Tag Archives: regulations

Turkey Hunting with Pellet Rifles?

Spring tom turkeys in Northern California (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Spring tom turkeys in Northern California (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: While watching some videos on YouTube about turkey hunting with a pellet rifle, I noticed a guy from northern California stating he was using a nitro piston Remington air rifle which is not constant air or CO2 powered as your regulations state they must be. I believe people are thinking that any pellet rifle that is .177 caliber or larger is all right to use. This guy has videos of multiple hunts in which he is using illegal equipment, thus couldn’t he be considered “poaching” or at least taking game with illegal equipment? It’s sad to see people that are not completely understanding of the rules and regulations, but it also angers me to see people shoot these birds with equipment they should not be using. (Rob G., Folsom)

Answer: Thank you for taking the time to contact us about this and the use of the pellet rifle. According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Chief Mike Carion, this topic was recently discussed among our law enforcement leaders, and the group’s consensus is that the regulation allows for “compressed air or gas.” Therefore, since the nitrogen-filled chamber is a compressed gas, it would meet the criteria of the regulations and therefore is not illegal.

This is another example of the regulations not being able to keep up with the advances in technology. We appreciate you bringing this to our attention and we will work to correct the writing of the language of these regulations.


Filleting halibut aboard my boat?
Question: If I catch a California halibut and want to fillet it aboard my boat and keep it as fresh as possible, what do I have to do? Someone told me that as long as I leave all of the skin still attached on one side, that would be legal. Is this correct? (Robert L., Long Beach)

Answer: Yes. For California halibut taken from or possessed aboard a vessel south of Point Arena (Mendocino County), fillets must be a minimum of 16 and three-quarter inches in length and shall bear the entire skin intact. A fillet from a California halibut (flesh from one entire side of the fish with the entire skin intact) may not be cut-in-half fillets. However, a fillet may be cut lengthwise in a straight line along the midline of the fillet where the fillet was attached to the vertebra (backbone) of the fish only if the two pieces of a fillet remain joined along their midline for a length of at least two inches at one end of the fillet (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 27.65(b)(6)).


How old to hunt in California?
Question: How old do you have to be to hunt in California? I know you have to be 12 to hunt big game, but are there any age limits to anything else? How old do you have to be to take the hunter safety class? (Zac S.)

Answer: A person must be 12 years old to apply for a big game tag and 16 to hunt bighorn sheep. There is no specified minimum age to hunt other game, but hunters must be accepted into and successfully complete the prescribed hunter education course. It’s up to the hunter education instructors as to what minimum age child they are willing to test, but most recommend 10 years old. The main thing is the child must be mature enough to successfully complete the hunter education course requirements and examination.


Bear spray
Question: What are the laws in regards to bear spray in the state of California? I moved from Alaska where it was almost necessary to carry bear spray as your first line of defense in order to eliminate the threat rather than resorting to a firearm. Can you please clarify what the law is here in California? I understand personal self-defense against humans is legal as long as its 2.5 ounces or less. But as far as bear spray I just don’t know the answer. I am concerned because I still have a can I brought from Alaska with me and would like to know if I am breaking any laws? (Paul P.)

Answer: Nothing in the Fish and Game Code or Title 14 regulations limit the amount of bear spray that may be possessed in California. However, depending upon the ingredients in the spray, there are likely Penal Code or Health and Safety Code provisions that apply. The use of bear spray is not allowed within National Parks found within California but is allowed in some parks in other states. CDFW recommends checking with the local sheriff’s office in the area you plan on carrying the bear spray.

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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.

How to Identify Hatchery vs Wild Trout

Angler with a wild Klamath River Steelhead that was soon released. (DFG Photo)

Angler with a wild Klamath River Steelhead that was soon released. (CDFW Photo)

Question: How do you tell a hatchery trout from a wild trout in Central Valley rivers? The regulations for the Stanislaus River below Goodwin Dam state you can keep two hatchery trout or hatchery steelhead. Hatchery steelhead have clipped adipose fins. If I catch a trout and it has an adipose fin, do I just assume it’s not a hatchery trout? (Judi A.)

Answer: Hatchery trout or hatchery steelhead are those showing a healed adipose fin clip (adipose fin is absent). Unless otherwise provided, all other trout and steelhead must be immediately released. Wild trout or steelhead are those not showing a healed adipose fin clip (adipose fin is present) (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 7.50).


Squirrels for crabs
Question: Can legally taken California ground squirrels (a non-game mammal) be used for bait in Dungeness crab traps? (Bret H.)

Answer: Yes, ground squirrels can be used as bait, but remember they are also vectors of a number of flea borne diseases, so use caution when handling them.


Hunting around my house
Question: I live in a rural area. Can I legally hunt within 150 yards of my own residence? Can I hunt within 150 yards of anyone else’s if I have their written permission? (Jess K.)

Answer: Yes. These are safety zone restrictions but as long as there are no other local laws or ordinances that prohibit hunting or the discharge of a firearm, then you can hunt within 150 yards of your own residence or any other residence where you have obtained express permission of the owner or person in possession of the premises (FGC section 3004(a). (LED Feb 14)


Catch and release fishing during a closed season
Question: In the freshwater regulation hand book under Section 1.38 it states: “CLOSED SEASON. That period during which the taking of fish, amphibians, reptiles, mollusks or crustaceans is prohibited.” This leads to my question regarding whether a person can still fish during a closed season as long they release all the fish they catch? In other words, I would practice catch and release and use barbless hooks to protect the fish from further harm. The regulation restricts the taking of fish, but no fish will be taken. I am very confused. Can you help clarify? It’s kind of twisted and confusing. (Robin O.)

