Tag Archives: regulations

Hunting Big Game using Cell Phones and Radios?

Hunting while using the assistance of cell phones and radios is legal in California but many don't consider it ethical (USFWS photo)

Hunting while using the assistance of cell phones and radios is legal in California but many don’t consider it ethical (USFWS photo)

Question: Is it legal while hunting big game to have a spotter guide a hunter to the animals using cell phones or radios? (Frank H.)

Answer: While it’s illegal in some states, it’s not in California. In states where it is banned, it is because they believe using radios and/or cell phones while big game hunting is not an ethical method of stalking and hunting wildlife. Currently, California has no such law and so radios and cell phones are legal.

Black Cod – Sable
Question: We occasionally venture offshore for albacore later in the season and are wondering if it is legal to sportfish for black cod or sablefish in deep water. We are talking about 800 feet or deeper waters using deep drop gear. We see commercial fisherman out there long lining for these fish. (Peter C.)

Answer: What you describe is not legal. There are six Recreational Groundfish Management Areas along the coast of California (see page 9 of the 2015-2016 Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet). Depending on the management area, the depths range from approximately 120 feet to 300 feet. The only allowance for a recreational boat to possess groundfish, including sablefish/black cod, in areas deeper than allowed or closed to the take of groundfish, is when that boat is in transit with no fishing gear in the water (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 27.20(b)). There are a few species exceptions, like Pacific sanddabs, which is why the angler must carefully read the section pertaining to the management area where he/she will be fishing.

Slingbow modification
Question: I have a few questions regarding using slingbows in my area and possible changes to my method. I want to get into slingbow fishing since spearfishing in freshwater is illegal in my area (San Luis Obispo County). Is it legal here in this county? And if so, is it restricted to above the water’s surface or can I shoot fish underwater using snorkel and mask?

Second question … If it is legal to use a crossbow underwater, instead of using arrows, would it be legal to shoot carp with a Hawaiian sling shaft from a slingbow if it’s attached to a line or reel? If not, is it restricted to arrow use only? (Anonymous)

Answer: Using a slingbow or crossbow underwater would constitute spearfishing and would not be legal as spearfishing is defined as “the taking of fish by spear or hand by persons who are in the water and may be using underwater goggles, face plates, breathing tubes, SCUBA or other artificial underwater breathing device” (CCR Title 14, section 1.76).

A slingbow would only be legal as bow and arrow fishing tackle if the arrow is attached to the slingbow by a line or attached fishing reel (CCR Title 14, section 1.23). But, in San Luis Obispo County, all public lakes have ordinances prohibiting possession of bow and arrow fishing tackle on or along these water bodies. So a slingbow with attached line/fishing reel could only be used on private ponds or lakes and only for fish species listed under section 2.25 on page 15 of the current Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations booklet.

How to stop neighbors from leaving food and water for wildlife?
Question: What can be done legally to stop my neighbors from leaving food and water outside for animals? Raccoons and rats have invaded our homes and yards and are leaving unhealthy feces behind, tearing the fabric on our patio furniture and causing other problems. How can we get them to stop? (Sally S.)

Answer: Many people think they are helping wild animals when they provide food and water for them. However, all they are doing is luring the animals into conflicts with people living in the area. CDFW provides information about the inadvertent negative results on our website (search for “feeding wildlife”). You could start by educating your neighbor about the harm they are doing by providing them some of the information, and then hope that their heart is in the right place and they will stop. If the actions continue, some cities have passed local ordinances that make it illegal to feed wildlife, and CCR Title 14, section 251.1 makes it unlawful to harass wildlife (causing them to alter their normal behavior), which can include feeding them. Hopefully, educating your neighbors will preclude having to get law enforcement personnel involved.

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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.

