Tag Archives: regulations

Hoisting Sturgeon to Pose for Photos?

Oversized white sturgeon that are too large to keep should not be hoisted out of the water for measuring for pictures. The angler may be cited if the fish is too large and the fish is put at risk. Instead, keep the big fish in the water to take your pictures, and then release it to swim away (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Oversized white sturgeon that are too large to keep should not be hoisted out of the water for measuring or for pictures. The angler may be cited if the fish is too large and the fish is put at risk. Instead, keep the big fish in the water to take your pictures, and then release it to swim away (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: I’ve seen several pictures over the years of anglers hoisting oversized sturgeon out of the water and dragging them back to the dock for pictures. Isn’t it against the law to treat fish that are to be released this way? How should oversized sturgeon be handled, given that the justifiably proud angler would like to get a picture or two before releasing? (Jim J.)

Answer: Regulations for sturgeon have become more protective since 2006, so hopefully you were looking at old-time pictures. There are two important issues here – the regulations and doing what is best for the sturgeon. What follows is only about white sturgeon since green sturgeon are a threatened species and thus may not be taken, possessed or removed from the water. If a green sturgeon is caught, it must be released immediately.

Without regard to fish species, the regulations state that all fish “…less than the legal minimum size or greater than the maximum legal size must be returned immediately to the water from which they were taken” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.62). Because white sturgeon have a legal minimum size of 40 inches fork length, and a legal maximum size of 60 inches fork length, it is indeed against the law to bring an oversized white sturgeon to a dock (or even into a boat) for pictures. Photographs of oversized white sturgeon may only be taken of fish while still in the water.

Anglers are not prohibited from taking oversized fish out of the water, but the regulations (as part of several special protections for white sturgeCarrie_sturgeon_4421on) also state that, “Any white sturgeon greater than 68 inches fork length may not be removed from the water and shall be released immediately” (CCR Title 14, sections 5.80 and 27.90). These sections give anglers what amounts to an 8-inch margin of error when measuring white sturgeon in the water.

As far as what’s best for any sturgeon that will be released, according to CDFW sturgeon expert Marty Gingras, the answer is clear. “End the fight quickly and keep the sturgeon’s head in the water. Blood-chemistry studies show sturgeon become stressed from the fight and from being removed from the water, and tissue studies show stressed females that survive are less likely to spawn normally.”

Handling these behemoths with care is critical as they are essentially protected broodstock. These large fish will be important to carry California’s sturgeon populations through droughts and other challenges, as well as to build future generations of these incredible fish for tomorrow’s anglers.


How to become a hunting guide?
Question: How can I become a hunting guide? Do I have to have a license or is there a course I need to go through to become a hunting guide? (Billy S.)

Answer: There are no courses or tests to take to become a hunting guide. “Guide” means any person who is engaged in the business of packing or guiding, or who, for compensation, assists another person in taking or attempting to take any bird, mammal, fish, amphibian, or reptile. “Guide” also includes any person who, for profit, transports other persons, their equipment, or both to or from hunting or fishing areas.

The basic requirements are to first fill out an application with the CDFW and pay the license fees. Current cost of an annual resident guide’s license runs $212.70. Employees of the guide who assist in the service are also required to have a Guide Employee Registration license that costs $46.87.

Guides may not have any CDFW violations in their past so applicants may be required to go through a CDFW background check to check for previous violations.

The last requirement is for the guide to purchase and maintain a “performance bond.” The bond assures that any deposit money received from a client to reserve a future trip will be returned in the event that the guide cancels and tries to keep the deposit.


Redeeming gift vouchers?
Question: I received a 2015 annual fishing license as a gift but I’d already bought mine for the year. Can I turn it back in for a refund? I’ve heard that fishing license gift vouchers require the recipient to return to the exact store where the voucher was purchased and present all of their personal information in order to trade the voucher for a legal license? Is this true? (Brent G.)

Answer: No, it’s much easier than that. Gift vouchers can be redeemed for an annual resident sport fishing license anywhere licenses are sold, or online at www.ca.wildlifelicense.com/InternetSales/. While gift vouchers are nonrefundable, they are transferable since they have no customer attached to them until redeemed. Since you received an extra gift voucher, you can give it to a friend or relative and they can redeem it for a resident sport 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.go

When Prohibited Species Are Accidentally Caught?

