How to Begin a Career as a Wildlife Officer?

Wildlife Officers have a passion to protect California’s fish and wildlife resources while patrolling in 4×4 trucks, boats of all sizes, ATVs, and even horseback and personal watercraft. Most Wildlife Officers think spending a career outside in California’s wild places beats pretty much any other career out there.

Question: I’m in high school and last month my dad and I were contacted by a game warden while we were out fishing. He was really nice. After checking our licenses and sturgeon cards, and once he figured out we were all good, he spent at least another 20 minutes with us answering a bunch of questions. Afterward my dad and I were talking about it and I’m thinking now that becoming a game warden is something I would like to consider someday for a job. I’m only 16 though so what should I do now to prepare for a career as a game warden? (Josh M., Benicia)

Answer: First of all, thank you for your interest! You are lucky you have a dad who is interested and willing to pass along the love of fishing to the next generation. We are always excited to hear from young enthusiastic outdoors people like you who desire a career that will benefit California’s extraordinary fish and wildlife resources.

According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Captain Patrick Foy, “The same things that may motivate you also motivated most of today’s Wildlife Officers (Game Wardens). We have a passion to protect California’s fish and wildlife resources while patrolling in 4×4 trucks, boats of all sizes, ATVs, and even horseback and personal watercraft. We think spending a career outside in California’s wild places beats pretty much any other career out there. As law enforcement officers, we have the authority to investigate all crimes and arrest all criminals – whether they are poachers, polluters, violent criminals, drug dealers, reckless drivers, auto thieves, etc. and therefore we help keep law abiding Californians safe. We thrive on helping the most vulnerable of California’s citizens and the fish and wildlife with no voice. And we are excited to meet young people, such as you, who share our values and want to pursue a career as a Wildlife Officer.”

Knowing what career you want to pursue in high school makes it much easier to make that dream a reality. And yes, there are several actions you can take to prepare yourself for a wildlife officer career with CDFW. Here are a few important tips:

  • Continue to develop your passion for fishing and the outdoors, and consider taking up hunting if you don’t already. Although a fishing and hunting background can help with your career as a wildlife officer, it is not required. Sounds like you’ve got the fishing part figured out!
  • Do well in high school, plan to attend college, and do well there. We check all of your grades in both high school and college. The grades you are earning right now make a difference. Earn a four-year college degree to be more competitive than those who meet the minimum requirement of 60 units.
  • What to study in college? Whatever interests you! Many Wildlife Officers have bachelor’s degrees in subjects ranging from English and math, to the more traditional wildlife management and biology. Just be sure to meet the minimum 18 units of required courses listed at the link below.
  • Develop excellent public speaking and communication skills.
  • Learn to speak a second language if you do not already.
  • Never use drugs. Even a single use of any “hard drug” results in automatic disqualification depending on how old you are and when you used them.
  • Maintain a good driving record. We thoroughly examine your driving record from the day you begin driving.
  • Crimes such as shoplifting, vandalism, theft from employers, etc., are inconsistent with a career in law enforcement, but that should be obvious! You are required to disclose all crimes committed on your initial application, whether or not you were caught.
  • Consider military service. Serving in the military is an excellent way to gain real world experience and develop the leadership skills needed to thrive as a Wildlife Officer. Veterans who pass our written exam are automatically moved into the number one rank which is a substantial benefit to them. Just make sure you also gain the college education necessary to meet minimum qualifications.
  • Maintain excellent physical fitness, including knowing how to swim. You must pass a series of physical fitness tests, including a swim test to be accepted into the Academy.

Become thoroughly familiar with the CDFW Law Enforcement Division website. It lists the minimum qualifications you will need to be accepted into the Academy.

With the above tips in mind, everywhere you exceed our minimum qualifications makes you more competitive for selection. We hope this helps you develop a plan to make your career goals a reality!

Note: Although Josh is in high school and not yet eligible to apply, any interested and eligible applicants should begin checking back around August. The application period is expected to be open in the September-October timeframe.

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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.