Fishing With Glitter May Bring More Than Big Fish

CDFW photo by marine biologist Derek Stein

(CDFW Photo by Marine Scientist Derek Stein)

Question: I have been studying up on different methods of spear fishing while free diving and have read about the use of “glitter” as an attractant for bait fish. I have an idea to sprinkle glitter in the water so that when the bait fish come to investigate, the large game fish will follow and be caught as they attack the bait fish!

What are your views and the legal ramifications of this method? I understand chumming is not legal for taking game animals in our state, but the use of artificial lures is. With my idea the game fish would not be chummed by this method but instead just attracted by the collection of bait fish. If this method actually works, would it be legal? (Theodore G., Stockton)

Answer: You have an innovative idea there. Unfortunately, even if your plan to lure unsuspecting fish to you by sprinkling shiny, sparkling glitter in the water were to work, you could be cited for doing so. Placing glitter in the water is littering and is prohibited under Fish and Game Code, section 5652.

The activity you describe would be considered chumming and chumming is defined as “placing any material in the water, other than on a hook while angling, for the purpose of attracting fish to a particular area in order that they may be taken” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.32). Chumming in the ocean is allowed (as long as the chum is not considered to be litter), but chumming in freshwater is typically not permissible except in specific areas and for certain fish species (see CCR Title14, section 2.40).

Prohibited from retrieving deer from private property
Question: I recently shot a doe with my A31 tag in Los Angeles County (Archery Only-Either Sex). It appeared to be a lethal shot from 22 yards with decent shot placement. I tracked the blood to a privately owned ranch 100 yards away. I stopped tracking it when it appeared she went onto the ranch property. I then approached the ranch manager to get permission to continue tracking my deer. The owner initially agreed but after one of her coworkers talked to her, she retracted her permission (approximately 10 minutes from the time we spoke in her office). She requested that we leave her property at once as she didn’t want people to think they approved of hunting. I didn’t have enough time to locate my deer and left broken-hearted.

I don’t like seeing animals die or suffer for no reason. I would never have shot if I would have known I couldn’t recover her. I believe I did everything legal and correct but it shouldn’t be right that a deer goes to waste because of the bias of a property manager.

Is there anything I could have done to recover my deer? Do I have any rights or is there anyone I could have contacted? I’m still sick over the situation. (Luke G., Loma Linda)

Answer: It’s unfortunate that this happened. Although the law prevents one from wasting the deer, the law does not permit the trespass to retrieve it. Perhaps, if you’d contacted the local game warden, they may have been able to contact the ranch manager or owner for some possible assistance to prevent the deer from going to waste.

According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Lt. Todd Tognazzini, when archery hunting it is recommended to hunt farther from private property boundaries to avoid this type of problem as deer taken with archery usually travel farther after a lethal wound than those shot with a rifle. Tognazzini says he has never been refused when a fresh and legitimate blood trail is found leaving public land onto private property.

Where does inland end and ocean begin?
Question: I would like to fish with two rods in the Delta but don’t know whether the regulations are in the freshwater books or in the ocean books. Is the Delta part of the ocean regulations or is it considered inland waters? Where does it change from ocean to inland if considered inland? (Brian S., Felton)

Answer: You can legally fish in the waters of the Delta with a second rod stamp. Inland regulations apply from upstream of the Delta to Carquinez Bridge. The definition of inland waters vs ocean waters is, “Inland waters are all the fresh, brackish and inland saline waters of the state, including lagoons and tidewaters upstream from the mouths of coastal rivers and streams. Inland waters exclude the waters of San Francisco and San Pablo bays downstream from the Carquinez Bridge, the tidal portions of rivers and streams flowing into San Francisco and San Pablo bays, and the waters of Elkhorn Slough …” (CCR Title 14, section 1.53).

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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.

If Land is Not Posted, Can it be Hunted?

Kids take part in a managed youth hunt with the help of guides and parents on a state wildlife area. (Photo courtesy of MDC)

Question: I have two questions about a recent press release announcing the dove opener. First of all it states: “Hunters must have written permission from the landowner prior to hunting on private land.” I believe this is incorrect. If the property is POSTED, a hunter must have written permission. If it is not posted, there is no requirement for the hunter to know it is private and therefore stay out. The law is written a little odd, but I think this is the agreed interpretation.