Garibaldi, California’s state marine fish, are illegal to take (CDFW photo by Dan Gotchall)

Question: I fly fish for calico bass using barbless hooks in the kelp beds off Catalina Island and the coast, and it’s all strictly catch and release. Garibaldi are abundant in this habitat and are very aggressive. When I can see them I can usually avoid catching them. However, rarely one will take my fly inadvertently. Since they are only lightly hooked through the lip, they survive the accidental catch and release. However, it is illegal to “take” garibaldi. Is this considered illegal if caught by accident and then released? How can one avoid catching them? (Rick B.)

Answer: No, it is not considered an illegal action to accidentally catch a prohibited species as long as it is immediately released back into the waters it came from. Intentionally targeting a prohibited species IS illegal, but you do not seem to be doing that.

As for how to avoid catching them, that’s a tricky question. About the only thing you can try would be to use a larger hook (that the garibaldi might have problems taking into their small mouths), but fly fishing generally doesn’t allow for use of larger hooks. You may need to employ a bit of ingenuity to figure out how to reduce the number of garibaldi you end up hooking.


What to do with banded waterfowl?
Question: This past weekend a banded speckled-belly goose was taken at my duck club. I’d like to report this banded bird to the authorities. The time, date and place, as well as the tag number seem obvious to report. Is there any other information needed, and who should I report this band to? (Larry L.)

Answer: Since waterfowl are migratory, the U.S. Geological Survey has the responsibility of collecting and analyzing all banding information. Government and private sector scientists and waterfowl managers tag and monitor migratory waterfowl every year. This banding information helps them to assess population numbers and track their movement patterns. You may also be asked to provide information about weather and any other waterfowl the goose was flying with when taken. Please go to www.reportband.gov to report banded birds.


Capturing largemouth bass for a home aquarium?
Question: One of my friends has a large aquarium and is interested in putting some largemouth bass in it. I would like to know what the regulations are for catching a largemouth bass in a local lake and then transporting it live to his tank. It would never be released into a different body of water, and it would be taken legally. (Azure C.)

Answer: Transporting fish alive from the water where they are taken is prohibited (California Code of Regulations, section 1.63). Laws allowing certain species of live fish to be maintained alive in closed-systems do not authorize possession in home aquariums. Your friend can legally buy bass for his or her aquarium from a licensed aquaculturalist, as long as he or she does not release it into the wild.


Qualifications for a disabled access hunting site?
Question: I have always enjoyed duck hunting but now after several orthopedic surgeries on my hips and knees, I have considerable difficulty in walking. In the outdoors I must use a staff and can go about 100 yards on a level surface before resting. I am not currently confined to the use of a walker, crutches or a wheelchair, however, in the light of my walking disability, would I be eligible to apply for a disabled access hunting site? I have a permanent disabled person parking card and I hold a Lifetime License. (Vivian N., Marysville)

Answer: Yes, you qualify because you possess a permanent disabled parking placard. To hunt at a disabled accessible hunting site, you must have one of the following:

  • a permanent disabled parking placard, and the paperwork from the Department of Motor Vehicles showing that the placard was issued to you;
  • a disabled veteran license plate and the paperwork from the Department of Motor Vehicles showing that the plate was issued to you; or
  • a mobility impaired disabled persons motor vehicle hunting license.

You might also be interested in the special hunts for disabled persons conducted through the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) during pheasant season. Information about these hunts can generally be found on our website in the fall prior to the season opener, at https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/DFGSpecialHunts/Default.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 Are Wild Pheasants on the Decline?

Ringneck pheasant

The decline in wild pheasant numbers is primarily a result of habitat loss and fragmentation. For pheasant populations to recover and thrive once again, more improved available habitat must be developed. (Photo by Jeff Cann)

Question: Wild pheasants in the Sacramento Valley have been in steep decline for many years and very little effort, if any, is being made to help this once-abundant game bird make a comeback. Improved habitat conditions, a reduced season and lowered bag limits could help them recover. What was the Fish and Game Commission thinking when they raised the limit and extended the season to what it is today? (Wally S., Westlake)

Answer: One of the factors you mentioned was that improved habitat conditions could help, and that’s true. The decline in wild pheasant population numbers is primarily a result of habitat loss and fragmentation. Pheasant populations are still plentiful in the larger Midwestern states, primarily because those states rely on private lands programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program funded by the Farm Bill. This program provides subsidies to landowners to fallow their land and grow grasses and other vegetation that make good wildlife habitat. These programs also provide habitat corridors between public and private lands that are critical for pheasants to move. In the Central Valley, rice and other crops have higher values than the crops grown in the mid-west and so the economic incentives for landowners in California to modify their farming practices to benefit wildlife habitat are not there.