Fish Carcasses for Bait?

Generally in ocean waters, if a fish can be legally possessed, it can be used for bait. However, there are some situations you need to watch out for.

Question: I recently went deep sea fishing and was wondering if the carcass and/or leftovers of fish caught could be used as bait? I cleaned the fillets today and thought that the skin left attached for identification purposes could be frozen and taken back on a future trip to use as an additional attraction attached to my jigs. The head and body after being filleted might also make for good bait. Are either or both of these ideas legal? I know that crab fishermen often use fish carcasses for baiting their traps, but then I also know of others who have been cited for baiting with fish carcasses. What do the regulations say? (Mark B.)

Answer: Generally in ocean waters, if a fish can be legally possessed, it can be used for bait. You may use rockfish carcasses for crab bait, but there are some situations you need to watch out for.

To eliminate any questions or confusion when you go out crabbing and fishing for rockfish, set your crab traps baited with rockfish carcasses first. Then, at the end of the day when you are returning with limits of rockfish, you can pull your crab traps and discard the used rockfish carcasses before returning to port. Otherwise it may look as though you went out and caught a limit of rockfish to use as crab bait and then continued to catch another limit of rockfish to take home. People have been caught and cited for doing this.

Also, make sure that any fish carcasses you use are from fish that are legal to possess. Many crab fishermen get cited because the carcasses they are using are from undersized salmon, lingcod, cabezon, greenling or other fish with size limits, or from cowcod, canary, yelloweye or bronze-spotted rockfish or other restricted species. They may tell their friends they got cited by the warden for using a fish carcass as crab bait, but the real story is that they got cited for the illegal take and possession of restricted fish.


Following the trout planting schedule?
Question: When the trout planting page on your website says plants will occur the week of any Sunday, does that mean the plant occurred in the week before or will occur the week following that Sunday date? Thanks for all of the help for sportsmen in California. (Robert G.)

Answer: When you see this message, it means that those waters are scheduled to be planted some time in that upcoming week (meaning following that Sunday). To learn more about the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) fish hatchery program and to view the upcoming trout planting schedule in waters throughout the state, please visit our website.


How to lose big game preference points?
Question: I have accrued several preference drawing points over the past years for various species. If I don’t put in for the preference points every year, do I lose all of those that I currently have accrued? (Dick D.)

Answer: No, accumulated preference points are zeroed out if you do not participate in the drawing for that species for five consecutive years. A missed application deadline is considered as not applying. In addition, you can also lose accumulated preference points for each of the species in the following manner:

Deer – when you are drawn for a premium deer tag as your first choice
Elk, Pronghorn Antelope and Bighorn Sheep – when you are drawn for and pay for the tag.


Rockfish size and possession limits?
Question: Is there a size limit for rockfish in California? Also, are lingcod counted in the 10 RCG Complex bag limit? (John S.)

Answer: No, there are no size limits or fillet limits for any rockfish species. Lingcod are counted OUTSIDE of the RCG Complex bag limit of 10 Rockfish, Cabezon and Greenlings in combination. The bag limit for lingcod is two fish per day/in possession. You can find this information in the current Ocean Sport Fishing regulations booklet, in groundfish tables toward the front of the booklet, and online.


Crab pot line length suggestion?
Question: Is there a regulation or suggestion regarding length of line for a second buoy for crab pots? Many individuals add a second buoy that is attached to the main buoy to make it easier to grab the line to hoist the pot. My impression is that this line should be about four to six feet long. I have seen the second buoy line very long such that it could be caught in the boat’s prop very easily. (Ken H., Santa Rosa)

Answer: There are no regulations regarding trailer buoy length at this point in time. My best advice would be to check out this “Best Practices Guide” website.

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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 Can Be Collected from Ocean Beaches?

