Tag Archives: pheasant hunting

Why no world record broomtail groupers?

Esaul Valdez posing with his 123 lb gulf grouper (Photo by Steve Carson)

Question: I just received notice from the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) that world-record applications will not be accepted from California for broomtail grouper catches. This is because possession of broomtail grouper is prohibited everywhere in California, even if caught in Mexican waters.

Please explain why possession of broomtail grouper is prohibited in California for even Mexican-caught fish, while possession of black (giant) seabass is allowed if proper Mexican documentation is present. Only a relative handful of broomtail have ever been caught in U.S. waters in the last 100 years, and most of those were what would now be considered illegal transplant/introductions in the La Jolla/San Diego Bay region. Numerous other primarily Mexican species are very rarely caught in California, but are not a prohibited catch. Shouldn’t the proper Mexican-waters documentation be sufficient? (Steve C.)

Answer: According to Department of Fish and Game (DFG) Lt. Eric Kord, species that are illegal to possess in California are also prohibited from being imported into California. Fish and wildlife cannot be imported into California unless they were legally taken and possessed outside of this state (Fish and Game Code, section 2353). Although this code and regulations do not expressly prohibit their possession in this state, California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 28.12 does expressly prohibit the possession of gulf grouper and broomtail grouper in California. Therefore, neither of these fish may be imported into California.

The reason why black seabass may be imported and possessed in California is because CCR Title 14, section 28.10 does not expressly prohibit their possession in California. In fact, the section specifically authorizes their importation from Mexico with the appropriate documentation.

According to DFG retired Senior Marine Biologist Steve Crooke, the laws protecting both the gulf grouper and the broomtail grouper in state waters, as well as the ban on the importation of these fish from Mexico, was put on the books sometime in the 1950s. At that time a nice population of these fish lived in the La Jolla Cove area and they were a favorite attraction for divers. The laws were enacted in hopes of protecting this expatriate population from Mexico for the enjoyment of the divers. The ban on importation from Mexico was because California sport boats at that time were not capable of fishing in Mexican waters and so it was just easier to ban any possession or importation of the fish. Today, few groupers exist in California waters anymore because conditions are not favorable here for them to spawn. The law banning the importation of these species into California have just never been taken off the books.

African clawed frogs?
Question: I’ve heard that it is illegal to possess an African clawed frog (Xenops laevis) in California, since they are highly invasive. Is it permitted to capture wild specimens in order to kill them, at least? This of course would entail possessing them, however temporarily. Is there any way around this Catch-22? (Anonymous)

Answer: Technically, it is illegal to possess them at any time, including the time it would take to kill them. One thing to keep in mind is there is more than one type of African Clawed frog sub-species and they are very difficult to tell apart. The legal type are sold in pets stores on a routine basis and do not pose the threat the illegal species does.

Special nonresident permits for bird hunting?
Question: An Olympic gold medalist from China will be visiting our state in October. During the visit he would like to go pheasant hunting. Is there any way to get a one-day license or special permit for him and his father to hunt at one of our pheasant clubs here in Southern California? (Larry B.)

Answer: Yes. They can purchase a two-day non-resident hunting license, or a one-day nonresident license valid only at a licensed game bird club for taking domesticated game birds and pheasants, as well as domesticated migratory game birds (FGC, sections 3031(a)(4) and (a)(5). They must, however, show proof they have completed a hunter education class.

Regulations for tree stands?
Question: Can you help me locate regulations regarding tree stands or “elevated platforms,” specifically pertaining to big game hunting for bear and deer? (Brian B.)

Answer: California has no Fish and Game Code regulations restricting tree stands. They are legal to use, but make sure you obtain prior permission from the landowner or public agency controlling the land where you intend to use a tree stand to hunt.

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Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game. While she cannot personally answer everyone’s questions, she will select a few to answer each week. Please contact her at CalOutdoors@dfg.ca.gov.

When license is lost while fishing, can I keep the fish?

Fisherman fishing from a float tube (Photo courtesy of UDNR)

Question: I had a unique set of circumstances occur this weekend. I was fishing at our local lake and had placed my license on when I departed from the dock. I caught a few fish and had one catfish on the stringer. About mid-morning when I was removing a jacket I noticed my license was gone. I panicked and went back to all the spots I had fished looking for my license. No luck. So here I sat in a boat, with fish and no license. What should I have done? (Ken B.)

Answer: Unfortunately, if you no longer had a valid fishing license in your possession, then it was not legal for you to continue fishing. You should have released any live fish you had in possession and stopped fishing as soon as you realized you no longer had a fishing license. Assuming fishing licenses were sold at the lake, you could have purchased a one-day license in order to continue fishing. If you still had the receipt for your license, you could have obtained a duplicate license at a DFG licensing agent.

