Tag Archives: Trout Fishing

Feeding Wildlife May Actually Hurt Them

Young raccoons (Ohio DNR photo by Jerry Wilder)

Young raccoons (Ohio DNR photo by Jerry Wilder)

Question: I have a question about feeding raccoons. My good-intentioned neighbor puts large pans of dog food out every night for the raccoons. We live in a very close community and the raccoons keep me awake at night with sounds of their fighting over food. They also venture onto my patio to cause more commotion and damage. I’ve tried everything to discourage their visits – ammonia-soaked rags, cayenne pepper, lights, etc. Nothing works.

I’ve tried to talk to my neighbor, telling her it’s not good for wildlife to be fed by an unnatural food source, but she turns a deaf ear. Are there laws against feeding wildlife? Is there any other advice you can give me? (Anonymous)

Answer: While feeding wildlife makes those people doing so feel good, in the long run it is often to the detriment of the animal recipients. Although many animals will eat offered food, temporarily satisfying their hunger, in reality, many human foods lack the protein and nutritional components animals need for good health.

So, although your neighbor may be well-intentioned, she’s actually hurting the wildlife and her neighbors by encouraging wild animals to get too comfortable around humans. When animals concentrate around food, they are more likely to spread diseases to each other and to domestic pets. When wild animals lose their natural fear of humans, they can become very aggressive. Coyotes, in particular, are well-known for eating small pets because they do not differentiate between the food you leave for them and other prey items, like dogs and cats.

People often think they are just feeding cute, furry critters. But if they were to put a surveillance camera out, they would likely be surprised to find out what’s actually eating the food at night. They would probably be appalled to discover animals fighting over the food, and that they’re actually keeping the neighborhood rats fat and happy.

By feeding wildlife, your neighbor may be disrupting the animals’ normal behavior patterns in violation of California Code of Regulations (CCR) Title 14, section 251.1. There may also be a local ordinance that bans feeding of some wild animals. Los Angeles County, for example, has an ordinance that prohibits feeding of “non-domesticated mammalian predators, including but not limited to, coyotes, raccoons, foxes and opossums.”

Feeding raccoons also presents a real human health risk. Raccoons are frequent carriers of a potentially fatal human pathogen, raccoon roundworm, Baylisascaris procyonis. This roundworm is transmitted through contact with the feces of raccoons and has caused fatalities in humans, including toddlers who will put raccoon feces in their mouths.

For more information, please go to: http://www.cdph.ca.gov/healthinfo/discond/Documents/RaccoonRoundworms.pdf.


Using trout for bait?
Question: Can you please clarify whether trout can be used in California inland waters as bait? (Andrew G.)

Answer: Trout may not be used for bait. Statewide bait-fish regulations for all inland fishing districts begin with, “Except as provided below, live or dead fin fish shall not be used or possessed for use as bait . . .” (CCR Title 14, sections 4.00-4.30.) Therefore, if the species is not specifically authorized in that section, it may not be used for bait. Even though trout are not specifically prohibited from being use as bait in the law, neither are they specifically authorized, and are therefore included in the general prohibition against using (any) live or dead finfish.

In addition, there are only two districts (Valley and South Central) where any species of finfish that is lawfully taken may be used for bait. However, trout and salmon are specifically excluded (CCR Title 14, section 4.20(d)). This is the provision that authorizes the use of bluegill for taking striped bass in the Delta.


How often to check hoop nets?
Question: When fishing my hoop nets in the river or ocean, how often do I need to check them?

Answer:  Hoop nets are required to be checked at intervals not to exceed two hours (CCR Title 14, section 29.80). The owner of the hoop net or the person who placed the hoop net into the water must raise the hoop net to the surface and inspect the contents of the hoop net at intervals not to exceed two hours (CCR Title14, section 29.80(b)). Any hoop net abandoned or left unchecked for more than two hours may be considered abandoned and may be seized by any person authorized to enforce these regulations.


