When Does Fish and Game Become Just Food?

Pintail (Photo courtesy of USFWS)

Pintail (Photo courtesy of USFWS)

Question: I understand that you can’t have multiple limits in your freezer (unless those limits are gifted to a corresponding number of family members living in the same house). My question is when exactly does your catch become just food? If I cook and smoke a duck and then break it down into parts and vacuum seal it into individual meals, or if I smoke some salmon and vacuum seal or can it, does it then stop being game and become food? If not, how and why does this differ from taking advantage of a grocery store sale and buying a couple cases of salmon? Surely there could be more than a limit of salmon in a case. Please be specific about when and why food stops being game. (Kirk G.)

Answer: Regardless of whether they are fresh, frozen, or otherwise preserved, if you have the edible portions of any sport-taken fish or game, they still count toward your possession limit until they are consumed (Fish and Game Code, section 2001 and California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.17.) Grocery stores can only sell commercially processed and packaged meats. Possession refers only to sport-taken fish or game species. For any fish or other meat purchased commercially, just keep them in their commercial packaging to easily differentiate between them from any sport-caught fish or game you may have in your possession.


Can licensed anglers fish more rods from a public pier?
Question: I know people without fishing licenses are allowed to fish from public piers with a limit of no more than two rods. But what if I have a valid fishing license and ocean enhancement stamp and still fish on public piers? Since Fish and Wildlife regs allow licensed anglers to fish in ocean waters with an unlimited number of rods, am I allowed to fish with more than two poles while fishing in ocean waters from a pier? (Frank R.)

Answer: No. If a licensed angler is not fishing from a public pier or jetty and not fishing for a species with rod limits (e.g. rockfish, lingcod or salmon), then more than two rods may be used. On public piers though, no person may use more than two rods and lines, two hand lines, or two nets, traps or other appliances used to take crabs (CCR Title 14, section 28.65(b)), regardless of whether they have a fishing license.


Giving pheasants away to other hunters to keep hunting?
Question: While hunting pheasants, once I shoot my limit, can I give one of my birds to another hunter in the group and continue hunting? (Jerry)

Answer: No. Once you reach your bag limit you are finished hunting for the day. You can give your birds away to other hunters but that does not then allow you to continue hunting that day.


Lobster hunting with bait cages while scuba diving?
Question: Can we use bait cages (like what’s used for hoop netting) while scuba diving for lobster? I want to fill a couple of bait cages with bait and put a float on them with a light stick, set them next to a reef, and then come back and check it for lobster feeding off of it. I don’t see it being illegal since there are no hoop nets involved, or traps and no tickle sticks being used. We’re still catching them by hand. (Anonymous)

Answer: Well, you should keep catching them by hand and not use these bait cages. When diving for crustaceans, the law says they may only be taken by hand, so the literal interpretation would say any other method for a diver is illegal (CCR Title 14, section 29.80(a)(1)). The bait cage is an appliance and is prohibited. The regulation reads: “Nets, traps or other applicances may not be used …” (CCR Title 14, section 29.80(a)(2)).


Hunting upland birds and waterfowl at the same time?
Question: If I’m in the field upland bird hunting and a flock of ducks/geese fly overhead, am I allowed to shoot those birds, too? (Robert G.)

Answer: Yes, but only if the season for waterfowl is open in the area, if you have the required state and federal waterfowl stamps affixed to your license, AND you only have steel or other non-toxic shot in your possession.

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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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