Tag Archives: live bait

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.

Hatching and Raising Wild Turkeys

Wild spring turkeys (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Wild spring turkeys (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: If I want to raise a couple of turkeys from eggs that I believe came from partly or mostly wild stock, would I run afoul of California law? They would not be used for any business purposes and would remain on my property. I would prefer to let them roam around my place, which is quite large and full of native habitat, as opposed to keeping them penned up. There are currently no wild turkeys in my area. (Tucker)

Answer: You cannot take eggs from the wild to raise. Nesting birds are given protection from “harassment” while sitting on and incubating their eggs. In addition, wild turkeys cannot be domestically reared and released for propagation or hunting purposes. Only wild trapped turkeys trapped from the wild by the Department may be released into the wild (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 671.6(b)).


Fishing for different species with separate rods?
Question: I have a question about fishing for salmon and groundfish off the coast of San Francisco. I understand that only one rod can be used to fish each type. My question is over whether it’s ok to fish for both types of fish at the same time? By this I mean one rod set up for salmon using the “mooching” style of fishing at around 10 feet of water with frozen bait. The other rod would be set up for groundfish using shrimp flies at the bottom of the ocean floor around 85 ft. Your help is much appreciated. (Jason)

Answer: Nice try! But no, you may use only one rod when targeting salmon or groundfish. You may not use one rod for salmon and one rod for groundfish at the same time. You are also restricted to using only barbless hooks if you have a salmon on your boat, even if you are targeting rockfish at the time (see CCR Title 14, section 27.80.)


Orange hunter vests
Question: I recently completed my hunter safety education course, got my license and went hunting with a small group on private land. None of us wore hunter safety orange vests as we were all together at all times and in each other’s line of sights. I see hunting shows where they sometimes don’t wear the orange hunter vests either. When do you wear the vests? Is it acceptable to not wear them while on private land when you’re with a small group and know where everyone is? Or, do you have to wear orange all the time while hunting? (Joseph L., OIF Vet)

Answer: Though some states require hunters (especially when hunting upland game) to wear blaze orange all the time while in the field for safety reasons, in California we do not require it. It is a good idea to wear this distinctive color whenever possible for your safety as it does help you to stand out, but there is no law requiring it. You’ll find that orange is being incorporated more and more into hunting camouflage patterns to provide greater safety. One thing to note for deer hunting, deer cannot detect the color orange. To deer, orange looks gray.


Where can bluegill be used for bait?
Question: Many times I have seen people on the docks in the Delta catching bluegill for striper bait. Is this permitted for black bass bait in Lake Don Pedro if the bluegill are caught there and not transported from another place? (John and Diane H.)

Answer:  Bluegill may not be used as bait at Lake Don Pedro. California sportfishing regulations for freshwater generally prohibit using live or dead finfish for bait. Although certain species of finfish may be used in the waters where taken, bluegill may only be used in the Colorado River District (see CCR, Title 14, section 4.15(a)) and portions of the Valley and South Central Districts (see CCR, Title 14, section 4.20(d)). While Lake Don Pedro is inside the Valley District (see CCR, Title 14, section 6.36), it is not included as a location where bluegill may be used as bait.

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

Shipping Venison to the Troops Overseas?

Mule deer (by David Hannigan, CNDR)

Mule deer (by David Hannigan, CNDR)

Question: We are interested in shipping sealed venison packages to the troops overseas. Are there any California laws that prohibit this? The sealed venison will consist of packages of 50 to 100 pounds. If you could please advise us of any regulations or guidelines related to the shipping of sealed game to troops overseas, it would be greatly appreciated. (Anonymous)

Answer: There are no laws that prohibit the shipping of venison from California as long as the animals were lawfully taken in accordance with California Fish and Game laws, including seasons, limits, and gender restrictions. In addition, any  package being shipped by common carrier must bear the name and address of the shipper and/or the consignee, and an accurate description of the numbers and kinds of birds, mammals, fish, reptiles or amphibians contained in the package clearly and conspicuously marked on the outside (Fish and Game Code, section 2348.) Federal laws have similar marking requirements. For details, go to www.fws.gov.

However, whether or not the military will accept sealed venison from a private citizen is another issue. Contact them directly for details.


Feeding park squirrels?
Question: I have been warned three times this year by a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy that the next time I am caught feeding squirrels at the local park, I will get a ticket. The deputy stated they enforce state regulations. However, I fed them foods that are safe; food from pet stores such as pigeon feed and raw unshelled peanuts.  There are no signs posted in the park where I visit but I was told it’s still a violation.

There are really no food sources for these animals at the park and I don’t want to see malnourished animals. Please let me know the specific law covering this subject since I have not been able to find it online. I will abide by whatever the law says. This may seem to be an unimportant matter, but to me as a senior, it becomes a quality of life issue. Thank you. (Tamara M.)

Answer: The deputy is correct. By feeding wildlife, you are likely disrupting the animals’ normal behavior patterns in violation of California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 251.1. Some local ordinances also prohibit feeding wildlife.

It’s important not to feed wildlife because feeding brings animals into close proximity with each other, which puts them at greater risk of exposure to diseases and the droppings of the other animals, especially from large populations of birds in a relatively small area. If the animals expect the food, they will stay in the area and may create a public health and water quality issue. Also, even the healthiest pet food and seeds they get from people could never duplicate the diet they would get eating the food found in their natural environment. If the natural food supply in an area decreases, that is a signal to the animals to move to a different area.

See additional information regarding feeding wildlife online at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/LivingWithWildlife/.


What’s legal as live bait?
Question: I fish the ocean waters off Mendocino and Humboldt counties from a sport boat and target lingcod and other groundfish. My question is can I use live sanddabs and small black and blue rockfish to catch lingcod? (Jason S.)

Answer: Yes, you can catch these species to then use for bait in ocean waters as long as they are all taken and possessed legally. All seasons, bag and size limits apply, even if rendered to be bait to use for lingcod and other large fish species. They also must be counted toward your bag limit.


Why the new sturgeon regulations?
Question: What’s so special about sturgeon that the new regulations and measures are required? (Jeff D., Modesto)

Answer: Green sturgeon is a threatened species and white sturgeon has long been a substantial management concern. To protect sturgeon populations and the vibrant white sturgeon fishery, the Department and Commission have emphasized sturgeon enforcement, research, fishing regulations, passage improvements (e.g. at bypass weirs on the Sacramento River) and outreach.  The State legislature is also aware of the sturgeon issue, and in 2007 implemented a law (AB 1187; DeSaulnier). This law made it easier for CDFW wildlife officers to charge poachers with illegal commercialization of sturgeon and the law drastically increased the fines for illegal commercialization of sturgeon.

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