Sea Stars of the California Coast (CDFW photo)

Question: I am an artist and my medium is to work with natural items I find in nature. I was wondering if I am allowed to take items from the beaches near my home. I see people collecting many things but I know that the beaches are protected and I don’t want to take anything that is forbidden. I am particularly interested in the seaweed and colorful algae that washes up after storms. There are also items such as sponges, tree fans, dead crabs, even little animal skulls, and of course drift wood. I would really love to know if I am allowed to collect anything so as not to disrupt the natural process of things. Any information you could offer would really be great. (Aggie M.)

Answer: Aside from state parks and marine protected areas that prohibit take/collecting of marine life within their boundaries, some collecting of beach wrack for personal use is allowed under certain conditions. If any of the algae/kelp you collect will be used for products that will be sold, a commercial Kelp Harvesters License will be required. Please check our website for all of the details regarding kelp and marine algae collection.

Shells that have been discarded by their occupants may be taken as long as you’re doing so in an area where collecting is not prohibited by the governing agency. Wherever you go, you should contact the governing agency to find out what collecting activities are legal for that area. As long as the shells are legally obtained and not sport-taken, they can be used to make art and or jewelry that is sold.

Marine protected area information is available online. Notice that some areas do not allow any “take.” You will find information on this page regarding the areas you may want to avoid.

As far as animal skulls, sea otters and all other marine mammal skulls may not be collected or possessed unless specifically authorized through the federal government (NOAA). If you are selling your artwork, Fish and Game Code, section 3039 generally prohibits selling any parts of a bird or mammal found in the wild in California.


Go ID required on buoys when crab fishing from a pier/dock?
Question: The 2016-2017 Dungeness crab fishing regulations say you have to have a buoy on your crab pot with your GO ID number. Does this requirement apply when you are crabbing off a pier or dock, too? (Judy and John F.)

Answer: Yes, if you already have a fishing license when fishing off a pier or jetty (even where no license is required), then you must fish with buoys marked with your GO ID. It’s OK to use a small net float/buoy instead of a full size buoy if you’d prefer. According to the California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.80(c)(3), every recreational “crab trap” except those used by a Commercial Passenger Fishing Vessel (CPFV) “shall be marked with a buoy” with the operator’s GO ID on it. One exception to the GO ID requirement in this scenario would be if the person fishing from a public pier or jetty was not required to have a fishing license and therefore has no GO ID. The trap would still need a buoy attached, but would not need to be marked. Anyone can get a GO ID, even if they have no fishing license or are under age 16. Instructions for getting a GO ID are available on our website.

Baiting turkeys with water?
Question: I have a friend who bow hunts for turkeys and puts a tub of water near his turkey blind. He also places small water tanks in brush areas during deer season and says it’s ok. Is this true? Is it legal to use water as bait? (Dennis B., Palmdale)

Answer: Your friend should be informed that CCR Title 14, section 251.1 prohibits intentional acts that “disrupts an animal’s normal behavior patterns.” This activity is also specifically prohibited on some public lands (CCR Title 14, section 730). This section prohibits hunting for more than 30 minutes within 200 yards of wildlife watering places on public land within the boundary of the California Desert Conservation Area or within ¼ mile of six specified wildlife watering places in Lassen and Modoc Counties. The definition of “watering place” includes man-made watering devices for wildlife.

Lost fishing license
Question: I purchased a fishing license a couple of months ago but now cannot find it. I do have a picture of it. How can I get a copy of my original? (Dee D.)

Answer: Go to any License Agent or CDFW License Sales Office to buy a duplicate sport fishing license. A small fee is charged for each duplicate validation. If you lose your Abalone Report Card or Sturgeon Fishing Report Card, you can obtain a duplicate from CDFW license sales offices only. You must complete an Abalone Report Card Affidavit (PDF Form) and pay the duplicate fee to replace an Abalone Report Card. You must complete a Sturgeon Fishing Report Card Affidavit (PDF Form) and pay the duplicate fee to replace a Sturgeon Fishing Report Card. Duplicate fees are listed on the license description page.

Do licensed fishing guides also need a fishing license?
Question: Is a California licensed fishing guide required to also have an individual sport fishing license? (Tom H.)