My second question is regarding the press release statements, “It is illegal to hunt within 200 yards of an artificial water source for wildlife.” I have never seen this before. What is that statute? My understanding of the law was that a hunter many not park a vehicle or camp with 1/4 mile of an artificial water source and that he could not stay on the water source for more than 30 minutes. However, it’s perfectly legal to hunt right up to and across a guzzler (or other artificial water). (Jim Mathews)

Answer: Regarding your first question, you are correct that hunters don’t always need to have written permission from the landowner to hunt on private lands. Hunters are required to obtain written permission prior to hunting on private land that is fenced, cultivated, or where signs forbidding trespass or hunting are displayed at intervals not less than three to the mile along all exterior boundaries and at all roads and trails entering those lands (Fish and Game Code, section 2016). However, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) advises hunters to respect the property rights of others. CDFWs hunting regulations booklets all state:

“If the land you hunt on is not your own, it belongs to someone else. Make sure you have a legal right to be there. Contact the owner or person who administers the property, and secure written permission to hunt. A hunting license does not entitle you to enter private property.”

This is always the best practice. Public land managers may restrict hunting activities, too. Unfortunately, one of the most common perpetuations of a negative image of hunting is hunter trespass. Land owners are never pleased to find strangers with guns on their property without permission.

For the entire language of the hunter trespass law, please go to http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes.xhtml and search using Code = FGC and Section = 2016.

As far as your second question, you are referring to the regulation for Camping Near or Occupying Wildlife Watering Places (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 730). The regulation does not apply everywhere, and it specifically lists the prohibited activities and the locations where they are prohibited. The press release should have referenced “wildlife watering places” as those are the exact words from the regulation.

Wildlife watering places are defined as: “Waterholes, springs, seeps and man-made watering devices for wildlife such as guzzlers (self-filling, in-the-ground water storage tanks), horizontal wells and small impoundments of less than one surface acre in size.”

“Camping/Occupying” is defined as: “Establishing or inhabiting a camp; resting; picnicking; sleeping; parking or inhabiting any motor vehicle or trailer; hunting; or engaging in any other recreational activity for a period of more than thirty (30) minutes at a given location.”

Under this regulation, hunting is prohibited within 200 yards of the following:

• Any guzzler or horizontal well for wildlife on public land within the State of California.
• Any of the wildlife watering places on public land within the boundary of the California Desert Conservation Area as depicted on the Bureau of Land Management maps of “Calif. Federal Public Lands Responsibility,” “Calif. Desert Conservation Area” and the new “Desert District, B.L.M.”

Hunting is also prohibited within one-quarter mile of the following wildlife watering places:

(A) Butte Well – Lassen County.
(B) Schaffer Well – Lassen County.
(C) Tableland Well – Lassen County.
(D) Table Mountain Well – Lassen County.
(E) Timber Mountain Well – Modoc National Forest, Modoc County.
(F) Belfast Well – Lassen County.

For the entire language of this section, please go to  https://govt.westlaw.com/calregs/Search/Index and search using Title = 14 and Section = 730.

Shell collecting prohibited on Newport Beach?
Question: I often walk on the beach in Newport and collect any shells that appear to be in good shape. Recently a city official told me I cannot collect shells on the beach. Are there specific local, state or federal laws or regulations governing the collection of common shells on the beaches of Newport? (Lori, Newport Beach)

Answer: Unless the beach is part of a Marine Protected Area with Title 14 regulations that specifically prohibit collection of shells or nonliving marine resources, Fish and Wildlife laws don’t prohibit shell collection. If a city official told you that you cannot collect shells, then there may be a city ordinance. You should check with the City of Newport Beach.

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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.

