Tag Archives: ocean fishing

Nesting Wild Mallards in My Backyard Pool?

Mallard pair

Mallard pair (ODFW photo)

Question: We have a pair of mallard ducks that seem to have taken up residency in our backyard pool and have laid eggs in the surrounding plants. I am afraid that if they hatch they will end up dead because of all the meat eating birds in the area. Why are they doing this? If I can get them to leave, where will they fly off to? I can’t seem to find any help in the town that I live in (Modesto, Calif.). I read your piece in the Modesto Bee and wondered if you had any suggestions of what I could do? (Richard, Modesto)

Answer: Unless ducks are marked with a transmitter, we can only speculate where they are headed. Most likely the ducks in your backyard are a drake and hen pair that need a safe place to build a nest. Backyard pools generally don’t have many predators so ducks often nest nearby them. Once the eggs hatch, they won’t want to hang out in the pool for long because there is no food in the water. At that point, you may want to open your backyard gate so the hen can walk her brood out to a nearby river or other water source.

Since waterfowl are protected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, you cannot catch and move them yourself. It is a state and federal violation to disturb the nest of any bird, and you can’t take the eggs or move the nest. You might try contacting a permitted local wildlife rehabilitation center to ask for advice, but wildlife rehabbers cannot possess healthy wildlife or relocate the juvenile ducks or their mother. They can only take the ducklings if they are injured or orphaned, and technically they cannot do anything about the situation you’ve described unless the ducklings become injured or orphaned.

If this happens again, try covering the pool and hazing the ducks away before they build their nest. Once the eggs are laid, a person is “technically” powerless to do anything to the nest or eggs.

For a list of permitted wildlife rehab facilities, please go to www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/WIL/rehab/facilities.html.


Are hooks with pinched barbs legal for fishing salmon?
Question: I was told that a barbed hook (circle or otherwise) which has had the barb “pinched down” with pliers is by law considered legal for salmon fishing. True or false? (Rick S.)

Answer: True. As long as it is pinched all the way down so there is no barb. It’s safer to just buy barbless hooks or grind off the barbs. Barbless hooks are defined as, “A fish hook from which the barb or barbs have been removed or completely bent closed, or which is manufactured without barbs” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.19).


Where’s the search authority?
Question: My friend and I disagree about a point of law. If a game warden sees that you are fishing, or have been fishing, or sees your rods and ice chests in the car, can he demand you open the car and open your ice chests? Can he demand you open the trunk also? I think this is fair because we have definitely been fishing and always have less than our limits, but my friend thinks it is an abuse of power to demand we open our trunk or car, which is our private property. If the game warden does have this right, what would happen if we refuse to comply? Thanks! (S. Love, Los Angeles)

Answer: Yes, any wildlife officer can ask for your consent to inspect a vehicle. Whether an officer has the authority to conduct an inspection when consent is not given depends upon the specific circumstances of the contact. Wildlife officers have extensive inspection authorities that are unique to their jobs. For example, it is a crime to refuse to show a wildlife officer “… all licenses, tags, and the birds, mammals, fish, reptiles or amphibians taken or otherwise dealt with under this code, and any device or apparatus designed to be, and capable of being, used to take birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, or amphibians” (Fish and Game Code, section 2012).

Also, wildlife officers are authorized to inspect all receptacles, except the clothing actually worn by a person at the time of inspection, where birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, or amphibians may be stored or placed (FGC, section 1006).


Fishing multiple rods from shore outside San Francisco Bay?
Question: I know that you can use as many rods and hooks as you want outside the Golden Gate, but can I use multiple rods to catch striped bass and halibut from the shore? I already know that only one rod can be used for salmon, rockfish and lingcod. I have heard if you have a striped bass or a halibut in possession, then only one rod can be used. Is this true? (Eddie H.)

Answer: No, that’s not correct. Outside of the Golden Gate, if you are fishing from shore for halibut and striped bass, you can use as many rods and hooks as you want. If you were to catch another species like salmon or rockfish, however, you would have to release it, as only one line may be used for these species.

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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.