Answer: If the guide is just driving the boat and only verbally guiding clients while they fish, then no. However, if the guide does any fishing themselves, then a sport fishing license is also required.

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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/Steelhead vs Coastal Cutthroat Trout

Steelhead fishing (Photo courtesy of Ken Oda)

Question: I have a question regarding regulations on non-adipose fin-clipped (“wild”) rainbow trout/steelhead and coastal cutthroat trout in tributaries on the North Coast (e.g. the lagoons in northern Humboldt County). Anglers are not permitted to keep wild rainbow trout/steelhead but are permitted to keep wild coastal cutthroat trout. However, these two species are well known to hybridize and hybrid offspring are reproductively viable.

Hybrids also exhibit a continuous spectrum of phenotypic expression that runs from the rainbow phenotype (few spots below the lateral line, small head, maxillary terminating before the rear of the eye and no throat slashes) to the cutthroat phenotype (heavily spotted including below the lateral line, large head, maxillary extending past the rear of the eye and throat slashes present). These phenotypes are what the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) website recommends for identification of the two species, but there is no reference to the basibranchial teeth that are specific to cutthroat.

Therefore, if an angler catches a non-adipose fin-clipped trout that has no throat slashes, no spots below the lateral line, a small head and a maxillary that does not extend beyond the rear of the eye, but has basibranchial teeth, is the angler allowed to keep the trout? The fish described is likely a hybrid “cuttbow.” Alternatively, if an angler catches a trout that outwardly looks like a coastal cutthroat but does not have basibranchial teeth, is the angler allowed to keep the trout? Again, this fish is likely a cuttbow. (Brian P., Sacramento)

Answer: According to CDFW Environmental Program Manager Roger Bloom, it is true that rainbow trout/coastal cutthroat hybrids exist at some low level in sympatric populations. However, based on a recent scientific study, the practice of using phenotypic traits to distinguish hybrids is not very effective. Although the presence of basibranchial teeth are a strong indication of a cutthroat trout lineage, it should not be used exclusively as a definitive sign to retain/harvest a fish.

From a regulatory/enforcement perspective, field identification of coastal cutthroats should be based on commonly agreed upon morphology of red/orange slashes found under the jaw. If there is a question about a fish being a hybrid coastal cutthroat crossed with a rainbow trout, anglers should err on the side of caution. It must have observable red/orange slashes if the trout is to be considered a coastal cutthroat for harvest.

Interestingly, some Central Valley hatchery steelhead may exhibit orange/yellow slashes which could stem from genetic influences via ancestral redband trout. Hence, if an angler encounters an adipose-clipped fish that looks like a rainbow trout but has these characteristics, it can be retained/harvested as there are currently no hatchery coastal cutthroats with clipped adipose fins.


Eating fresh-caught fish while at sea?
Question: Is it legal to eat just-caught fish while still at sea? For example, if I catch a tuna, fillet it into six pieces and later that day have one piece for dinner, would that be a criminal offense under the new fillet rules? (Jim K.)

Answer: No, you are welcome to cook sport-caught fish on a vessel as long as the fish is counted toward the angler’s individual bag limit and the vessel’s boat limit. The fish must also meet the fillet length requirements and any skin patches must be left on until the fish is prepared for immediate consumption (Fish and Game Code, sections 5508 and 5509). Remember, you cannot catch another fish to replace the one that has been eaten once the bag/boat limit has been filled for that type of fish for that day.


Ranching wild pigs on private property?
Question: Are there circumstances under which a California rancher or even a private resident can keep live wild pigs on their property? I haven’t found any regulations that specifically address this. (Mike A.)

Answer: No, it is not lawful for any California resident to possess wild pigs (Sus scrofa) (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 671(c)(2)(Q)). However, there is an exception for Sus scrofa domestica, also known as the domesticated pig one commonly sees on a farm (CCR Title 14, section 671(c)(2)(Q)(1)).