Rainbow Trout in Anadromous Waters

Rainbow Trout (CDFW photo by Harry Morse)

Rainbow Trout (CDFW photo by Harry Morse)

Question: I have taken up fly fishing again after a long while away. This past weekend I went fishing on the Russian River and caught two rainbows/steelhead (one a hatchery fish and the other a wild fish) and both were about 10 inches long. I am wondering if I have to report fish of that size on my Steelhead Report Card in the future. I recorded them this time out of an abundance of caution, but I don’t want to over-inflate the run estimates needlessly. (Kyle K., Healdsburg)

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, rainbow trout are O. mykiss found in land-locked freshwater with no access to the ocean, while 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 before returning 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 are treated as rainbow trout, and those bigger than 16-inches are treated as steelhead. Fishing for steelhead, meaning any O. mykiss in excess of 16-inches, in anadromous waters will require the 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.

Can other law enforcement agencies enforce CDFW regulations?
Question: I am a current sworn recruit in a Southern California Sheriff’s Department Academy. I will be working in a county with a heavy hunting and fishing population and an abundance of wildlife areas. I am just curious, and have been earnestly trying to find the answer on my own accord without luck, about a specific phrase in Fish and Game Code, section 2012. It states:

§ 2012. 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 shall be exhibited upon demand to any person authorized by the department to enforce this code or any law relating to the protection and conservation of birds, mammals, fish, reptiles or amphibians.

My question is: who are the persons authorized by the department to enforce this code or any law relating to the protection and conservation of birds, mammals, fish, reptiles or amphibians? Are local police and county sheriffs authorized by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to enforce the Fish and Game Code? If it does exist, is there any statute that expresses that authority? (Calen A., M.A.)

Answer: Only CDFW wildlife officers are authorized to enforce the “exhibit upon demand” authority of Fish and Game Code, section 2012. Police officers and county sheriffs are authorized to enforce most hunting and fishing laws but are not authorized to enforce Fish and Game Code Section 2012.

Aside from CDFW wildlife officers, only Rangers and Lifeguards of the Department of Parks and Recreation are authorized to use that law, and then only while on duty in a state park, state beach, state recreation area, state underwater park, state reserve, or other similar facility. Although other law enforcement officers can’t make a formal demand under section 2012 to see someone’s licenses, fish, game, or equipment, they can still enforce fish and game laws and inspect these items if they are in plain view or with the person’s consent.

Discharging a firearm along public roadway
Question: As a firearms instructor and hunting enthusiast, I am continually asked the question, “When hunting and on foot (outside of a vehicle), can you discharge a firearm or other weapon (e.g. compound bow) from or along a public roadway?” Is there a minimum distance from a public roadway? For example, an inhabited structure or barn at 150 yards away? (Don S., Fresno)

Answer: It unlawful to discharge a firearm or release an arrow or crossbow bolt over or across any public road or other established way open to the public in an unsafe and reckless manner (Fish and Game Code, section 3004(b)). Discharging a firearm from or upon a public road or highway is also prohibited (Penal Code, section 374c). In addition, it is a felony to willfully discharge a firearm in a grossly negligent manner that could injure another person (Penal Code, section 246.3). Many cities and counties have also adopted ordinances further restricting where firearms may be fired, so hunters should consult their local law enforcement agency for specific information about the area where they wish to shoot.

Halibut fishing in SF Bay
Question: If I’m trolling for halibut in the San Francisco Bay, can I use another line that has only dodgers and flashers on it without any hooks to attract the fish closer to my boat? I will only have one pole or line with a hook on it. (J.V., Rodeo)

Answer: Yes.

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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.

Peace Officer, Archery Hunting and Off-duty Weapon

CPW bow hunter_Tyler Baskfield_22336

A peace officer, whether active or honorably retired, may carry a firearm capable of being concealed on his or her person while engaged in the taking of deer with bow and arrow, but shall not take or attempt to take deer with the firearm.

