlife to rehome this bird so that we can save our koi? (Julie Wright)

Answer: Unfortunately, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) does not remove or rehome great blue herons. They are federally protected. Your best bet will be to haze the bird by non-lethal methods and discourage it from hanging around. Try putting wire around and over the top of your pond to keep the heron from easily picking off your remaining fish.

Your fish may also be disappearing due to other unwanted predators. Koi are very enticing menu favorites for a number of other small backyard visitors, including domestic cats and raccoons. Unfortunately, when various small backyard wildlife become nuisance visitors, such as koi-stealing raccoons, or possums under houses, or squirrels in attics, or rattlesnakes in your garage, etc., CDFW cannot usually assist with removal/relocation. For all of these types of animals you would need to contact a pest management company for assistance, or visit UC Integrated Pest Management website for guidance. Their website is www.ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/.

Back to the great blue heron, the USFWS provides guidance and permits for birds causing property damage. This is a common problem at larger live fish facilities, private hatcheries and aquaculture facilities. Check their website at www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/mbpermits.html.


Estimating distance from shore
Question: I have a question that’s a bit off the wall. If I am on the water, how can I accurately estimate when I am around one mile from shore? Assuming great visibility, if I am on a boat and standing 10-20 feet above sea level and I have 8x binoculars, how can I tell if I am less than or more than one mile from shore? I seem to recall someone saying to estimate half to horizon and then half of that. Does that sound correct? (Craig N.)

Answer: Because of swell conditions, it would be nearly impossible to estimate the distance from shore in the method you describe. The most reliable method would be to use a GPS or plotter. You can also use a compass pointed toward known locations on land and triangulate your position fairly accurately on a chart.


Abalone scouting before start time?
Question: I know I cannot start picking abalone until 8 a.m. I usually get to my spot around 7:30 a.m. If I leave all my gear on the beach, can I search the rocks to locate any abs that might be legal, mark the spots with my gloves and then at 8 a.m. go back and get them? Thanks for your assistance. (Larry P., Paradise)

Answer: Abalone may be taken only from 8 a.m. to one half hour after sunset. Take is defined as to “hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill, or attempt to hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill (Fish and Game Code, section 86). Searching and locating abalone prior to 8 a.m. as you describe is prohibited because it would fall within this definition of take.


When friends share in a hunt, does everyone need licenses and tags?
Question: Let’s say I plan to go hunting during the regular season and want to bring a friend or family member along, but I’m the only one who actually plans on taking game. Additionally, let’s say that I am the only one in possession of a firearm or archery equipment. Does everyone in my group need to have a hunting license and tag? If no, am I the only one in the group who needs both a license and a tag, and everyone else is okay with just a license? (Jeffrey Y.)

Answer: No one else in your group will need licenses or tags as long as they are only observing and are not carrying a method of take with them.

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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.

Late 8 a.m. Start Time for Abalone Unfair

Red abalone feeding on kelp at San Miguel Island (CDFW photo by Derek Stein)

Red abalone feeding on kelp at San Miguel Island (CDFW photo by Derek Stein)

Question: Just a note (complaint) … the start time of 8 a.m. for abalone is very, very unfair. The two lowest tides of the year are in May and June, and you just eliminated them. Rock pickers are put into a shorter collection time and can make even more hurried decisions to take an under-size ab off a rock. You are punishing all rock pickers and putting them in danger by forcing them to dive for abs when they are not good divers (thus, in danger of drowning). The 8 a.m. rule does not adversely affect the divers at all. You already closed off way over half the state of California. There is no way that abalone hunters can wipe out the abalone population. I go rock picking for abalone with six others and we all share these thoughts. (Fred M., San Francisco).

Answer: The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) made recommendations to the Fish and Game Commission (Commission) to reduce the take of abalone because recent scuba surveys had shown lower numbers of abalone at popular abalone sites, particularly in Sonoma County.

According to CDFW Marine Environmental Scientist Jerry Kashiwada, the current Abalone Recovery and Management Plan (ARMP) recommends a 25 percent reduction in the take of abalone when the density (number of abalone in a standard area) reaches the low levels seen in the most recent surveys. Density in the Fort Ross area was so low it reached an ARMP “trigger” for closure to allow the abalone population to recover.

Abalone rock pickers

Abalone rock pickers (CDFW photo by K. Joe)

The Commission had a choice between the 8 a.m. start time, reduction of daily limit to two abalone, reduction of the limit on the abalone card, reduction of the season (more closed months), reduction of take for Sonoma and Marin counties or some combination those proposed changes.

The 8 a.m. start time was initially proposed by CDFW wildlife officers who had been seeing large numbers of rock pickers at all low tides and believed that segment of the fishery was unsustainable. The officers observed rock pickers were taking more time to find legal limits, were less likely to get a limit and were removing and returning more short abalone, many of which were unlikely to survive the handling. The later start time also helps officers by eliminating predawn fishing hours when the light is too dim to observe violations. The effect of the new start time was estimated using data from returned abalone report cards, but the actual effect is unknown since it depended on whether many people would shift to later hours. Data from abalone cards returned this year will provide a clearer picture of the effects of the regulation changes.