Picking up antler sheds?
Question: Is it illegal in California to pick up antlers found in the wild? I see it is legal in every other state pretty much as long as you are not harassing the wildlife or trespassing. I have no intention of selling them or using them in a harmful way. I just want a little decoration around the house. (Kristian D.)

Answer: Yes, it is legal to collect antlers that have been naturally shed or dropped by deer or elk in California. However, be sure to check local regulations because some areas (e.g. most parks) do not allow collecting of sheds in areas under their jurisdiction.

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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.

Culling Diseased Trout in Zero-Kill Streams?

Rainbow trout from Hot Creek. Does it have whirling disease or not? (Photo by Ray Found)

Question: We were fishing Hot Creek in Mono County last weekend, and my friend caught a rainbow trout that looked unhealthy. We thought it might have Whirling Disease (See photo above).

Based on the picture, is this a likely case of whirling disease? Have fish with this disease been found in Hot Creek before? Assuming this was a case of whirling disease, what should we have done? We never keep fish and Hot Creek has zero-kill regulations, but it would seem wise to remove a whirling-diseased fish from the stream to give to the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) for examination. Since we were unsure, we released it. In the future, what would be the best practice for maintaining the health of the fisheries in the watershed if we knew this was a diseased fish? Could we have collected this fish to turn over to the DFG for evaluation? (Ray F.)

Answer: This may be a case of whirling disease (WD), but it’s impossible to make that determination based on the photo alone. Whirling disease afflicts juvenile fish causing neurological damage and skeletal deformation. Afflicted fish may not be able to swim in a normal manner. When startled, they “whirl” rather than darting away as a normal fish would. Survival rates for infected fingerlings are low (~10 percent), and those that do survive have difficulty feeding and become easy prey for predators. Humans cannot be afflicted with the disease.

According to DFG Senior Fish Health Coordinator Dr. Mark A. Adkison, whirling disease has a tropism for the cranial cartilage (e.g., the cranium appears turned or twisted). The disease is carried by the aquatic oligochaete Tubifex tubifex (a segmented worm) wherein spores (actinospores) develop and are released into the environment. These spores infect fish through the skin. The parasite develops in the skin for a few days and then travels through the nerves and spinal cord, eventually emerging from the nerves into the cranial cartilage where it grows and develops into its final spore stage (myxospores).

As part of the development process in young fish, the parasite consumes and deforms the cartilage. This causes the cranial deformities such as a sloped head, crooked jaw and shortened operculum so commonly seen in WD-infected fish. Since the fish in the photo does not have the characteristic cranial deformities that typically accompany such severe spinal deformities, the deformities may be due to some other cause.

Other possibilities include nutritional deficiencies or coldwater disease (CWD) which can also cause spinal deformities like the ones seen in the fish in the photo. Flavobacterium psychrophilum is a bacteria present in most, if not all trout waters of the state and is the causative agent of CWD. This disease is not a problem in the wild. It is a disease of concern in our hatcheries and it’s fairly easy to control by reducing fish densities and antibiotic treatment. Mortalities are typically acute.

Whirling disease is probably present in Hot Creek since it flows into the upper Owens River, and the upper Owens River is positive for WD. Therefore, it is likely that Hot Creek is positive for WD. The only way to tell for sure if a fish has WD is to test the fish for the presence of the WD parasite (myxospores) itself. The test is a terminal one though and not something you could do visually or perform stream side.

DFG Associate Fish Pathologist Dr. Garry O. Kelley adds that once Myxobolus cerebralis (which causes WD) is established in a natural system, it’s there for good. There’s strong evidence that suggest WD prevalence in the wild may be reduced by eliminating susceptible or infected salmonids and by reducing habitats for the other host, the aquatic oligochaete.

Reducing WD prevalence will help recruitment efforts since the parasite prefers the young of the year. If the regulations allow bag limits, then removing any deformed fish would be welcomed. Just keep in mind that a fish that grossly appears WD-positive may actually be negative, even in WD-positive waters. Specifically, the deformities could be genetic, an injury or some other pathogen (e.g., cold water disease).