Question: My question is about peace officers carrying a handgun while archery hunting. The way I read the Fish and Game Code, it only states that you may carry a firearm capable of being concealed on his or her person, not that it shall or will be concealed. I always carry a backpack while hunting, and I usually carry my off-duty weapon on the waist belt under a pouch. This is not totally concealed, so is it acceptable or is it going to be left to officer discretion in the field? (Ken)

Answer: Yes, this is acceptable, but make sure to carry your peace officer identification to avoid any confusion.

“A peace officer …, whether active or honorably retired, may carry a firearm capable of being concealed on his or her person while engaged in the taking of deer with bow and arrow …, but shall not take or attempt to take deer with the firearm” (Fish and Game Code, section 4370(b)).

Lifetime fishing license is too long!
Question: I purchased a lifetime fishing license about 10 years ago. What used to be a small piece of paper that I could put in my wallet or keep in my tackle box has grown to where it’s now more than six feet in length. How about giving me a credit card type of license I can recharge every year instead of a new one? This would save a lot of money and be a lot easier to carry. (Michael T.)

: When lifetime items are renewed online, multiple items (tags, report cards, etc.) ordered together may arrive in one envelope and be printed out together as one long document. This accounts for the document length you describe, but just so you know, you should separate your documents on the dotted line printed between documents to make them more manageable.

According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Associate Governmental Program Analyst Brent George, our License and Revenue Branch at one time considered a credit card system for lifetime license customers. Although the idea has some merit, they found that given California’s large population, and the overall complexity of sport fishing and hunting privileges available throughout the state, this solution is not practical. CDFW always tries to consider all viable options when developing licensing solutions for California’s hunters and anglers.

Spearfishing in Duxbury Reef State Marine Conservation Area
Question: I have a question regarding fishing regulations as they apply to spearfishing in the Duxbury Reef State Marine Conservation Area. The regulation provides that “take of all living marine resources is prohibited except the recreational take of finfish (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 632(a)(2)) from shore and abalone.” Can I swim from shore and spearfish? I would assume the answer is yes because one has to swim from shore to dive for abalone, so swimming from shore to spearfish should similarly be allowed. What about using a kayak to get out to the dive spot? Or, what about inner tubes or boogie boards? (Gary R.)

Answer: Although you may swim from shore to take abalone, you may not spearfish in the Duxbury Reef State Marine Conservation Area. Finfish may only be taken from shore in this area (CCR Title 14, section 632(b)(50(B)).

Need a definite schedule for upcoming grunion runs
Question: I grew up in California but now live in New York. I am coming for a visit and would love to bring my kids to see a grunion run. I have your schedule but want to know if it is a definite schedule. I know they follow the full moon cycle but just want to know if there has ever been a time when you predicted the grunion will spawn on a certain day but they did not? (Andrea C., New York)

Answer: Grunion runs will occur on most southern California beaches, but unfortunately for people trying to see the grunion runs, they may not occur every night on the same beaches and may be limited to small areas of any one beach. Sometimes grunion choose not to run on beaches that are known for grunion runs; only they know why. Long story short, there are no guarantees, but as with most fishing efforts, if you don’t try you certainly will not see or catch any fish!

Grunion will spawn somewhere in their range on the days predicted; if they do not show up on one beach, they are usually at another beach. The schedule predicts the best possible times to view the runs, based on years of documentation of their behavior. Beaches that frequently host grunion runs are listed online under What Every Grunion Hunter Should Know > Best locations, on http://www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/grunion.asp#hunter.

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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.

Which Fish Species Can Be Filleted at Sea?

Only certain ocean fish are allowed to be filleted at sea. Check section 27.65 (c) in the Ocean Fishing Regulations booklet

Only certain ocean fish species are allowed to be filleted at sea. Please check the 2015 Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet (section 27.65[c] on pages 33-34) for an outline of which species may be filleted at sea while on a boat, and which may not.

