Tag Archives: turkey hunting

Harvest of Road-Killed Wild Game Meat?

(Photo by Carrie Wilson)

(Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: I have a screwy immune system with 3-4 different diagnoses (depending on the doctor) as to what the problem may be. Going vegetarian makes it worse. I must have flesh food, but again, because of the immune issues, it has to be grassfed/pastured or wild game. Whatever farmers do to crowded animals turns my body into a torture chamber.

I understand from my Canadian contacts with similar issues that Canadian provinces can create a list of people who have a medical need for this kind of protein, and freshly taken road-killed deer, elk, moose (not many of those!) and the like are made available to those people at low cost. The people take on the risk themselves, of course, and have the right to refuse if it doesn’t smell or look right to them. Do you know if there is any such system in the works, or being discussed at all, in this country or state? It does seem to be simultaneously wise, rational and kind. (Isabel)

Answer: I’m sorry to hear about your immune system issues, but in California we have no road kill harvest program available and are not considering such a program. This type of program would create many biological and law enforcement issues, as well as expose the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to liability.

If you feel consumption of wild game may be your best solution, you should consider harvesting your own game and then you will ensure your meat will be fresh, contain no introduced chemicals and will be some of the freshest and healthiest meat available. To get started, consider taking one of our hunter education courses (www.dfg.ca.gov/huntered/) and then buy a hunting license. It is legal for a hunter to give you game meat he or she harvested too, but it is not legal to buy, barter, trade, etc. for it.

There are also commercial sources of game meat available, such as from farm-raised deer and elk from Australia and New Zealand, and there may be others that offer farm-raised fallow deer from California.

If hunting and harvesting your own protein is not for you, another option might be to consider shopping in local co-op stores and invest in free range, organic, grass fed beef if commercial meat is a health issue for you.


Turkey decoy
Question: Can you please tell me if it legal to use a turkey decoy with a motorized base in California? They sell them at Bass Pro Shops. (Mike R.)

Answer: Yes, this decoy would be legal to use.


Black perch inquiry
Question: I’ve been hearing reports of surf and jetty anglers catching good numbers of “black perch”, however, I’ve never heard of a black perch. Do you think they are actually catching black rockfish instead? If so, I worry these anglers may be thinking of these rockfish as perch and are therefore applying perch regulations rather than rockfish regulations. Now that the bag limit of black rockfish is lower, people may break the law without knowing it. Can you please find out if black perch are really black rockfish? (Capt. David B., Santa Barbara)

Answer: Thank you for your concern regarding potential impacts to black rockfish by shore anglers. Black perch, Embiotica jacksoni, is a member of the surfperch family and are definitely not black rockfish, Sebastes melanops.

According to CDFW Environmental Scientist Ken Oda, black perch are commonly caught by anglers on jetties, piers and rocky shorelines. They are also taken occasionally by spear fishermen diving in and around kelp. Other species of surfperch often caught with black perch are striped seaperch, rubberlip seaperch and pile perch. San Francisco Bay area fishermen often refer to black perch as “pogies” and in other areas of the state, anglers call them “buttermouths” because their lips are often yellowish in color.

In most areas, anglers may take up to 10 black surfperch as part of a surfperch aggregate limit of 20. But in San Francisco Bay and San Pablo Bay, up to five black surfperch may be taken as part of the aggregate limit of five surfperch (CCR Title 14, section 28.59(c)(1). When it comes to black rockfish, anglers may take no more than five as part of the daily bag and possession limit of 10 fish in combination of all species within the RCG Complex (rockfish, cabezon and greenlings) (CCR Title 14, section 28.55(b)).

For a color photo identification guide of common surfperch that also contains diagnostic features of the black perch, please go to www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/fishid.asp. Another source of interesting information about black perch can be found on the Aquarium of the Pacific website at: www.aquariumofpacific.org/onlinelearningcenter/species/black_perch.

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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.

 

Cameras Capturing Resident Neighborhood Mountain Lions

Mountain Lion (CDFW photo)

Mountain lions are now secretly living in and around many California neighborhoods where residents’ security cameras and trail cams frequently capture their images (CDFW photo of California mountain lion).

Question: I live in Kern County and last December caught a mountain lion on our security camera. Then, last night about 6:45 pm I saw it walking on the road in front of my home with a cat in its mouth. This is a new experience for me and my research indicates that there is no reason for concern, except to notify neighbors with pets. Can you please give me some guidance on whether I should do anything with this information? (Steve D.)