Crab Hawk
Question: Is it legal to use the device called the “Crabhawk” to fish for Dungeness crabs? (Forrest L., Watsonville)

Answer: This device, which attaches to the end of a fishing line, is not legal in California. For descriptions of legal devices that may be used to take crabs, please check CCR Title 14, section 29.80. The Crabhawk does not meet the regulatory criteria.

An alternative trap that may be attached to the end of a line is the crab loop trap. These have been legal to use in California for many years.

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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.

Properly Catching and Releasing Fish while Taking Photos?

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

Question: My friends and I are all fly fishermen who promote catch and release fishing rather than taking fish for consumption. Many other fishermen, fishing guides and lodges, as well as most fly fishing magazines also claim to share this philosophy but then publish untold numbers of photos of people holding the fish they’ve caught. Typically these photos reveal the fish being held for quite a few seconds out of water, and clearly their slime barrier is being broken by the clutching hands. I wonder how many fish handled in this way ultimately die from the stress of being caught, held out of water and having their protective coating compromised. While growing up, I was taught if you break the slime barrier, the fish will likely die. Is this true? Moreover, most anglers I know count successful days of fishing as catching (and releasing) as many fish as possible. If you consider the increased probability of a fish dying from being caught and held, multiplied by the number of fish caught, there could be a lot of mortality which goes directly against the point of catch and release. Can you please provide some information on this issue? (David W.)

Answer: While many photo layouts suggest prolonged time out of water, it can obviously vary greatly. According to Senior Environmental Scientist Jeff Weaver, a good rule of thumb is to hold your breath when you lift the fish and get it back into the water before you run out of breath. Wetting hands before handling fish is probably the most effective method to minimize damage to the slime coating. Handling fish with dry hands generally removes at least some areas of this protective barrier, subjecting the fish to increased risk of fungal or other infection (though not necessarily mortality). If extra time is needed to set up the photo or make adjustments to correct for lighting problems, etc. the fish should be retained under water in a net for as much time as possible.

Steelhead (Photo by Ken Oda)

There are four important practices that will help reduce mortality: 1) keep most of the body of the fish in the water while photographing it, particularly the opercula and gills so they remain oxygenated, 2) always hold the fish with wet hands underneath the pectoral fins (near the head) and at the caudal peduncle (narrow part just forward of the caudal or tail fin) to avoid injury to the vital organs in the belly, and 3) assuming you have a fishing partner that will serve as photographer, have them get the camera settings ready and set up the frame of the picture while the fish is retained underwater in a net. Quickly remove the fish from the water for a picture and return it to the net to rest and respirate for some time, then lift it again for another shot (only if necessary to get a good photo), and 4) always recover the fish before releasing it to the point that it can swim of its own accord and remain upright. If necessary, hold the fish with the mouth facing upstream in an area with adequate flow to ensure thorough oxygenation of the gills.


When transporting turkeys home, which parts are required for ID?
Question: What portions of a turkey is a hunter required to retain for identification purposes? I’m not sure that “plucking a turkey in the field but leaving the beard attached” is sufficient to stay legal when transporting. While keeping the beard would certainly help identify, I believe a fully feathered head or wing is the actual requirement. In fact, if a hunter chooses to pluck both wings and leave the “fully feathered head” attached, would that be enough proof for identification purposes? Please advise. (Blake D.)

Answer: Hunters are not required to retain the turkey’s beard. However, “all birds, including migratory game birds, possessed or transported within California must have a fully feathered wing or head attached until placed into a personal abode or commercial preservation facility or when being prepared for immediate consumption” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 251.7).

Since the law only authorizes the take of bearded turkeys during the spring season, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recommends leaving the beard attached during the spring season (CCR Title 14, section 300).


How to properly preserve and transport Pacific halibut?
Question: I’m planning some trips this year to fish for Pacific Halibut. If we should happen to catch one of any size, what is the legal way to transport a fish if it won’t fit in a cooler? Could it be filleted, and if so, when could that be done? I’m very particular about preserving fresh fish properly as soon as it’s caught. (Ross B.)