Question: I need to get the straight answer regarding filleting game fish while on a boat. In the ocean/bay waters, do I need to keep stripers and leopard sharks intact until I get home or can I keep the fillets in one piece with a one inch or more square of skin left on each fillet? Also, are the rules different for inland waters regarding the filleting of fish? (Howard A.)

Answer: You can find an outline of which species may be filleted at sea while on a boat and which may not under section 27.65(b) and (c) on pages 33-34 in the Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet. Only those listed as allowed to be filleted can be filleted. Striped bass and leopard sharks are not on this list and so may not be filleted at sea.

  • Section 27.65(c): Fish That May Not be Filleted, Steaked or Chunked: No person shall fillet, steak or cut into chunks on any boat or bring ashore as fillets, steaks or chunks the following: any species with a size limit unless a fillet size is otherwise specified in these regulations. California halibut may be filleted or brought ashore as fillets south of Point Arena (Mendocino County).

Since the regulations specify minimum lengths for stripers (18 inches total) and leopard sharks (36 inches total), but no fillet lengths, neither species can be filleted while on a boat or brought ashore as fillets, steaks or chunks.

Hunting with a .22 caliber rimfire in a lead free zone?
Question: I was wondering if you could still hunt with lead .22 caliber rimfire in a lead free zone. I’ve been looking for lead free .22 caliber rimfire rounds and its very slim pickins out there. (Cory S.)

Answer: Although the availability of nonlead ammunition may be improving with time, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recognizes it can still be hard to find some calibers. It will take additional planning to participate in hunts where nonlead ammunition is required. We encourage hunters who intend to participate in these hunts to plan well ahead to be sure they have legal ammunition. There are a number of lead free .22 rimfire rounds that are manufactured, and stores in the California condor range may be most likely to have them in stock. We recommend searching on the Internet and calling ahead to local retailers. Remember that .22 rimfire is only legal to use when hunting small game and nongame animals. Current law does not require use of nonlead ammunition when taking rabbits or tree squirrels, unless you are hunting on CDFW lands, but nonlead ammunition will be required statewide for all hunting beginning July 1, 2019.

About Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) web map
Question: I read a journal article recently about California’s Marine Protected Areas (MPA) but cannot locate a website showing exactly where the MPAs are. Do you have anything posted online where I can go or something you can send me? (Jamie)

Answer: Printed MPA guidebooks are available via some of the same vendors that sell fishing licenses so that you can easily obtain them (see http://www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/mpa/guidelocations.asp). If you have problems finding a guidebook, please contact your local CDFW office and ask them to send you one.

If you like the utility of Google Maps, you might appreciate MarineBIOS (see http://map.dfg.ca.gov/marine/ ) a map that you can use to zoom in close on marine protected areas to get a fix on the boundaries. MarineBIOS lets you choose your “basemap.” You can use satellite imagery, a street map or other basemaps, whatever makes the most sense for your situation. (Click on the green basemaps button in the upper left-hand corner of the screen to access these options).

If you have a smartphone or other mobile device with GPS capability, you can use the map on MPAmobile (www.dfg.ca.gov/m/MPA/) to show you where you are in relation to any MPAs, and you can look up information on individual MPAs.

All this information and more is available online at (www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/mpa/). On this web page, in the Popular Resources box to the right, you’ll find the top four big blue buttons lead you to these resources, so these should help you learn where California’s marine protected areas are.

A new Marine Management News blog post also describes resources you can use to learn about MPAs (see https://cdfwmarine.wordpress.com/2015/06/02/mpa-maps/). If all else fails, you can email your MPA questions to AskMPA@wildlife.ca.gov and we will be glad to assist you.

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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.

What’s the Level of Wildlife Officers’ Search Authority?

CDFW Wildlife Officers have broad search authority. Hunters and anglers are required by law to exhibit upon demand all licenses, tags, wildlife, fish, and any device or apparatus designed to be, and capable of being, used to take fish and/or wildlife.