Answer: These security cameras that people and businesses are installing as well as trail cams are creating quite a buzz about lions. People are now getting the opportunity to realize what lion researchers have recently come to understand, which is that lions live around people more than we think.

According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Senior Environmental Scientist and mountain lion expert Marc Kenyon, we once thought that mountain lions resided solely in the mountains (hence their moniker), but it turns out they have been living all around us. With that in mind, we’ve also come to realize that mountain lions don’t present quite the level of danger that we used to think.

And you’re absolutely correct. Probably the best way to manage this situation is to simply warn neighbors about the presence of a lion. And if you visit our Keep Me Wild web page (www.dfg.ca.gov/keepmewild/lion.html) you can learn how to live and recreate safely among these magnificent creatures.

However, there is always a chance that these animals, like all wild animals, could pose a threat to public safety. Although the risk is extremely small, it still exists and we don’t take it lightly. In addition to following the advice on the Keep Me Wild web page, please be sure to call 911 or your local police if you or your neighbors witness a lion exhibiting any threatening behavior. The local police can typically respond much faster than we can, however they will be in direct contact with us until we can arrive if our presence is necessary.

Such potentially threatening behaviors include:

  • Following people closely and secretively
  • Intently watching children
  • Twitching tail
  • Stomping front or hind feet
  • Approaching people with ears pinned back and hissing
  • On the ground and refusing to flee when you are shouting at them aggressively and/or blowing a whistle

Also, a mountain lion in a tree or crouching in some vegetation near a trail or a residence doesn’t always reflect a dangerous situation unless some of the behaviors listed above are also noted. More often than not, that mountain lion is simply trying to hide until people pass, and it may even feel threatened by the people who are watching it.


Alternate length measurements
Question: For kelp bass, barred sand bass and spotted sand bass, the marine sport fishing regulations state that the size limit is 14 inches total length or ten inches alternate length. What is the difference between total and alternate length? (Tom R.)

Answer: Total length is the longest straight-line measurement from the tip of the head to the end of the longest lobe of the tail. Tip of the head shall be the most anterior point on the fish with the mouth closed and the fish lying flat on its side. Alternate length is the straight-line distance from the base of the foremost spine of the first dorsal fin to the end of the longest lobe of the tail (California Code of Regulations Title 14, Section 1.62).


Verifying it’s a tom turkey
Question: I know that only tom turkeys may be legally harvested during the spring turkey season, so how do I prove this if questioned? Should I leave a wing or the beard or both on the bird? Please clarify. (Anonymous)

Answer: The regulations are intended to require that only tom turkeys may be taken during the spring season, but the law specifically states that the turkey must be “bearded” (a bearded turkey is one having a beard visible through the breast feathers). In most cases a beard will distinguish the animal as male, but in some rare incidents hens may also have them.

Keep the beard attached to the carcass until you return to your residence. You may pluck the bird in the field, but remember to keep the beard connected to the body.

Toms and hens can be easily determined by their significant head and wing color differences. If by chance you run across a rare bearded hen, even though the provisions of the law may allow you to take it, we strongly discourage it. Spring is the turkeys’ primary mating and nesting period so hens may not be harvested in order to protect their production.

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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 Don’t Licenses Run Annually from Date of Purchase?

Licensing photoQuestion: Why do fishing licenses run from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31 every year rather than from the date of purchase? For example, a person buys his/her license Dec. 1 only to find it expires the end of the month. Then by Jan. 1, they must purchase a new license for the full price. Why not let it go for one full year from the date of purchase? Hunting licenses too run from July 1 through June 30 of the next year. I think license sales would greatly improve if they were changed from date of purchase to the next year. Can someone give a rational answer, please? (Alan E., Los Angeles)

Answer: California has considered changing from a calendar-based sport fishing license to a license that is valid for one year from the date of purchase. But while this seems beneficial, when we looked at the issue thoroughly, we realized that changing to a license that is valid for one year from the date of purchase would significantly reduce funding for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW).

According to CDFW License Program Analyst Glenn Underwood, several other states have made the change to a license that is valid for one year from the date of purchase, and so we contacted these other states to learn from their experiences. We found states that changed from a calendar year license to a license that is valid for one year from the date of purchase experienced a reduction in license sales from 10 to 30 percent in the three years following implementation. Experts from these states explained license purchasing patterns changed when the license system changed to one year from the date of purchase licenses. Customers tended to wait until the last minute to purchase a license, as they knew it would be valid for one year from that date. Then when their licenses expired, customers again waited to renew until they fished again, creating a gap in licensure. After a few years the sum of the gaps was often greater than a year and a complete license sale was lost.