Answer: You may not fillet your Pacific Halibut when on your boat or before you land the fish (Fish and Game Code sections 5508-5509). Once ashore, there are no restrictions on filleting your fish into the size and conformity you want.


Video recording crab traps?
Question: Are there any regulations or restrictions regarding using video cameras (GoPros) on crab traps or lobster hoop nets? (Josh F.)

Answer: No, there are no fishing regulations that prohibit use of a video camera while 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 CalOutdoors@wildlife.ca.gov.

Collecting Moon Jellyfish for Home Aquarium?

Moon Jellies (Photo by Michael Gil – Creative Commons)

Question: I would love to introduce moon jellies into my home saltwater aquarium. Can I collect them myself or do I need to try to buy them? I would not sell or trade them afterwards for something else. If this would be legal, can I collect them under a basic fishing license or would I be required to have a marine collector’s permit? (Tucker M.)

Answer: Moon jellyfish occurring outside the tide pool zone (1,000 ft. seaward from mean high tide) may be legally taken with a fishing license, and the bag limit is 35 (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.05(a)). Anything taken under a sport fishing license in California may never be offered or possessed for sale, barter, exchange or trade.


Steelhead cards when fishing for salmon in anadromous waters??
Question: Do you have to fill out a steelhead card when fishing for salmon in anadromous waters? There’s a debate going on so I need a straight answer. If I am fishing in the American River in Sacramento when steelhead are also present, and I am targeting salmon only, but in a manner in which steelhead are also often taken (like throwing spinners from the bank), do I have to possess and fill out a steelhead report card before fishing even if my intent is only to catch salmon? (James D.)

Answer: No, as long as you do not retain any steelhead caught incidental to your salmon fishing. If you do catch a steelhead by mistake while fishing for salmon, just be sure to immediately release it.


GoPro mounted to my shotgun/rifle while hunting?
Question: Is it legal to mount a GoPro to my shotgun when turkey hunting or rifle while deer or pig hunting? How about when I’m just out shooting? (Derek M.)

Answer: Yes, this is legal when hunting as long as no light is cast out from the camera (even though I know that’s unlikely). There are no restrictions when just target shooting.


Transporting Dungeness crabs
Question: What is required before transporting my Dungeness crabs home? Once crab is caught, measured and brought to shore, how must the crab be transported home? For instance, can it be cooked at a campground, cleaned (i.e. remove bottom shell, gills and viscera) then transported? Or must the crab remain in one piece for transport? (Anonymous)

Answer: “It is unlawful to possess on any boat or to bring ashore any fish (including crabs and lobster) upon which a size or weight limit is prescribed in such a condition that its size or weight cannot be determined” (Fish and Game Code, section 5508). Nothing prohibits you from cooking or cleaning crabs at your campsite before taking them home.


Carrying a holstered pistol for personal protection?
Question: While hiking in our local wilderness areas, is it legal for me to carry a holstered pistol for protection? This could help to protect my family from any threat of dangerous wildlife – either to scare it away or defend ourselves, if needed. (Louis M.)

Answer: While I can understand your safety concerns, the Fish and Game Code and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) generally don’t regulate firearm possession. Instead, we recommend that you consult the Department of Justice’s 2016 Firearms Laws Summary available online. In addition, attacks from wild animals are uncommon.


Boat-based net regulation
Question:
I have been searching for the regulation that requires all boat-based anglers to have a net. I use a kayak to fish in the Monterey Bay and just found out I am supposed to have a net when fishing. I’ve bought a net to take on my fishing adventures since I learned of my error. (Steve L.)

Answer: The regulation you are looking for is CCR Title 14, section 28.65(d), which can be found in the current Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet, Gear Restrictions section on page 45:

“No gaff hook shall be used to take or assist in landing any finfish shorter than the minimum size limit. For the purpose of this section a gaff hook is any hook with or without a handle used to assist in landing fish or to take fish in such a manner that the fish does not take the hook voluntarily in its mouth. No person shall take finfish from any boat or other floating device in ocean waters without having a landing net in possession or available for immediate use to assist in landing undersize fish of species having minimum size limits; the opening of any such landing net shall be not less than eighteen inches in diameter.”