Answer: Fishing during a closed season is prohibited, period. Even though you don’t intend to take any fish away with you, the definition of take is to “Hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill fish, amphibians, reptiles, mollusks, crustaceans or invertebrates or attempting to do so” (CCR Title 14, section 1.80). Therefore, despite your best methods, even the attempt to fish is prohibited.

There are few exceptions, but the take of crayfish other than with hook and line is authorized when a stream is otherwise closed to fishing (CCR Title 14, section 5.35(e)). Typically, crayfish may be taken only by hand, hook and line, dip net or with traps not over three feet in greatest dimension (CCR Title 14, section 5.35). Most crayfish have no limit and the season is open all year. However, Shasta crayfish are protected and so there are specific river and lake closures listed for their protection in the 2014-2015 California Freshwater Fishing Regulations booklet (see page 21), as well as online at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/regulations/. Look for subsection (d) of this section for the closed waters to avoid.


Taking crabs by SCUBA
Question: I am heading to the beach this weekend, I bought a fishing license and I am planning to do some SCUBA diving. Can I take a big bag with me and collect up to 35 rock crabs from the ocean using SCUBA? (Jimmy P.)

Answer: Yes. Take of all crabs of the Cancer genus, except Dungeness crabs, but including yellow crabs, rock crabs, red crabs and slender crabs is allowed all year. While using SCUBA, crabs may be taken by hand only with no hooked devices in possession (CCR Title 114, section 29.80(g)).

The limit is 35 and the minimum size is four inches measured by the shortest distance through the body, from edge of shell to edge of shell at the widest part, except there is no minimum size in Fish and Game districts 8 and 9 (around Humboldt Bay). They may be brought to the surface of the water for measuring, but no undersize crabs may be placed in any type of receiver, kept on the person or retained in any person’s possession or under his direct control; all crabs must be measured immediately and any undersize crabs must be released immediately into the water (CCR Title 14, section 29.85 (b)(c)).

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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

Diving for Lobsters with Hoop Nets

DFG Marine Biologist Travis Buck holds a California spiny lobster caught in a traditional hoop net (DFG photo)

CDFW Marine Environmental Scientest Travis Buck holds a California spiny lobster caught in a traditional hoop net (CDFW photo)

Question: In regards to catching California spiny lobster, the regulations say the following: Both rigid and collapsible hoop nets may be used from piers and boats. When fishing from a boat, five nets per person are allowed with no more than ten traps on a boat. When fishing from a pier, two hoop nets per person are allowed. Divers are limited to catching lobster by (gloved) hand only.

This leads me to my question. Is it legal for a snorkeler/diver/free diver to swim their hoop nets out to the desired location to drop and then retrieve their traps by hand, while floating in the water? This seems like a good option for people who do not own boats to set traps from and for divers when visibility is so poor that it’s impossible to see lobsters to catch by hand. (Joshua)

Answer: No, you cannot legally take fish hoop nets out to a fishing location while free or scuba diving. The law says that when diving for crustaceans (free or scuba diving), you may take crustaceans by the use of hands only (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.80(g)). If you are in the water, you are diving. You can scout where you want to set your nets when diving, but then you need to stop diving and get out of the water to set and retrieve your hoop nets. If you don’t want to buy or borrow a boat, you can set traps from a kayak, a long board or even a stand up paddle board. Just be sure to wear a life jacket if you do!


Property rights via access by ATV down a dry river bed?
Question: During the last week of deer season, I approached a man riding a 4-wheeler who was obviously hunting since he had a rifle case. He was riding down the dry river bed for over a mile where it’s private property on both sides of the river. He argued with me that he had a right to be there as long as he stayed under the high water mark. I told him he could not be there and could not cross private property at all unless if in a boat and didn’t touch the river bar/land. He got huffy with me so I let it go and he proceeded on his way. What is the law when it comes to a river running through private land? (Heather D.)

Answer: This is a very complicated area of the law and will vary based on the characteristics of the waterway, the ownership of the land, the agencies involved and a number of other factors. In other words, before people get on their ATVs thinking they have the right to ride down dry river beds through private property, they should do some research to see exactly who owns or manages the land, what the characteristics of the dry waterway are and be absolutely sure they have a right to be there and won’t be trespassing. All situations are not the same and the laws may vary from place to place.


Pooling crabs?
Question: What is the boat limit for taking crabs other than Dungeness? I plan to have between two and four people (all with fishing licenses) on my private boat and need to know the answer to this question. Thank you very much for your help. (Jay T.)

Answer: You may not pool your crabs since boat limits apply only to finfish and not to invertebrates (CCR Title 14, section 27.60 (c)). With crabs, individual bag and possession limits apply. For crabs of the Cancer genus (excluding Dungeness crabs) including yellow crabs, rock crabs, red crabs and slender crabs, the limit is 35 crabs per person. Each crab must measure a minimum of four inches from edge of shell to edge of shell at the widest part (except there is no minimum size in parts of Humboldt County).


Bow and arrow hunting with a slingshot?
Question: Can a slingshot be used as a bow or crossbow? Would it be legal to hunt with an arrow and slingshot? (Anonymous)

Answer: Yes, a slingshot can be used as a bow or crossbow as long as it can cast a legal hunting arrow (except flu-flu arrows) a horizontal distance of 130 yards, and as long as it meets one of the definitions of bows and crossbows listed in the Title 14 regulations. To be sure your slingshot meets the requirements, please go to http://www.dfg.ca.gov/enforcement/, click on “CA Code of Regulations, including Title 14” and look up Title 14, section 354, subdivisions (a), (b) and (f).

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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.