Casting with a Potato Gun-Style Launcher

(CDFW photo by Sabrina Bell)

(CDFW photo by Sabrina Bell)

Question: Is it legal to use the “Sandblaster Baitcaster” in California? This device is supposed to be great for surf fishing from the beach. It uses compressed air to cast your bait up to 300 yards from shore. See it at their website, www.bunkerupfishin.com/. (Victor H.)

Answer: This line launching device is really just another form of the old “potato guns” that were popular for a while until they were outlawed in public areas. According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Lt. Dennis McKiver, potato guns are legal under federal law. Under state law, potato guns that use combustion (instead of compressed air) to launch the projectile are “firearms,” and one with a bore of over 0.5 inches is a destructive device.

Pneumatic potato guns like this one use compressed air and are legal as long as they are not used like a weapon (e.g. shot at a person, etc.), so this line launching device would be legal under state and federal laws. However, you should check for local city and county ordinances because some local governments prohibit use of any devices that propel projectiles, and if you intend to use this line launching device on any state beach, you may also want to consult State Parks.

As far as using it to cast a fishing line, nothing in the Fish and Game Code or its implementing regulations prohibit using this compressed air launcher as long as the fishing line is attached to a rod and reel, or a person is brave enough to hold the other end of line in their hands!


What to do when catching invasive fish species?
Question: What should we do when we catch invasive fish in local lakes? Specifically, Balboa Lake in the San Fernando Valley remains warm enough in winter to support some tropical fish. Certain aquarium fishes breed as well as survive in these waters. The problem now are Plecostomus (commonly found in home fish tanks to eat the algae) that have taken over the lake and the Los Angeles River.

A couple of us have caught over 200 since February in one little cove while fishing for carp. We were told by park personnel to kill them (seemed reasonable) but I wanted to make sure they are inedible so that we won’t get into trouble for wasting fish. Please advise. Thanks. (Bill S.)

Answer: From a biological standpoint, CDFW would like to see these invasive fish disposed of (killed) rather then placed back in the system. The law prohibits the waste of any fish taken in waters of the state (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.87). This regulation is intended to encourage people to eat any fish they kill, and to avoid needlessly killing fish. But, any lawful use of fish that are legal for sale by an aquarium or pet store would satisfy the requirements of this regulation, including their use as fertilizer for your garden.

Here’s something that might surprise you … Plecostomus are consumed by humans in some of their native Central and South American waters. Jackson Landers, author of “Eating Aliens: One Man’s Adventures Hunting Invasive Animal Species” includes a recipe for Plecostomus in this book.


Scuba diving for Dungeness crabs?
Question: In a recent column you said that you could not take Dungeness crabs on SCUBA. Did I read that correctly or were you referring to seasons? (Duanne S.)

Answer: I saidwhen Dungeness crab season is open, they may be taken by hand via SCUBA but divers may not possess any hooked device while diving or attempting to dive for them (CCR Title 14, section 29.80(g)).


Sale of pig mount … Is it legal?
Question: My brother harvested a pig about 20 years ago on a private ranch in California and had the head mounted. He wants to sell the mount, but doesn’t want to break the law and can’t get a definitive answer from anyone. Could you help? Thank you as always for your help! (Dave)

Answer: Your brother can give it away but cannot sell or trade it to anyone. With a few exceptions (that don’t apply to your brother), the law prohibits the sale or purchase of any part of a bird or mammal found in the wild in California. (Fish and Game Code, section 3039)


Is there a limit on sand crabs?
Question: Is it legal to catch sand crabs with a fishing license, and if legal, what is the limit? Can sand crabs be taken on all beaches of the state? (Gina N.)

Answer: Yes, it is legal to catch sand crabs with a fishing license statewide wherever fishing is authorized. The limit is 50 crabs per day and in possession (CCR Title 14, section 29.85(d)).

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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.

“Lived to Tell About It!”

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A well camouflaged male cabezon guards his eggs in the nearshore waters off the Mendocino Headlands (Photo by Mark Winscher) Hint: click on the photo for a closer look!