According to CDFW Senior Upland Game Scientist Scott Gardner, the general pheasant hunting season was increased by three weeks about 10 years ago because CDFW knew that few people continued to hunt wild pheasants after the opening weekend and the first few weeks of the season. The scientific literature suggests that rooster-only harvest has little effect on population growth, so this increase was not expected to have any effect on pheasant population growth. CDFW is currently working with Pheasants Forever and United States Geological Survey scientists to study pheasant population dynamics and identify factors limiting their populations. If the data suggests that reductions in pheasant hunting are needed, CDFW will make those recommendations to the Fish and Game Commission.

However, pheasant populations will not come back to their former levels through reductions in hunting alone. In order for wild pheasant populations to recover and thrive again, more available improved habitat is a must. This means more quality grasslands and small shrub habitat to provide undisturbed areas for cover, feeding, nesting and brood-rearing, along with travel corridors between fields and other habitats to allow them access to move around.


Using crabs to catch more crabs?
Question: It is legal for boaters fishing crab traps to pull their limit of 10 Dungeness crabs and then leave any extra legal-sized crabs in the pot for harvesting the next day? Those crabs left in the trap may help encourage other crabs to load up in the traps to take another day. Is there anything illegal about this? (Jayna S.)

Answer: It is not legal for someone to take their limit and leave additional crabs in their trap(s). Sport fishermen are allowed 10 Dungeness crabs per day and in possession. It doesn’t matter where the crabs are being held, whether on board a boat or in a trap or at home in the freezer. If they are being confined and held in a trap for another day, it is still considered “possession” and counts toward their limit.


Legal limits of take
Question: I don’t get to go fishing that often, so I am wondering if I am fortunate enough to get a limit of fish in the morning and I put those fish on ice in the truck, can I then go back out in the afternoon to catch more? I often travel around 100 miles to go fishing, and with the economy as bad as it is, I can’t go often. Is this legal? Thanks. (Ron F.)

Answer: I can understand you wanting to maximize your fishing experience and harvest due to the troubled economy, however, a “bag limit” means the total that you can take in one day. And “possession limit” is usually the same as your bag limit (at least in ocean waters), so you are only allowed to possess one bag limit at any one time. In order to collect more, you will need to either consume or give away what you have and then fish on another day for more, up to the bag limit allowed.


Laminate my license?
Question: Is it okay to laminate my license to protect it and keep it from getting dirty and tattered? (Joe P., Merced)

Answer: Licenses should never be heat laminated as this will destroy the license. If exposed to extreme heat, licenses will darken and become discolored. However, a discolored license is still valid as long as the text and signature are still readable.

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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.

Hunting Waterfowl from a Cattle Blind?

cattle-as-hunting-blind

In the early days hunters often used cattle as hunting blinds, hiding behind them to more stealthily approach the wild birds they were pursuing to get a closer shot. This practice has been banned since 1957. (Photo: From archived legislative records, circa 1915)

Question: I am in a duck club and we get geese in the field between our blinds. It is impossible to sneak up on the geese without being seen. We made a life-size cow silhouette and painted it black and white just like the cows in the field. We are planning on hiding behind it to sneak up within shooting range of the geese. Is this a legal decoy to use? (Scott L.)

Answer: No, it is not legal to use any mammal (except a dog) or an imitation of a mammal as a blind in approaching or taking game birds (FGC Section 3502.) Hunters have long known the benefits of using cattle as duck blinds. In fact, in the early days market hunters were known to train large steers to act as live decoys for them to hide behind while they “walked their shot” to approach the unsuspecting birds for a closer and better shot.

One of the most famous live decoys was a hunting steer by the name of “Old Tom.” When his owner bought him in 1914, Old Tom weighed 1,850 pounds and stood 5 ft. 8 in. high. During the days of market hunting, he was utilized in practically every inland county in the state and made an excellent blind because of his training, size and build. Because of the high success of this method, market hunters were banned from this practice nearly a century ago, and sportsmen have been banned from this practice since 1957.

For more, see the article of “Old Tom” entitled, “The famous animal blind.” California Fish and Game. 1928. Vol. 14:62 available online at http://www.archive.org/details/californiafishga14_1928cali.


Is it legal to sponsor a long range angler?
Question: What if four people got together and all paid the boat fare so that one person in the group could take a long range fishing trip? Three of the people are not fisherpersons. After the trip, all of the fish caught by the one angler would then be split evenly between the four people. Would this be considered selling of fish? (Doug S., Montebello)

Answer: Fish caught under the authority of a sport fishing license may not be bought, sold, traded or bartered (FGC Section 7121). This means that if these people all helped pay the fare for another person to take a fishing trip with the expectation of receiving some of the fish caught back in return, that would be illegal. Anglers who lawfully catch fish may always give fish away to whomever they wish, but it is not legal for non-anglers to pay for another person’s trip with the understanding or expectation of receiving fish in return for that money.


