Tag Archives: spearfishing

Herding and Spearing Fish in Shallow Saltwater

Thornback skate (CDFW photo by Derek Stein)

Thornback skate (CDFW photo by Derek Stein)

Question: Over the past few years, I have noticed an increasing number of people attempting to spear corbina while wading in shallow nearshore waters (multiple counties in Southern California). These folks are in the water but not transiting to deeper water. They do not ever swim or float, they are throwing their spears/Hawaiian slings at fish while standing upright upon the bottom. In some cases, they even work in small teams to corral fish by driving them into shallow beach depressions.

I note that the 2013-14 regulations, section 28.90 starts with: “Persons who are floating or swimming in the water may use spearfishing gear and skin or SCUBA diving equipment to take…” So, I guess this question revolves around the definition of the word “swimming” as interpreted by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). Are either of these practices legal? (Anonymous)

Answer: The activities you describe are neither swimming nor floating. This activity is allowed only for the take of skates, rays and sharks (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 28.95). If they want to spear any other type of fish, they need to be swimming or floating. Corralling the fish with their bodies would be legal if they were swimming or floating.


How many spider crabs?
Question: We were fishing off the Santa Barbara Pier last weekend and kept catching spider crabs. We wanted to keep them but couldn’t find them mentioned in the regulations and so didn’t know if we could take them. What are the limits or regulations are on spider crabs? (Stan M., Modesto)

Answer: Spider crabs fall under the general section 29.05 in the Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet. Therefore, there are no closed seasons, closed hours or minimum size limits. The bag limit on spider crabs, as well as other invertebrates not covered in more specific laws for which the take is authorized and for which there is not a bag limit otherwise established, is 35.


Calls and sounds to attract a buck?
Question: I have done most of my hunting in other states and am wondering two things. First, can I use a buck grunt, rattle horns together or use a non-electronic doe bleat to attract a buck? Second, does California require deer hunters to wear blaze orange during rifle season? (Colt Wells)

Answer: Yes, buck grunts, rattle horns and doe bleats to attract bucks are legal to use as long as none of these sounds are electronically produced or transmitted. Regarding blaze orange, California fish and wildlife laws do not require hunters to wear blaze orange while hunting deer, but some local rules in some areas, such as military reservations, may require blaze orange to be worn. Even if it is not required, wearing blaze orange does help you to be more visible to other hunters, so it’s a good idea to wear whenever possible for your safety. One thing to note regarding deer, they cannot detect the color orange. To deer, orange looks gray.


Trout possession limits
Question: I know that certain lakes allow the take of five trout per day. I understand if I’m fishing with my son (10 years old), we can take 10 fish. My question is, does it matter who catches how many? Do I have to stop fishing once I have five fish even though between the two of us, we do not have the limit for the day? Does it matter which fishing pole? If his fishing pole catches two fish but I help pull a fish in on his pole for him, does the fish register as my fish or his? Even though he knows how to cast, he is not strong enough to throw as far as I do. Can I cast for him? When he has a bite, can I help him with the fish as long as he is the one reeling it in? I know I am asking a lot of questions but I’ve heard people tell me different things and it’s not listed specifically in the California regulations. Just want to make sure I’m not doing anything wrong when fishing out there. Thanks for your help. (Kyosuke)

Answer: You and your son can each take five fish, and yes, it does matter who catches what. Each person is responsible for their own catches. Once you catch your bag limit, you must stop fishing. While “boat limits” are allowed when fishing on the ocean from a boat, this same practice is not allowed when fishing from shore or when fishing in freshwater. You can offer your son some assistance, but he must do his own fishing.

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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 Cal.Outdoors@wildlife.ca.gov.

Please do not reply to this e-mail. DFGNews@wildlife.ca.gov is for outgoing messages only and is not checked for incoming mail. For questions about this News Release, contact the individual(s) listed above. Thank you.

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Ground Squirrels for the BBQ?