Changing to a license that is valid for one year from the date of purchase would also reduce federal grant funding. Each state in the country receives federal grant money from the Sport Fish Restoration Act (SFRA) which is funding generated from federal excise tax on sales of sport fishing tackle and motorboat fuels. This program funds critical fish habitat restoration projects throughout the state, providing increased fishing opportunities for California anglers. A tiered system is used to allocate grants to the states. In 2014, California received the maximum grant of $16,287,011, which is five percent of the total available to all the states. Federal SFRA grant amounts are based partially on the number of licenses issued in each state. If California license sales declined by as little as three percent, California’s grant would be reduced to a lower tier and the grant amount would be reduced by approximately $2.7 million to $4.5 million, further reducing CDFW’s ability to manage and protect California’s fisheries.

So, while we realize your license restructuring suggestion is popular, it would create a significant reduction in license revenue and sport fish grant funding for CDFW. The resulting reduction in revenue and grant funding would reduce the CDFW’s ability to manage and protect California’s fisheries; and it would reduce the number of fish CDFW could plant for California anglers.


Live turkey decoys?
Question: Is it legal to use a live turkey as a decoy? I can’t find any regulations on live turkey decoys (Todd W.)

Answer: No. The use of live decoys is prohibited when attempting to take resident game birds (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 311(l)).


What’s acceptable abalone diving gear?
Question: Regarding equipment that is permissible for abalone harvesting, is a buoyancy compensator (BC) with integrated weight system ok to use for diving for abalone as long as there is NO air tank attached? (John D.)

Answer: Yes, a BC is for your safety and is OK to use as long as no scuba or air supply of any kind is incorporated.


Free diving for sea urchins?
Question: As a free diver, am I legally allowed to harvest sea urchins? If so, do I need a permit? Also, where in San Diego County can I legally dive from shore for sea urchins? (Derek G.)

Answer: Sea urchins are legal to take in California with a sport fishing license. The season is open year-round for all species of urchin and the limit is 35 urchins (CCR Title 14, section 29.05). These regulations can be found in the Ocean Sport Fishing regulation booklet, along with coordinates and regulation summaries for marine protected areas in Southern California that are closed to the take of sea urchins.

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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.

Wildlife Feeders to Attract Turkeys?

Spring turkey (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Spring turkey (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: A buddy of mine has a feeder on his ranch that he loads up with feed to attract turkeys to his property. He intends to hunt them once the season opens. I told him this was illegal baiting but he said he would pull the feed out before hunting the area. What do you think? Is this really legal? (Anonymous)

Answer: No. It is illegal to harass any game or nongame bird unless authorized by a regulation or the Fish and Game Code (California Code of Regulations, Title 14, section 251.1). Under this section, “harass” is defined as an intentional act which disrupts an animal’s normal behavior patterns, which includes, but it is not limited to, breeding, feeding and sheltering. Consequently, if your friend’s feeder disrupts the normal behavior pattern of the turkeys, it would be a violation of the law to feed the turkeys even if he/she pulls the feeder out before hunting the area. Also, please note that a person may not take resident game birds, such as turkeys, within 400 yards of any baited area unless an exception in CCR Title 14, section 257.5, has been met.


Legal sturgeon in tow?
Question: While out sturgeon fishing, we noticed a smaller boat with a legal sturgeon in tow. The rope was double hitched and wrapped around the fish just behind the gills. As ropes and snares are now illegal, where does this technique fall into the rules?  (Bill A.)

Answer: If the “double hitch” you saw was a flexible loop made from any material that can be tightened like a noose around any part of the fish, then what you saw was not legal (CCR Title 14, section 5.80(d) and 5.81(a)). The no-snare regulation is to reduce harm to sturgeon. Oversized white sturgeon and all green sturgeon may not be removed from the water and shall be released immediately (CCR Title 14, section 5.80(c) and (e) and 5.81(b)). Legal-sized white sturgeon that anglers choose to release must be released immediately without taking them out of the water

If the person in possession of the fish you saw had not recorded the fish on a Sturgeon Fishing Report Card, it was also illegal under CCR Title 14, section 5.80(f). The tagging requirement is to prevent waste of white sturgeon through “high grading” (releasing a smaller fish when a larger one is caught) as well as to enforce the daily and annual bag limits.