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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.

When and Where are Turkeys Nesting?

Wild spring turkeys (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: I know that turkeys roost in trees at night and that this is their courtship and nesting season, but where do they nest and for how long? We’re seeing lots of toms running around right now but not many hens. I’ve not found any sitting on nests. When can we expect the newly hatched chicks to be out and on their own? (Dwayne J.)

Answer: In most areas, nests can be found in a shallow dirt depression surrounded by moderately woody vegetation that conceals the nest. Hens look for locations close to food and water and with ample cover to safely conceal the hen and her poults (chicks) once hatched. Hens are very leery of predators, such as coyotes and fox, but do leave the nest unattended for brief periods to feed and drink.

Hens typically lay a clutch of 10 to 12 eggs during a two-week period, usually laying one egg per day. She will incubate her eggs for about 28 days, occasionally turning and rearranging them, until they are ready to hatch.

A newly hatched flock must be ready to leave the nest to feed within 12 to 24 hours. Poults eat insects, berries and seeds while adults will eat anything from acorns and berries to insects and small reptiles. Turkeys usually feed in early morning and in the afternoon.

For more on wild turkeys, please see our “Guide to Hunting Wild Turkeys in California” publication online as well as the National Wild Turkey Federation website.


How to catch spot prawns with only a half-inch trap opening?
Question: I took a look at a few online California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) articles about traps, mesh sizes, etc. Once I saw that other types of shrimp traps have a logical trap opening size compared to the size of the shrimp, I began to wonder if the regulations might have an error.

Can you verify if there has been some sort of error in defining the half-inch opening of the trap as the mesh size of the trap? If this is the case, the size of the opening of the spot prawn trap should be more in line with other shrimp traps. If the opening of the shrimp traps could be in the 3-5 inch range with an alum hoop as the standard, recreational spot prawn trap fishing would be as enjoyable as lobster hooping. (Geoff H.)

Answer: The trap openings cannot exceed a half-inch as you’ve noted, and the regulation has not changed. “Shrimp and prawn traps may be used to take shrimp and prawns only. Trap openings may not exceed one half-inch in any dimension on traps used south of Point Conception nor five inches in any dimension on traps used north of Point Conception” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.80(f)). The reason for the difference in opening dimensions is to protect juvenile lobsters (found south of Point Conception) from being incidentally taken in these traps.


Does a licensed fishing guide’s son need a guide fishing license, too?
Question: I’m a licensed fishing guide on the upper Sacramento and Feather rivers. Is it legal for my son to help me on my vessel while I’m guiding? I’m seeing that there is a guide employee permit but in this situation that permit doesn’t seem right. Is there a deckhand permit where he can help me and help other friends in their boats that are guided also? He’s not being paid; he’s just there for the experience. (Michael T.)

Answer: If he is not collecting a fee or accepting tips, then he would not meet the definition of an employee as he is a family member and simply a volunteer. However, if he took any kind of compensation, then he would technically be an employee and subject to those licensing requirements. If he is assisting people by casting or fishing and he’s 16 years old or older, then he will need to have a fishing license.


Kangaroo leather motorcycle gloves
Question: I got my motorcycle gloves back in 2014-2015 and the palm area and parts of the digits incorporate kangaroo leather. I don’t intend to sell them but I’m OK to possess and wear them, right? (Anonymous)

Answer: Yes, you are fine as long as you do not have any intention of selling them. It is illegal to “import into this state for commercial purposes, to possess with intent to sell or to sell within the state, the dead body, or any part or product thereof, of a polar bear, leopard, ocelot, tiger, cheetah, jaguar, sable antelope, wolf (Canis lupus), zebra, whale, cobra, python, sea turtle, colobus monkey, kangaroo, vicuna, sea otter, free-roaming feral horse, dolphin or porpoise (Delphinidae), Spanish lynx or elephant” (Penal Code, section 653o).

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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.