CDFW Wildlife Officers have broad search authority. People are required by law to exhibit upon demand all licenses, tags, wildlife, fish, and any device or apparatus designed to be, and capable of being, used to take fish and/or wildlife (CDFW photo)

Question: Do California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) wardens have the authority to search a sportsperson’s truck, boat, cooler, etc. without a warrant or probable cause? If so, how would an abalone check point (for example) not be a blatant violation of the Fourth Amendment of the constitution? I’m all for stopping poachers, but not at the cost of violating what makes our country so special. Thanks. (John McClellan)

Answer: In the hunting and fishing context, wildlife officers are authorized to conduct compliance inspections that would likely require warrants or probable cause in other contexts. Hunting and fishing are highly regulated activities. The fish and wildlife belong to the people of the state and not to any individual. Many states, including California, recognize this and have enacted statutes to allow Wildlife Officers to conduct regulatory inspections when interacting with those who are engaged in hunting and fishing activities. Some of these include:

• Authorization to inspect boats, buildings other than dwellings, and containers that may contain fish or wildlife (Fish and Game Code, section 1006)

• Authorization to “enter and examine any…place of business where fish or other fishery products are packed, preserved, manufactured, bought or sold, or to board any fishing boat…or vehicle or receptacle containing fish…and may examine any books and records containing any account of fish caught, bought, canned, packed, stored or sold.” (Fish and Game Code, section 7702)

Also, people are required to exhibit upon the demand of a wildlife officer all licenses, tags, wildlife, and any device or apparatus designed to be, and capable of being, used to take wildlife (Fish and Game Code, section 2012)

The courts have consistently upheld these inspection authorities. As for check points, CDFW has used check points for the past 25 years as a focused and effective means of educating resource users and deterring violations of our wildlife laws. In a state as vast as California with a population of over 38 million people and with a staff of only 400 sworn officers, CDFW needs to ensure that the funds and manpower resources we have are put to the most efficient use possible. Conducting checkpoints allows us to contact thousands of people who are using our public trust resources with a handful of officers. For those who are not using our public trust resources, the check points provide us an opportunity to educate them about our state’s wildlife resources and our role in protecting those resources. The courts have established minimum standards that must be followed when we conduct checkpoints, but just like DUI checkpoints, wildlife checkpoints have been upheld by the courts.

Helping friends fill their deer tags?
Question: If a group of friends go hunting for a week, and one of the hunters tags a buck on the first day, can he continue to carry his loaded rifle with him and help his friends fill their tags? If not, can he only help with spotting and drives without a weapon? (Rod P., Napa)

Answer: Once a hunter takes a deer and fills his tag, he may accompany other hunters but cannot assist them in any way in the take of additional deer. In addition, he should leave his rifle behind. Otherwise, if encountered in the field with a rifle or other method of take, wildlife officers may determine the person assisting the hunters is also actively hunting.

Fishing for rockfish and fishing crab snares simultaneously?
Question: Can a kayak/boat angler use one line to take rockfish and then fish a crab snare with another line? In this case, a hand line tied off to his kayak? (Anonymous)

Answer: The law requires that when fishing for rockfish, only one line with no more than two hooks may be used. However, in this case, an angler may also fish for crabs at the same time with a line that attaches to a crab loop trap because these traps will not likely catch rockfish. If approached by a wildlife officer, the angler should be prepared to explain up front that only one line contains two hooks for rockfish and the other line is attached to a crab loop trap. Remember that crab loop traps are restricted to six loops.

Pelagic red crabs
Question: The pelagic red crabs (tuna crabs) are drifting in with the warm El Niño waters and washing up on beaches everywhere. I’d like to use them for bait. Are there any regulations to be aware of? (Andrew S.)

Answer: The limit is 35 pelagic red crabs per day and 35 in possession. There are no size limits and they may be taken only by hand.

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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.