Question: We lived to tell about it! A few weeks ago while surf fishing, I was fortunate to catch a 6 lb. female cabezon off the Mendocino coast. My wife and I poached the meat and the eggs for a sumptuous meal. It tasted great! But then from five to 13 hours afterward we suffered severe vomiting and diarrhea. Unbeknownst to us and all of my fishing friends, the eggs of a cabezon are toxic, no matter how much they are cooked. Even other mammals will not touch the eggs. Eating the meat is okay. We were hospitalized but are now okay, except for a complete future aversion to cabezon eggs! Have you ever heard of this before? A toxicology doctor is writing a paper about us. Thank you so much and I always look forward to reading your column! (Dale J., Oakland)

Cabezon_0014

Dale J. and his cabezon before he consumed her toxic eggs. (Photo courtesy Dale J.)

Answer: Wow, this was news to me and to most people I mentioned it to. Since receiving your letter, I’ve done some research and found that cabezon eggs are indeed poisonous to humans, as well as many other mammals and birds.

The term for fish roe poisoning is ichthyootoxism. People who have eaten the roe and developed symptoms soon afterwards describe: abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, intense thirst, bitter taste, trouble swallowing, cold sweats, rapid irregular weak pulse, dilated pupils, fainting, chest pain, pale skin, tinnitus, etc. Yikes! In severe cases, muscular cramps, convulsions and coma have occurred. Victims usually recover within five days, but deaths have also been reported.

To most of us, cabezon are a popular game fish and delicious dinner fare. They occur statewide and typically hunker down in rugged rocks and kelp beds in shallow waters less than 100 ft. deep, but may range out to 250 ft. Female cabezon lay their eggs in very shallow water, so the evolution of toxic roe is likely one of their clever adaptations to help protect their eggs from would-be predators. Male cabezon then bravely guard the nests and chase away most threats to their incubating offspring. If the eggs are laid in water too low for the protective dad to guard at low tide, they could be preyed upon by a variety of unsuspecting hungry birds and small mammals.

Famed ichthyologist Dr. Carl Hubbs describes in his article, “Toxicity of the roe of the Cabezon, Scorpaenichthys marmoratus” (California Fish and Game 37: 195-196) that in 1923 he and his wife Laura caught a ripe adult female cabezon and cooked it up for dinner. The two of them ate the roe while Laura’s parents and a young child ate the flesh. Those who consumed the flesh suffered no discomfort, but for Hubbs and his wife, it was another story. He described it as “an unhappy gastronomic experience” and said they “awoke in misery about four hours afterward and were violently ill throughout the rest of the night, with rapidly alternating chills and fever and with frequent vomiting and diarrhea. Both were left very weak in the morning but gradually recovered during the day, with no residual or recurrent symptoms.”

In 1949, a large female cabezon loaded with ripe roe was collected at Scripps Institution Reef. Scientists remembering Hubbs’ experience decided to conduct an experiment to test the toxicity of the roe on 12 rats and two guinea pigs. In addition to their regular food, they were given a cocktail containing the roe mixed with water. Four of the rats and one of the guinea pigs died, and all of the animals exhibited diarrhea and nasal discharge.

Now don’t let the horrors of the toxic symptoms you encountered scare you away from cabezon because they are pretty cool fish. They can grow to more than three feet long, weight more than 25 lbs., and they come in brown, red or green with lots of darker mottling to help with camouflage. Females are larger and usually more greenish while the males are more reddish. Females lay large masses of eggs that may be white, pink, red, maroon or blue-green initially but mature to a more olive color. Cabezon also have smooth skin without scales and they are really fun to catch!

Even better, when filleted, their flesh is usually blue or green but then turns white once cooked. People always ask why their skin and flesh is blue or green and Dr. Milton Love, researcher at U.C. Santa Barbara, wrote in his book, Probably More Than You Want to Know about the Fishes of the Pacific Coast, “The blue color of cabezon flesh is harmless and disappears when the meat is cooked. The color may come from copper-based compounds in the shellfish they consume.” In addition, archeologists have found cabezon remains are common in Native American middens.

Yep, cabezon are cool … just don’t eat their roe!

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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.