Ground squirrels may be taken at any time. However, before tossing one on the barbecue, you should be aware of the possible health dangers (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

California ground squirrels may be taken at any time. However, before tossing one on the barbecue, you should be aware of the possible health dangers (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: I heard there are some concerns with eating ground squirrels in general. Is there some truth to this? If so, why do I see recipes to cook and eat them? Are they like chicken and pork where if you ensure the meat is cooked thoroughly, you should be okay? I like to go squirrel hunting with my son, but since tree squirrels may not be hunted now, ground squirrels are our only option. Any guidance would be helpful! (Highhorse L.)

Answer: Tree squirrel season runs between September  and January. California ground squirrels are not a game animal though, so from a legal standpoint, they have no seasons, bag or possession limits. If taken in the condor zone, ground squirrels must be hunted with non-lead ammunition.

Before attempting to eat them though, according to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) veterinarians, there’s a lot we don’t know about diseases in ground squirrels. We do know they carry fleas and are highly susceptible to plague and probably die within a short period of time after exposure to the disease agent.

Also, anyone even thinking of eating ground squirrels should first make sure there is no chemical ground squirrel control going on in the area because ground squirrels are commonly controlled by anticoagulant rodenticides. If the ground squirrel consumes a non-lethal dose, the rodenticide would still persist in their tissues for a few weeks or months.

Be aware that both the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website www.cdc.gov/plague/and the California Department of PublGround_Squirrel_USFWSic Health site www.cdph.ca.gov/healthinfo/discond/Pages/Plague.aspx indicate the greatest risk of acquiring plague is being around infected rodents like ground squirrels due to their fleas. Humans usually get the disease after being bitten by a rodent flea that is carrying the plague bacterium or by handling an animal infected with plague. During the Middle Ages, plague is infamous for killing millions of people in Europe. Today, modern antibiotics are effective in treating plague. Without prompt treatment, the disease can cause serious illness or death.

Plague is endemic everywhere in California, except the southeastern desert and the Central Valley. It is not active everywhere in that range though, so before your hunt I suggest you contact the county public health department in the areas you will be hunting to find out the status and history of plague in those areas. Watch out for the state-protected Mohave ground squirrel found only in the Mojave Desert. They are not legal to take, so be sure you can tell them apart from the California ground squirrel.

If after reading all this you’re still determined to eat ground squirrels, like with all wildlife, make sure they are cooked thoroughly. Proper preparation and cooking is key to avoiding and minimizing exposure to disease. Bon appetit!


Can my kids spearfish for carp?
Question: I have a question concerning spear fishing for carp. When I was a kid, we used to go into the creeks and spear big carp. On the Russian River during the fall, I would see tens of thousands of huge carp congregating. Can I let my kids go into the water with a mask and fins and spear these 10-20+ pound carps? I would think that would be helpful for the river and we can pass the meat out to our multi-cultural friends. (Anonymous)

Answer: Spearfishing for carp is allowed only in the Colorado River District (all year) and in certain areas of the Valley District, Black Butte Lake and the Kern River (from May 1 to Sept. 15) (CCR Title 14, section 2.30).


Why no harvest odds this year?
Question: Why did the Big Game Digest omit the harvest odds for deer this year? Why do they not publish buck-to-doe ratios either? Other states share that information and it’s a lot more helpful than those colorful articles in this year’s booklet. I am afraid to spend my points blindly. (Todd S.)

Answer: The answer has more to do with timing than anything – harvest and ratio data were simply not available when the Big Game Digest was developed. We are still adapting the harvest analysis to the new Automated License Data System (ALDS). Harvest data first has to be entered into the database, and then the analysis takes place. The deer harvest data was posted on-line as soon as it was available at www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/hunting/deer/deerhunt.html.