If you see something like this again, I recommend calling the 24-hour Californians Turn in Poachers and Polluters (CalTIP) hotline at (888) 334-2258. Tipsters also can text anonymous information, including photographs, to CalTIP via “tip411” (numerically, 847411). Wildlife officers can respond directly, resulting in an anonymous two-way conversation. Users must start the text message with the word “Caltip”. Phone number line, type: 847411, message line, type: Caltip (followed by the message/tip).


Diving and crabbing at the same time?
Question: I live in Monterey County and freedive/spearfish in the approved areas frequently. I see crab while I’m down on the bottom and have decided maybe I’d like to try and grab a few. I’ve read through the rules and regs and think I have a pretty good idea of what’s expected of me. Would it be possible (and legal) for me to purchase a crab trap, place it out before my spearing, then go dive for a few hours and return to collect it once I’m done diving? It would all be done in one trip and from a kayak. Just a thought. For now I’m just going to get a measuring devise and try my luck by hand.

Answer: Yes, if you are north of Point Argulello (Santa Barbara County), you may legally set traps for crabs and have them fishing while you’re diving. Then after you have finished diving, you may return to collect crabs from the trap. You cannot service traps while still diving because while diving for crustaceans, you are restricted to taking crabs only by hand (CCR Title 14, section 29.80(g)). Note that for hoop nets, the limit between setting and pulling is two hours.


Passengers netting fish?
Question: Can a person net fish for others without having their own California Sport Fishing License?  (Pete)

Answer: Yes, as long as you are referring to using a “landing net” to net another angler’s fish that is unable to use the landing net them self for some obvious reason, then it’s ok. Assisting someone with the use of a landing net in this way would not require a license, but using other types of nets, such as gill nets, seines, dip nets for catching baitfish in the ocean would require a 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.gov.

How to Prove the Sex of a Turkey

Turkey strut ( Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Turkey strut ( Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: Since only tom turkeys are legal to take during the spring season, how do I prove the sex to an inquiring wildlife officer? Must a wing be left on? A beard left on? Both left on? One or the other left on? (G.B.G.)

Answer: The regulations are intended to require that only tom turkeys may be taken during the spring season, but the law specifically states that the turkey must be “bearded” (a bearded turkey is one having a beard visible through the breast feathers). In most cases a beard will distinguish the animal as male, but in some rare incidents hens may also have them.

Keep the beard attached to the carcass until you return to your residence. You may pluck the bird in the field, but remember to keep the beard connected to the body.

Toms and hens can be easily determined by their significant head and wing color differences. If by chance you run across a rare bearded hen, even though the provisions of the law may allow you to take it, we strongly discourage it. Spring is the turkeys’ primary mating and nesting period so hens may not be harvested in order to protect their production.


Two Cali-rigs with a two rod stamp?
Question:Can two Cali-rigs (Alabama rigs with only three hooks) be fished simultaneously on separate poles as long as the angler has a second pole stamp on their license? (Ron K.)

Answer: Yes, as long as the angler taking fish with two rods or lines in most inland waters has the two rod stamp.


Hunter education assistance for those with learning disabilities?
Question: My son has a severe reading/learning disability. He wants to take the hunter education class in order to get his hunting license but will need some assistance during the testing phase of the class. What accommodations are available for him? (Nathan H.)

Answer: In California we provide reasonable accommodations for all entitled students. Anyone with a disability can ask the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) for reasonable accommodation and it will be provided on an individual basis taking into consideration that person’s specific needs. The parent, guardian or mentor should contact the CDFW before the course to request accommodations.

According to Hunter Education Instructor Leader Lt. Bart Bundesen, the key to success for any student is to study for the hunter education exam by assembling all of the pertinent information beforehand and tailoring it to their own learning approach. Here are a few resources to do this:

These websites are recommended for a couple of reasons. The Today’s Hunter in California (www.hunter-ed.com/ca/) website belongs to the same company that makes the hunter education manuals we use in California, so the material is very similar. This site has California-specific information, good animations and video. HunterCourse.com is another great website, especially for students without strong reading skills, because it incorporates more visual learning tools. The Today’s Hunter and Huntercourse.com websites both have additional audio narration functions. The International Hunter Education Association (www.ihea.com/hunting-and-shooting/hunter-education/online-courses) website also provides a lot of great information and is a good study website.

Don’t worry if it looks like a pay website. There is no charge for using any of these websites to study but the actual online courses are designed for adults. For youngsters and those with learning disabilities, we recommend that in addition to studying from these websites, they take the full 8-hour class because they will likely understand and retain the information better. The online courses require the student to do all studying and learning via the computer, and then come into the 4-hour follow up class knowing everything and ready to take the exam. While most of the material is reviewed in the 4-hour follow up class, we see a much higher success rate among people who take the full 8-hour class. Students who take the full class have the added benefit of listening to the class discussions, watching the instructor demonstrations and they can ask questions if they need better clarification about any of the topics they must learn before taking the test.