OK to donate and raffle off bear skin rugs?
Question: One of our club members was cleaning out his home recently and came upon a grizzly bear skin rug he has had for many years. He would like to donate it to our club. We want to be sure this is alright, and second, would we need something in writing from him indicating that it is a donation to the club? If, in the future, we want to include this rug in a raffle, can we do so? We aren’t certain if there are restrictions regarding this type of bear hide. Thank you for your help with this matter. (Bonnie V.D.)

Answer: The donation of the bear-skin rug to your club is not a problem, however, it would be illegal for the club to offer it as a “prize” in a raffle (e.g. the person who holds the winning ticket “exchanges or trades” it for the rug).

The exchange of the rug for a winning ticket is prohibited by Fish and Game laws that prohibit the sale of any part of any bear and defines sale to include “exchange or trade.” Grizzly bears are also protected by federal laws. Contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for information regarding what, if any, federal laws may apply. They can be reached online at www.fws.gov.

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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 pair (Photo by Carrie Wilson

Wood duck pair (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

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.

Bowfishing in the Surf?

bowfishing_IndianHeadRanch

Bowfishing (photo courtesy of Indian Head Ranch)

Question: Is it legal to bowfish in the surf? Regulations say bowfishing is not allowed within 100 yards of the mouth of a stream. I’m guessing on the beach it is ok for finfish, like spotfin croakers? However, I do know some beaches prohibit bowfishing because they consider a bow and arrow a deadly weapon. Do you know which ones? (David T.)

Answer: You should check with your local police or sheriff’s department first to determine if there are any city or county ordinances prohibiting the use of bow and arrow fishing tackle. If not, it is legal to bowfish in the surf under the following conditions: Spears, harpoons and bow and arrow fishing tackle may be used for taking all varieties of skates, rays and sharks, except white sharks. Such gear may not be possessed or used within 100 yards of the mouth of any stream in any ocean waters north of Ventura County, nor aboard any vessel on any day or on any trip when broadbill swordfish or marlin have been taken. Bow and arrow fishing tackle may be used to take finfish other than giant (black) sea bass, garibaldi, gulf grouper, broomtail grouper, trout, salmon, broadbill swordfish, white shark, green sturgeon and white sturgeon (California Code of Regulations, Title 14, section 28.95, 27.90 and 27.91).


Can you hunt waterfowl not listed in the regulations?
Question: I know there are quite a few types of ducks that are not listed in the waterfowl regulations (e.g. teal, mergansers, etc.). If a species is not specifically mentioned, does this mean that they can or cannot be hunted? (Joe D.)

Answer: The waterfowl regulations apply to all species of geese, ducks and mergansers. Coots have different regulations. As long as the waterfowl species you wish to take does not have more specific regulations than the general bag limits, then that non-specified waterfowl species can be included in your general bag.


Retrieving game from private property?
Question: Where can I find the regulations on retrieving game that has moved onto another’s property after being shot? I believe that it is legal but I can’t find the regs. (Joe D.)

Answer: There are no regulations which allow you to recover game that ends up on private property. You are expected to retrieve all game you harvest and not to cause wanton waste by failing to recover something you’ve shot, but you must get permission from the landowner to legally enter their property. If you are not able to reach them for permission, you may contact the local game warden or sheriff and request assistance.


Buying diamondback rattlesnakes from Texas for taxidermy?
Question: I want to buy dead western diamondback rattlesnakes for taxidermy from a seller in Texas. From what I read in the regulations, it is OK. The shipper just needs to label the box with the contents. If this is legal, can you please provide the code section regarding buying/importing dead rattlesnakes? (Bryan W.)

Answer: Dead rattlesnakes can be purchased and imported into California (Fish and Game Code, section 2353). You will just need to make sure the shipment comes with a completed Declaration for Entry form identifying what it is and where it’s coming from. This declaration must be submitted to the department or a designated state or federal agency at or immediately prior to the time of entry. Declaration is not required if shipped by common carrier under a bill of lading.

This form may be photocopied. The original copy of the declaration form shall be retained by the person importing the fish or game into the state. One copy shall be mailed to the Department of Fish and Wildlife, 1416 Ninth St., Sacramento, CA 95814, within 24 hours after entering the state. One copy shall be deposited at the point of entry with any state or federal agency or officer, and one copy shall remain with the fish or game if transported by other than owner or common carrier.

