Gaffing Undersized Shark That’s Biting My Thumb?

Angel Shark (Photo by CDFW Environmental Scientist Derek Stein)

Angel Shark at Santa Barbara Island (Photo by CDFW Environmental Scientist Derek Stein)

Question: I recently went fishing with a friend and hooked into a 4-foot angel shark (which I had mistaken for a large skate). When I got it close to the boat, I reached down to unhook it and release it (still not thinking it was a shark). As I got close to its mouth it thrashed around and bit my thumb pretty good (suddenly I realized I was in the jaws of a shark). The shark wouldn’t release my thumb, and me being in the boat and it still in the water, the only thing I could think of doing at that moment was to gaff it and bring it on board the boat. When I gaffed it we got it on the boat, my friend held it down and used a screwdriver to pry its mouth open. By this time the shark had lost a lot of blood.

The law says it has to be 72 inches and 100 lbs. The shark died and I was wondering if we violated any laws given that it died while we were trying to save my thumb? In this situation, if we didn’t violate any laws could we have kept the dead shark? Please let me know or put me in touch with someone who can answer this question. Thank you very much for your time. (Sean O.)

Answer: Sorry about your thumb, but there are no size or weight limit restrictions for angel sharks. Gaffs may be used to assist in landing any fish that is legal to take and of legal size, but gaffs are not a legal method of take for sharks or any other species. In a case like this where it sounds like your personal safety (thumb) was an issue, you can use whatever means necessary to ensure your safety. Afterwards, when the immediate threat is over, you must abide by current rules and regulations. If the species or size is illegal, you may not possess it. And as in this case, if you caught the shark illegally, you must release it, dead or alive.


Hunting ducks on mountain lakes?
Question: I have always wondered if it was legal to hunt some of the smaller lakes in the Sierra and foothills bordering forest service land. As long as one follows the standard waterfowl protocol, would it be legal? (Derek C.)

Answer: Yes, it would be legal to hunt waterfowl on the lake so long as you are not trespassing on private property or violating some other law such as shooting too close to an occupied dwelling.


Trail cameras – baiting vs attracting?
Question: I want to set a trail camera out on public lands like the National Forests in California and attract wildlife to it. Can I use scents or baits to attract the wildlife for photography reasons only? I’m not hunting in the area. Example would be putting a commercially sold scent on a log or the ground by the trail cameras. What about an apple, salt lick or chunk of chicken? When is a permit needed for trail camera photography on public land? If I have a California trapper license or hunting license, would it make a difference? The intent is still to modify the animals’ behavior for a photo, and that seems to be the issue. (Anonymous)

Answer: Yes, that is the issue. Intentional acts that disrupt any birds’ or mammals’ normal behavior patterns (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 251.1) or feeding big game mammals (CCR Title 14, section 251.3) is prohibited.

Even if you are not intending to draw an animal in for the purpose of hunting, putting out any type of attractant still falls under the definition of baiting. The definition of “baited area” can be found in the California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 257.5. And under this regulation, the use of any substance (real or artificial) that is capable of attracting an animal to an area, and when used causes the animal to feed (on the substance), is prohibited. Generally, aerosols sprayed into the air are permissible because there is nothing to feed on. But the same products applied to a surface (e.g. tree, brush, rock, etc.) where the animal licks, eats, chews, nibbles, etc. the surface is considered feed and is a violation.


Will CDFW plant fish in private duck club pond?
Question: A pond on our private duck hunting property was accidentally drained in the last year but we will refill it as soon as we can get more water. At that point, can we have the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) replant it with fish? (Fishingdude)

Answer: No, CDFW will only plant fish in public waters that are open and available to the public to enjoy. If this is a private pond, you will need to get a private stocking permit from CDFW and then buy fish from a commercial fish farm, which may also stock them for you.

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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.

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