Rainbow Trout in Anadromous Waters

Rainbow Trout (CDFW photo by Harry Morse)

Rainbow Trout (CDFW photo by Harry Morse)

Question: I have taken up fly fishing again after a long while away. This past weekend I went fishing on the Russian River and caught two rainbows/steelhead (one a hatchery fish and the other a wild fish) and both were about 10 inches long. I am wondering if I have to report fish of that size on my Steelhead Report Card in the future. I recorded them this time out of an abundance of caution, but I don’t want to over-inflate the run estimates needlessly. (Kyle K., Healdsburg)

Answer: It can be a bit confusing because steelhead trout and rainbow trout are the same fish. Its scientific name is Oncorhynchus mykiss (O. mykiss). Generally speaking, rainbow trout are O. mykiss found in land-locked freshwater with no access to the ocean, while steelhead trout are O. mykiss fish found in anadromous waters, which are waters with unimpeded access to the ocean where they live the majority of their life before returning to freshwater to spawn.

For practical purposes and to facilitate compliance, fishing regulations differentiate between rainbow and steelhead in anadromous waters by a 16-inch size threshold. O. mykiss smaller than 16-inches are treated as rainbow trout, and those bigger than 16-inches are treated as steelhead. Fishing for steelhead, meaning any O. mykiss in excess of 16-inches, in anadromous waters will require the purchase of a Steelhead Report Card, even if you practice catch-and-release (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 5.88).

The report card provides important data to fishery scientists and requires an entry for each day that you fish and statistics on all fish caught and released. Fishing for O. mykiss less than 16-inches does not require a steelhead report card.


Can other law enforcement agencies enforce CDFW regulations?
Question: I am a current sworn recruit in a Southern California Sheriff’s Department Academy. I will be working in a county with a heavy hunting and fishing population and an abundance of wildlife areas. I am just curious, and have been earnestly trying to find the answer on my own accord without luck, about a specific phrase in Fish and Game Code, section 2012. It states:

§ 2012. All licenses, tags, and the birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, or amphibians taken or otherwise dealt with under this code, and any device or apparatus designed to be, and capable of being, used to take birds, mammals, fish, reptiles or amphibians shall be exhibited upon demand to any person authorized by the department to enforce this code or any law relating to the protection and conservation of birds, mammals, fish, reptiles or amphibians.

My question is: who are the persons authorized by the department to enforce this code or any law relating to the protection and conservation of birds, mammals, fish, reptiles or amphibians? Are local police and county sheriffs authorized by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to enforce the Fish and Game Code? If it does exist, is there any statute that expresses that authority? (Calen A., M.A.)

Answer: Only CDFW wildlife officers are authorized to enforce the “exhibit upon demand” authority of Fish and Game Code, section 2012. Police officers and county sheriffs are authorized to enforce most hunting and fishing laws but are not authorized to enforce Fish and Game Code Section 2012.

Aside from CDFW wildlife officers, only Rangers and Lifeguards of the Department of Parks and Recreation are authorized to use that law, and then only while on duty in a state park, state beach, state recreation area, state underwater park, state reserve, or other similar facility. Although other law enforcement officers can’t make a formal demand under section 2012 to see someone’s licenses, fish, game, or equipment, they can still enforce fish and game laws and inspect these items if they are in plain view or with the person’s consent.


Discharging a firearm along public roadway
Question: As a firearms instructor and hunting enthusiast, I am continually asked the question, “When hunting and on foot (outside of a vehicle), can you discharge a firearm or other weapon (e.g. compound bow) from or along a public roadway?” Is there a minimum distance from a public roadway? For example, an inhabited structure or barn at 150 yards away? (Don S., Fresno)

Answer: It unlawful to discharge a firearm or release an arrow or crossbow bolt over or across any public road or other established way open to the public in an unsafe and reckless manner (Fish and Game Code, section 3004(b)). Discharging a firearm from or upon a public road or highway is also prohibited (Penal Code, section 374c). In addition, it is a felony to willfully discharge a firearm in a grossly negligent manner that could injure another person (Penal Code, section 246.3). Many cities and counties have also adopted ordinances further restricting where firearms may be fired, so hunters should consult their local law enforcement agency for specific information about the area where they wish to shoot.


Halibut fishing in SF Bay
Question: If I’m trolling for halibut in the San Francisco Bay, can I use another line that has only dodgers and flashers on it without any hooks to attract the fish closer to my boat? I will only have one pole or line with a hook on it. (J.V., Rodeo)

Answer: Yes.

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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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