“Point of entry” refers to the city or town nearest your point of entry into California.


Lobster hooping from a public pier?
Question: While lobster hooping from a public pier, the maximum number of nets per person is two. Can a person with two nets deployed for crab/lobster simultaneously use a fishing rod for finfish? What about if the person has a fishing license and lobster card? (Steve G.)

Answer: No, the regulations state that people fishing from a public pier can fish with only two “appliances,” so the two hoop nets and one fishing rod for fin fish would total three. You don’t need a fishing license to fish from a public pier, but anyone fishing for lobsters must have a valid lobster report card.

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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.

Sidearm While Duck Hunting?

(Photo courtesy of USFWS)

(Photo courtesy of USFWS)

Question: A friend and I recently had a situation where we found pig tracks at one of the areas where we like to duck hunt. We both found it a little unnerving to be walking in knee to waist high grass armed with only bird shot if a pig were to charge. The area where we are hunting doesn’t explicitly prohibit handguns. We were wondering if California law allows us to carry a handgun, not as a method of take, but rather for defense while hunting waterfowl. I noticed the answer to the question on sidearms while hunting upland game and small game but don’t know if duck hunting has any additional restrictions. Also, if this is allowed, does the ammo in the handgun apply to the nonlead requirement while hunting duck, or is it exempt considering that it is not a method of take? Any help is greatly appreciated. Thanks. (Rhyan P.)

Answer: Unless the area where you’re hunting explicitly prohibits the possession of, or hunting with, handguns, that part should not be a problem. If that is the case, and you feel that your life is in danger, you can shoot the pig. However, you are not authorized to take the carcass unless you have a pig tag and utilized a legal method of take. If you’re hunting in condor country, you must carry nonlead ammunition.


Are crabs with black spots safe to eat?
Question: I just bought two crabs and found one with black spots on the outside shell. I’ve seen these before and usually avoid them, but this time the seller sneaked it into my package. When I called him about it, he said he didn’t know what it is, but it doesn’t permeate the shell. This isn’t true—I’ve seen this stuff on the flesh at the joints. It looks like oil. Can you enlighten me? Besides being ugly, is it unsafe? (Mari V., Berkeley)

Answer: Black spots on the shells of crustaceans are typically composed of melanin, which is the end product of a series of immunological reactions. This means the crab was likely responding to some shell damage that could be caused by physical trauma or a disease agent. In this case, the black spotted crab is probably safe if cooked correctly. However, if the discolored shellfish tissue has an unpleasant taste or texture, or looks or smells unusual, we always recommend not eating it.


Where can I find bail fine information?
Question: How are fines determined and how can someone locate published documentation on fines? (John S., Bakersfield)

Answer: The State Judicial Council publishes the “Uniform Bail and Penalty Schedules” every year. If you perform a web search, most courts will link to the most current edition. The link on our web site  www.courts.ca.gov/documents/july2011_jcbail.pdf is the 2011 edition. Additionally, some fines are mandatory and established by the California legislature. Those can be found in the Fish and Game Code starting with Section 12000. See the California Legislative Information web site http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes.xhtml to look up the code. With some exceptions for mandatory fines, the uniform bail and penalty schedule is a guideline used by judges. In other words, judges have a great deal of discretion in setting fines and penalties for any violation.


Crossbows for wild pigs?
Question: I am trying to get some clarification on hunting wild pigs with a crossbow. The regulations state that crossbows may be used to take deer and wild pigs only during the regular seasons (California Code Regulations, Title 14, section 353). Since wild pigs can be hunted all year, does that mean that a crossbow can be used (like a firearm) to hunt wild pigs? Can any legal hunter with a hunting license and a pig tag use a crossbow for wild pigs? The regulations have a bit of a gray area here and I would like some clarification please. (Al Q.)

Answer: Yes, wild pigs can be taken year-round with a crossbow.


Importing a water buffalo skull?
Question: I purchased a water buffalo skull with horns in Thailand (Jan 2014). The Thai post office informed me I would need a “customs” form to have it delivered in the U.S. but they did not have them. The skull remains with my son in Thailand.

The skull is clean and dry. There is no remaining material on the skull. The skull was purchased from a buffalo farm for about $60. The animal was not mistreated or tortured. It died a natural death. The farm has a number of skulls for sale.

Can you please tell me what form I need and what I need to do to have it shipped to me here in California? Thank you in advance for your assistance. I enjoy your articles! (Jerry M.)

Answer: California wildlife law does not generally apply to this situation. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would be the contact agency regarding importing parts from a water buffalo into 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.