Although it wouldn’t have helped you then, the fishing license display law will change on March 1. You will no longer be required to display your license, and you’ll probably find it to be much more secure in your wallet.

Upland Game Bird Stamp needed for private clubs?
Question: I hunt exclusively at a private licensed pheasant club and do not hunt anywhere else outside the property. Do I still need an Upland Game Bird Stamp? (Jim H., Sacramento)

Answer: Yes. According to Game Warden Patrick Foy, the requirements for an Upland Game Bird Stamp do not differentiate between private licensed pheasant clubs and other areas of the state. Everyone who hunts pheasants (or any other upland game bird listed under the California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 313) must have an Upland Game Bird Stamp affixed to their license.

In addition, when hunting on a private licensed pheasant club, you must have a Shooting Permit issued by the game bird club licensee. Every hunter who hunts domestically reared game birds on a licensed game bird club is required to have a valid hunting license in possession, a valid upland game bird stamp and a valid game bird club shooting permit issued by the licensee or an agent authorized by the licensee. The shooting permit must include the hunter’s name, hunting license number, and date(s) permit is valid (CCR Title 14, section 600 [a] [4]).

Is it OK to collect saltwater worms for bait?
Question: I enjoy surf fishing and would like to collect some saltwater worms to use as bait. Are there any restrictions I need to know about? Thanks. (Toru)

Answer: Worms are a type of invertebrate and are covered in Fish and Game Code section 29.05. The daily bag and possession limit is 35 worms. Note that worms may be taken “…except that no worms may be taken in any mussel bed, unless taken incidental to the harvesting of mussels.”

Since running an answer to a question posed recently regarding game wardens’ rights for search and seizure of hunters, we received requests for clarification.
Our game wardens do not have any additional authority to search someone when making regular law enforcement contacts. Absent valid officer safety concerns, there is no search without consent. That being said, any time an officer asks for a consent search, there is a concern for safety or suspicion of a violation or hiding of evidence, etc. The “red flag” reference in the answer was relative to this situation – an increase in an officer’s awareness and alertness would be a normal response to a refusal of such a request.

In the hunting and fishing context, the search authority is much broader. Hunting and fishing are privileges, not rights. The fish and wildlife belong to the people of the state and not to any individual.  Many states, including California, recognize this and have provided a much broader search authority to game wardens when interacting with those who are engaged in hunting and fishing activities.

Searches of containers, equipment and even businesses may be conducted without a search warrant as long as the person involved was clearly associated with hunting or fishing and the search is for equipment used for the take or for fish and wildlife. This search authority is unique and does not apply to any other law enforcement officer in the state.

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Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game. She cannot personally answer everyone’s questions but will select a few to answer in this column each week. Contact her at CalOutdoors@dfg.ca.gov.

Loaded Guns “On” Cars

Mourning Dove

Mourning dove (USFWS photo)

Question: We were hunting doves in Imperial County recently when the game wardens came in asking for inspections. I set my 12-gauge shotgun on the hood of the car, gave the officer my hunting license, and then went back to check the guns to make sure they were unloaded. The officer stopped me and told me not to touch any gun at that point. He then checked the guns and found both my gun on top of the hood and another gun leaning on the front hood were loaded. I was given a ticket for Fish and Game Code Section 2006 ”loaded gun in a vehicle.” I tried to argue that my gun was not “IN” the vehicle but “ON” the vehicle, but the officer declined to argue and said I have to argue in court.

Is this a valid citation? Was the officer in a position not to allow me to have a chance to unload our firearms before his inspection? Do you have any court cases regarding loaded guns on top of the hood/vehicle? I plan to plead not guilty on the charge. (Grace C.)

Answer: The situation you describe did warrant a citation. According to game warden Todd Tognazzini, when a vehicle is upon or along a public roadway, guns placed in or on a vehicle or its attachments may not be loaded.

The origin of this law came from a March 15, 1972 Attorney General’s Opinion No. SO 71-38. There is much discourse within the opinion, but the final paragraph sums the information as follows: “… a violation does occur under Section 2006 Fish and Game Code when a person in possession of a loaded rifle or shotgun places such loaded weapon on the hood, fender or top of a motor vehicle, or in the bed or cargo carrying space or a pickup truck or its attachments thereto, when such vehicle is standing on or along a public highway or other way open to the public.”

Placing the loaded gun on the hood of the car is very dangerous and could lead to an accidental discharge if the gun were to slip off the hood. Game wardens must always consider their own safety during a contact and are trained not to allow a person to handle their firearms again until they are confirmed to be unloaded. Yours were loaded.

The warden followed the law in writing the citation.

How to accurately measure fish?
Question: Can you please describe 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 (CCR 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 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?
While hunting pheasants, once I shoot my limit, 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.

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Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game. She cannot personally answer everyones questions but will select a few to answer in this column each week. Contact her at CalOutdoors@dfg.ca.gov.