Tag Archives: ocean fishing

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.

Can a Hunter Have Two Shotguns in a Duck Blind?

Geese at sunrise (USFWS photo)

Geese at sunrise (USFWS photo)

Question: Is it legal for one person to have two shotguns in a duck blind? (Bob G.)

Answer: Yes, but while it’s legal to have more than one shotgun in your blind, keep in mind there is a 25 shell limit on most public shooting areas (state and federal refuges). Hunters often forget this and bring a box of shells for each gun they have but then find themselves in violation of the 25 shell limit. Also required, each gun must be plugged and not capable of holding more than three shells in the magazine and chamber combined, and lots of times nothing larger than 10 gauge shells are allowed in these areas. For more information, please check the Upland Game Bird Regulations available at www.dfg.ca.gov/regulations/.


Can I become a fishing guide if I have a citation on my record?
Question: I want to apply for a fishing guide’s license but am worried because I had a hunter trespass citation many years ago that was honestly unintentional. It was a case of poor mapping and unmarked fence lines. I paid my fine and it never went any further. This was 12 years ago and I have never had any other convictions for any sort of law breaking. Does my single-hunter trespass ticket exclude me from applying for guide status in this state? I am seriously interested in teaching others to care for and respect our outdoor privileges and would love to apply for a guide’s license. I don’t want to go through the process and pay all the costs though only to be denied at the time my application is reviewed. Can you please tell me if my mistake from years ago will cause my application to be denied? (Doug M.)

Answer: Because your citation was 12 years ago, it was your only citation and you took care of the fines, you should not have a problem getting a guide’s license. Applicants are evaluated mostly for recent activity (within five years), or repetitive activity. And for applicants who apply but are denied, any application fees are refunded.


How to accurately measure fish?
Question: What is the legal and proper way to measure a fish, particularly largemouth bass? Is it with an open mouth, closed mouth, fanned tail or pinched tail? I would appreciate some fish measuring guidelines to determine whether a catch is legal. Thank you. (Rick B.)

Answer: The first rule when measuring fish is to lay the fish flat on its side and always pinch the mouth closed. All freshwater fish, including largemouth bass, are measured to total length. This is the longest straight-line distance from the tip of the head to the end of the longest lobe of the tail (California Code of Regulations Title 14, Section 1.62). The most accurate method is to place the fish’s snout against a perpendicular surface and then measure along the intersecting horizontal surface to the end of the tail. Don’t measure using a flexible “tape” over the fish itself or you will be given a longer false reading. All freshwater fish with a minimum size limit are measured this way.

On the ocean side, most saltwater fish with minimum size limits are measured to total length, but there are some that are measured to fork length instead (e.g. bonito, albacore, barracuda and yellowtail). Fork length is the straight-line distance from the tip of the head to the center of the tail fin (CCR Title 14, Section 1.62). So again, lay the fish flat on its side, pinch the mouth closed and take your measurement from the tip of the head to the center of the fork of the tail. These are the only two measurements that you will need to know for the purposes of the regulations when measuring whole fish.


Giving pheasants away to other hunters to keep hunting?
Question: Once I shoot my limit of pheasants, can I give one of my birds to another hunter in the group and continue hunting? (Jerry)

Answer: No. Once you reach your bag limit you are finished hunting for the day. You can give your birds away to other hunters but that does not then allow you to continue hunting that day.


Underwater lights when ocean fishing?
Question:Is it legal to use underwater attractor lights in ocean waters to attract fish to the boat? (John V.)

Answer: Yes. There are no prohibitions from using underwater attractor lights in ocean waters.

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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.

Ethics of Shooting Birds on the Water or on the Ground

Wood duck (USFWS photo)

Wood duck (USFWS photo)

Question: Is it lawful to shoot a bird that is on the water, or if I’m field hunting, to shoot a bird that is standing on the ground? I do not consider it sporting, but I was party to a group of hunters that took part in the above actions. Just curious what the official word is on this. (Nick V.)

Answer: It’s not illegal, but it’s certainly not sporting as it violates the Fair Chase Principle. “Fair chase” is the ethical, sportsman-like, lawful pursuit and taking of any free-ranging animal in a manner that does not give the hunter an unfair advantage over such animals. In addition, it can also be unsafe to shoot birds on the ground or on the water because nearby hunters might be in your line of fire.


Is it legal to keep legal-sized fish caught in hoopnets?
Question: If I catch fish in a hoop net while lobster fishing, are they legal to keep provided they meet any size requirements? I have been throwing them back because I’m not sure it is legal to catch them that way. Someone told me they must be caught on fishing line only. What about sea snails and octopus that are caught in my hoops? Can other line-caught sportfish, such as tuna, be used as bait in lobster hoops? Please advise. (Steve G.)

Answer: You were correct to return fish caught in your hoop nets because hoop nets are not a legal method of take. Finfish may only be caught by hook-and-line except in very specific circumstances listed under “Finfish – Gear Restrictions” in the Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 28.65).

Taking sea snails and octopus caught incidentally in your lobster hoop net is not allowed (CCR Title 14, section 29.10(a)). Any finfish that is legal to take or possess in California may be used as bait in your lobster hoop net.


If license is forgotten, will a photo copy of license do?
Question: My son and I fish from our private boat almost exclusively and keep our sport fishing licenses aboard so they are always present. On rare occasions we will attempt to fish without the boat, and a few times have forgotten to bring our licenses. To prevent us from mistakenly being without our fishing licenses, can we show a photo copy of our licenses or can the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) issue more than one copy to a sport fisherman? (Murray C.)

Answer: Good questions, but the answers to both are no. You must have a valid fishing license in your possession when fishing or attempting to take fish, and you must present it to a game warden upon request. Additionally, only one license may be issued to a person per year.


Importing buffalo hides and products?
Question: Are there any restrictions on importing buffalo hides or buffalo art productions into California?

Answer: American buffalo (Bison bison) are considered a domestic breed of bovine (like cattle, goats and sheep) and thus no Fish and Wildlife laws regulate them. American buffalo hides are not restricted by CDFW and so they may be imported or possessed as long as they were obtained legally. However, the live importation of other species of true buffalo (e.g. African Cape Buffalo, etc.) or their hides is restricted by law (CCR Title 14, section 671).


Is it legal to catch carp and trout by hand?
Question: I recently read a post from people saying they had caught carp by hand in a lake. Is this legal in California? I have caught trout by hand in streams when I was younger, but wasn’t sure if that was legal either. Can you please clarify? (Nick)

Answer: There are no freshwater finfish species that can be legally taken by hand from any California lake waters within the state (only exception: a few fish species are allowed to be caught by hand during specific times in a few non-lake areas, as per CCR Title 14, sections 1.76 and 2.30.)


Electronics and hunting
Question: Is there any law against mounting a camera to the scope of a rifle to record my hunting experience? (Barry N.)

Answer: No, there is no law against this as long as there is no light emitted from the camera.

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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.