As far as what to do with a diseased fish, from a biological point of view, if the fish was infected with WD to the point where it had severe deformities, it would probably be good to remove it from the creek to decrease the WD spore load in the environment. However, from the enforcement side, if it’s a no kill zone then it’s up to enforcement as to whether they would cite the fisherman for not returning the fish to the stream.

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

Is a Duck Still a Duck Once it Becomes Sausage?

Pintail drake (USFWS photo)

Question:My question is about possession of waterfowl when processed. A friend shot more than 250 ducks in the just-completed waterfowl season, so I asked him if he was breaking the law by having more then 14 ducks in possession. He said no because he had them regularly processed into duck sausage, and once processed they’re considered out of your possession. Is this correct? Another friend saves all his ducks throughout the 100-day duck season and then gives them all to a butcher to process into sausage. He contends if you process the meat through a meat grinder, then it’s not considered part of the possession limit anymore because it’s now processed.

If you smoke your ducks or process them through a meat grinder and put them in your freezer, are they then out of your possession? A clarification of the “in possession” rule would be greatly appreciated. (Mike)

Answer: Your friends are mistaken and could be cited for possessions of overlimits. Generally, the daily bag limit is seven ducks, and the possession limit is two daily bag limits. Possession is defined as “fresh, frozen or otherwise preserved …” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.17). Making sausage only preserves the birds; they are still in possession until eaten or given away.

By the way, not only are your friends in violation for possessing overlimits, but so is the butcher if he accepts more than a possession limit from either of them for processing. No matter what condition the ducks are in (whole, quartered, ground-up, smoked, processed, etc.), a duck is a duck and all ducks count toward the limit. Ducks, like all other fish and game, are in someone’s possession until consumed, regardless of the condition in which they are stored.

If the hunter has other family members living in the same home, the hunter can gift their daily limits to other members of the household during the season and hold them for processing. However, none of the family members can ever have more than the possession limit.


Removing mussels from rocks with an abalone iron?
Question: For years I have used an abalone iron for removing mussels from the rocks but was just told that I can’t use any tools. Is this true? How can mussels be removed from the rocks without an ab iron or something similar? Please clarify what tools, if any, can be used to take mussels from ocean rocks. (Bill T.), Lafayette)

Answer: You may take mussels only by hand without the aid of any tools (CCR, Title 14, section 29.10). Taking mussels by hand one at a time is far less harmful to a mussel bed than prying them off with ab irons, crowbars, screwdrivers, hoes or hammers. When people use tools they have a tendency to pry off large chunks of the mussel clusters and then pick out the desirable ones to eat, wasting the rest. Many people use a tough pair of garden gloves to pry them off. Give those a try.


Trout fishing with “dough balls”?
Question: While living back east, we used to use “dough balls” for trout. We made them out of corn meal, flour and water or fish meal, flour and water. Is this a legal bait for trout in California? (Mike)

Answer: Processed foods may be used in California’s inland waters where bait is legal. Where bait is legal, dough balls would be legal.


More on bloodsucking leeches
Regarding last week’s question about leeches in northern California lakes, we got some additional interesting feedback. DFG environmental scientist Mary Meyer, who has extensively studied the Eagle Lake area in particular, confirms that Eagle Lake supports a variety of unique invertebrates, including freshwater hydra, freshwater sponges … and abundant leech populations. “If you wade or stand around in the water, they may attach. If you swim around and don’t stay still long, they tend to leave you alone,” she says. Eagle Lake also has the parasite that causes swimmers itch and can infest humans, particularly if you are standing or wading in the water.

Meyer also guesses that the wormlike creatures in Clear Creek were likely black fly larvae of the Family Simuliidae. Some folks call these black flies “no-see-ums.” The adult females are rather slow-moving and smaller than a house fly. They may bite humans and other mammals and those bites can be itchy for a day or two. The aquatic larvae are black and attach in masses to the surface of rocks in swift water, anchored by a silk thread. They are benign at this stage and often confused with leeches simply because they are small, black and wiggly.

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