For additional questions on what reasonable accommodations may be available, please contact CDFW’s Reasonable Accommodation Coordinator at (916) 651-1214

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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.

Can Fin-clips Identify Different Trout Strains?

(CDFW file photo by Roger Bloom, Heritage and Wild Trout Program)

(CDFW file photo by Roger Bloom, Heritage and Wild Trout Program)

Question: With trout season opening soon, I was thinking about how several years ago I ran across a way to identify what strain a Lake Crowley trout was based on which fins were clipped. Identify as follows: adipose only-Eagle Lake strain, adipose and left ventral-Kamloops (from Junction Reservoir), adipose and right ventral-Coleman, and ventral only-Kamloops or Coleman. No fin clips would indicate a natural spawn and not from a hatchery. And, what hatchery would these plants have come from? Possibly Hot Creek or maybe Fish Springs? I have talked to the driver planting catchables in Silver Lake and learned those plants came from the Fish Springs hatchery. Thanks for any info you can provide. (Ron A.)

Answers: In the mid-1990s, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) fisheries biologists applied fin clips to Eastern Sierra trout stocked in Crowley Lake to evaluate their performance, growth, return to creel, etc. The results were very interesting.

According to CDFW Fisheries Program Manager Curtis Milliron who conducted those studies, wild trout were unmarked and at that time both rainbow trout (RT) and browns constituted about 25 percent of the catch of all larger fish caught at Crowley. They did not substantially supplement the average size class, however. The marked trout came from both Fish Springs (Coleman strain RT and Eagle Lake trout) and from Hot Creek Hatchery (Kamloops strain RT).

Coleman strain fish were found to be caught most often by anglers while trolling, while Kamloops were often associated with nearshore angling. Eagle Lake trout (ELT) were found all over the lake, including feeding on large snails right on the lake bottom. Additionally, ELT outlived the other strains, and therefore greatly contributed to the “carryover” population, which are fish that do not get caught in the first year after being stocked and return to anglers at a much larger size.

By about 1999, Milliron discontinued the Crowley Lake trout strain studies but thinks some marked fish may have persisted in the lake for another five years, at most. Today, no similar studies are being conducted, and fin clips to identify the various strains of Eastern Sierra trout are no longer being applied. But, thanks to the findings of the studies, a management plan for Lake Crowley was created, and the lake continues to draw anglers back year after year as one of the most popular and productive trout lakes in the Eastern Sierra.


How many turkeys in possession?
Question: My buddy and I are going out of town on a three-day turkey hunt. If we both get a turkey each day (total of six) and get stopped by a warden on the way home, will we be legal? I heard that you can’t have more than one bird with you at a time, but the regulation states possession limit is three birds per hunter for the season. I want to make sure we are legal. Otherwise I will have to travel back and forth after each successful day and it’s about a two-hour drive each way. Thanks for any information you can give me. (Brent M.)

Answer: You do not have to return home after taking a bird on any one day. The daily bag limit for turkeys during the spring season is one bearded turkey per day and you can take three per season. You may have three bearded turkeys in your possession as long as you only take one per day.


Spearfishing rockfish and lingcod after dark?
Question: Can rockfish and lingcod be taken by spearfishing after dark? (Brian S.)

Answer: Yes, you may spearfish for rockfish and lingcod at night, except in San Francisco Bay (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 27.56).


Buying skulls from other states
Question: I found someone in Oregon selling a raw coyote skull. I own some flesh-eating dermestid beetles and am interested in buying the skull from them to clean off. Is it legal to buy raw (uncleaned) skulls from other states if it was obtained legally and not from California? I know you can’t purchase almost any part of California fish and game, but can we bring parts in from other states? (Anonymous)

Answer: Yes, as long as the animal was legally taken in another state and is properly imported with a “Declaration for Entry into California form,” then it can be possessed. The same goes for most species, but there are some exceptions, such as bears, mountain lions, and fully protected birds and mammals whose parts cannot be legally possessed in California (Fish and Game Code, section 3039). For a copy of the declaration form, please go to www.dfg.ca.gov/enforcement/entry-declaration.aspx. Remember that deer and other cervid skulls may not be brought into the state unless special rules are followed to prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease (see CCR Title 14, section 712).

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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.

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.