The timing of low tides is variable from year to year and while the 8:00 a.m. start reduces the number of low tides available, there usually are some days with suitable tides. The lower numbers of abalone being taken by rock pickers may make it easier to find abalone at higher tide levels than in the past. The activities of sport fishermen might not be sufficient to cause extinction of abalone species but they can reduce abalone populations to the point that the abalone are spaced so far apart that their chances of reproducing are very low. At low abalone population levels, many people might stop participating in the fishery because it is too difficult to find abalone. Reducing abalone populations to low levels also makes them more vulnerable to events like the 2011 die-off that affected abalone in much of Sonoma County.

CDFW is currently in the process of developing a Red Abalone Fishery Management Plan and revising sections of the ARMP. For more information, please visit the CDFW Invertebrate Management Project website.


Can a non-hunter carry an unloaded shotgun when with other hunters?
Question: While hunting on a game bird club, can a non-licensed, non-hunter carry an unloaded shotgun while walking with other hunters? (Anonymous)

Answer: While it may not technically violate the law for you to carry an unloaded shotgun without a license, by doing this with others who have ammunition and are taking game, it will likely generate many questions by the wildlife officer contacting you in the field. Whether or not you have a hunting license is not an element of “take.” You may argue you are not taking game, but the officer has sufficient evidence to prove you are. Do you really want to put yourself through the hassle of going to court? Leave the firearm behind if you want to go with your buddies while they are taking 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.

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.

Why Don’t Licenses Run Annually from Date of Purchase?

Licensing photoQuestion: Why do fishing licenses run from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31 every year rather than from the date of purchase? For example, a person buys his/her license Dec. 1 only to find it expires the end of the month. Then by Jan. 1, they must purchase a new license for the full price. Why not let it go for one full year from the date of purchase? Hunting licenses too run from July 1 through June 30 of the next year. I think license sales would greatly improve if they were changed from date of purchase to the next year. Can someone give a rational answer, please? (Alan E., Los Angeles)

Answer: California has considered changing from a calendar-based sport fishing license to a license that is valid for one year from the date of purchase. But while this seems beneficial, when we looked at the issue thoroughly, we realized that changing to a license that is valid for one year from the date of purchase would significantly reduce funding for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW).

According to CDFW License Program Analyst Glenn Underwood, several other states have made the change to a license that is valid for one year from the date of purchase, and so we contacted these other states to learn from their experiences. We found states that changed from a calendar year license to a license that is valid for one year from the date of purchase experienced a reduction in license sales from 10 to 30 percent in the three years following implementation. Experts from these states explained license purchasing patterns changed when the license system changed to one year from the date of purchase licenses. Customers tended to wait until the last minute to purchase a license, as they knew it would be valid for one year from that date. Then when their licenses expired, customers again waited to renew until they fished again, creating a gap in licensure. After a few years the sum of the gaps was often greater than a year and a complete license sale was lost.

Changing to a license that is valid for one year from the date of purchase would also reduce federal grant funding. Each state in the country receives federal grant money from the Sport Fish Restoration Act (SFRA) which is funding generated from federal excise tax on sales of sport fishing tackle and motorboat fuels. This program funds critical fish habitat restoration projects throughout the state, providing increased fishing opportunities for California anglers. A tiered system is used to allocate grants to the states. In 2014, California received the maximum grant of $16,287,011, which is five percent of the total available to all the states. Federal SFRA grant amounts are based partially on the number of licenses issued in each state. If California license sales declined by as little as three percent, California’s grant would be reduced to a lower tier and the grant amount would be reduced by approximately $2.7 million to $4.5 million, further reducing CDFW’s ability to manage and protect California’s fisheries.

So, while we realize your license restructuring suggestion is popular, it would create a significant reduction in license revenue and sport fish grant funding for CDFW. The resulting reduction in revenue and grant funding would reduce the CDFW’s ability to manage and protect California’s fisheries; and it would reduce the number of fish CDFW could plant for California anglers.


Live turkey decoys?
Question: Is it legal to use a live turkey as a decoy? I can’t find any regulations on live turkey decoys (Todd W.)

Answer: No. The use of live decoys is prohibited when attempting to take resident game birds (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 311(l)).


What’s acceptable abalone diving gear?
Question: Regarding equipment that is permissible for abalone harvesting, is a buoyancy compensator (BC) with integrated weight system ok to use for diving for abalone as long as there is NO air tank attached? (John D.)

Answer: Yes, a BC is for your safety and is OK to use as long as no scuba or air supply of any kind is incorporated.


Free diving for sea urchins?
Question: As a free diver, am I legally allowed to harvest sea urchins? If so, do I need a permit? Also, where in San Diego County can I legally dive from shore for sea urchins? (Derek G.)

Answer: Sea urchins are legal to take in California with a sport fishing license. The season is open year-round for all species of urchin and the limit is 35 urchins (CCR Title 14, section 29.05). These regulations can be found in the Ocean Sport Fishing regulation booklet, along with coordinates and regulation summaries for marine protected areas in Southern California that are closed to the take of sea urchins.

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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.