Hunting Sea Ducks

Surf Scoter (Photo courtesy of Ducks Unlimited)

Question: I would like to hunt sea ducks and target surf scoters this waterfowl season. Is this legal? If so, how does one know where it is legal to hunt from shore? Also, if hunting from a boat, I know the motor must not be utilized except to retrieve birds. What other guidelines are there for hunting from a boat? (Scott S.)

Answer: Surf scoters and other sea ducks are found along the entire coast but hunting for them is more popular north of the Golden Gate Bridge in northern California (such as Humboldt Bay) and in Oregon and Washington. Hunting from shore is legal provided that the shoreline is not private (unless you have permission to be there). It also must not be in an area covered by one of the numerous ecological reserves, marine reserves, state parks, etc. along the California coast (see Fish and Game Code, section 2016, for the parameters).

The best thing for you to do is select an area you’re interested in hunting and then contact some local hunting clubs or stores for specific tips and recommendations. Be sure the area allows for discharging of firearms and that you will not be hunting on private property or in one of the parks or reserves that do not allow for hunting.

As far as hunting from a boat, you may not hunt or kill birds while “under power”. In order to legally hunt from a boat, the boat may not be moving due to the influence of the motor.

In general, hunting from navigable waters is legal, as long as the person stays in the boat. Exceptions to this would be the same as the legal closures I listed that cover shoreline hunting.


Multi-day permit question
Question: I have a multi-day fishing permit to use on my personal boat. What is considered a 24-hour day for meeting my daily bag/catch limit? For example, if I am lobster fishing and I catch my limit of seven lobsters before 12:00 am, does a multi-day permit qualify me and everybody onboard my boat at 12:01 am to continue fishing through the night to catch our next day’s limit of lobsters? If not, is a day of lobster fishing considered one complete night so that the next limit of seven lobsters can only be taken the following night? Also, do the same rules apply for fishing, and are all daily bag limits on a 24 hour rotation ending at 12:00 am? If not, then when do they end? (Chris P.)

Answer: A Declaration for Multi-Day Fishing Trip requires that the trip is continuous and extends for a period of 12 hours or more on the first and last days of the trip. If you were fishing or diving for lobster for 12 hours or more before midnight (12:00 a.m.) on the first day of your trip, then you would be able to take your second day’s limit after midnight, as long as your trip extended for at least 12 hours on the second day as well.

The multi-day fishing permit is intended to allow persons fishing offshore, on a trip that lasts multiple days, to catch and keep up to three daily limits of finfish, lobster and rock scallops (in Southern California). In addition, no berthing or docking is permitted within five miles of the mainland shore (California Code of Regulations, Title 14, section 27.15).


Rod and reel and crab fishing at the same time?
Question: Can you set crab pots from a boat, and once finished, fish with a pole as long as the fish are in season? Thanks for your help on this question (Craig J.)

Answer: Yes, there’s no fishing regulation that prohibits rod and reel fishing while you’re soaking your crab pot.


Is it legal to post signs on land you do not own?
Question: I’ve been finding some of my favorite hunting areas now have “No Hunting” signs hung on the fence lines. The problem is these signs are being posted by people who don’t even own the land! This has got to be illegal but I’m not sure what the regulations actually say here. Can you offer us some help? (Jack L.)

Answer: It is illegal for someone to post any sign prohibiting trespass or hunting on any land unless authorized by the owner or the person in lawful possession of the property. By the same token it is also unlawful for any person to maliciously tear down, mutilate or destroy any sign, signboard or other notice forbidding hunting or trespass on land (ref. FGC Section 2018.)

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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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