Fishing license when practicing fly fishing?
Question: Will we need a fishing license at Big Bear Lake if we are only fly rod casting in the water? We just want to learn how to cast a fly rod and will be using a fly without a hook on it. (Patrick G., Las Vegas, NV)

Answer: You do not need to have a license if the fly is not capable of hooking a fish.

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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 Cal.Outdoors@wildlife.ca.gov.

Please do not reply to this e-mail. DFGNews@wildlife.ca.gov is for outgoing messages only and is not checked for incoming mail. For questions about this News Release, contact the individual(s) listed above. Thank you.

If White-tailed Deer Stray into California, Can We Shoot?

White-tail deer (Photo courtesy of USFWS)

White-tailed deer (Photo courtesy of USFWS)

Question: If white-tailed deer were to migrate into California from Oregon or Idaho, could they be shot here on sight since there is no season or provision for that species? (Scott H.)

Answer:  No. Since Fish and Game Code, section 3950(a) defines deer as genus Odocoileus, which includes white-tailed deer, white-tailed deer can only be taken under the normal deer hunting provisions for the area in which it wandered.


Spearfishing in the Sacramento River
Question: I live in the Valley District and am wondering if it is legal to spearfish in the Sacramento River? I know there are carp, pikeminnow (squawfish) and western suckers. I’ve been searching online and many people say you can’t spearfish in any fresh water system, including streams, lakes and rivers. I have spearfished in the ocean but not in fresh water yet. I keep hearing different things from people regarding the spearfishing.

Also, is there any recommended equipment for spearfishing? Can homemade or custom-built equipment be legally used for spearfishing? I know the Valley District is only open for a short time (five months) for spearfishing. (J.T. Moua)

Answer: Spearfishing is allowed but there are some restrictions. First of all, please pick up a copy of the 2012-2013 Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations booklet available free of charge at most stores or DFG offices that sell fishing licenses or online at www.dfg.ca.gov/regulations/. Section 2.30 (page 15) lists the only species that may be taken in the Valley District between May 1 and Sept. 15. For a description of the boundaries for the Valley District, please see section 6.36 (page 27). In addition, you may not spearfish in designated spawning areas. There are no specific definitions regarding the spears that may be used, so you may build your own or buy a custom made spear. For a definition of what regulations constitute spearfishing, please see section 1.76 (page 13).


How many hooks are allowed when sturgeon fishing?
Question: When fishing for sturgeon, how many hooks are allowed?

Answer: Only one single point, single shank, barbless hook may be used on a line when taking sturgeon.


When a sturgeon is accidentally caught on the wrong gear …?
Question: If a legal-sized white sturgeon is caught accidentally on a barbed hook (e.g. while fishing for striped bass), can it be legally kept as long as the angler possesses a sturgeon report card and tag? (Anonymous)

Answer: No, even if accidentally caught, barbed hooks are not an authorized method of take for white sturgeon. Thus, even legal-sized white sturgeon caught on a barbed hook cannot be kept.


What are the rules for sturgeon fishing from a boat?
Question: Once an angler on a boat has legally caught and kept a white sturgeon, must all anglers on that boat switch to barbless hooks?

Answer: No. However, for the rest of that day, the successful sturgeon angler must no longer fish for sturgeon and must immediately release any sturgeon that is accidentally caught.


Sand Souvenirs
Question: I am developing a souvenir that would contain granules of sand from California beaches. I would only require about a half-gallon of sand. Am I able to take sand from a beach and re-sell it as a souvenir to promote the state and its natural resources? (Paul K.)

Answer: Generally, beach sand is not protected by any California Fish and Game law. However, collection of anything (including beach sand) is prohibited in any park or other marine area that has a specific designation and protection in law. In addition, you may want to consider the corrosive nature of beach sand due to its salt content and other unsuitable qualities resulting from decomposition of biotics before using it in your souvenirs. You may find it more beneficial to purchase treated beach sand that is sold in small quantities at many stores that stock landscape and garden supplies.

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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 Cal.Outdoors@wildlife.ca.gov.