Blue Crabs, Drones to Track Wildlife, Crayfish Traps and Abalone Trips

Portunus xantusii (swimming crab) has been found in recent years residing in Mission Bay, San Diego (CDFW photo by Travis Buck)

Portunus xantusii (swimming crabs) have been reported in Mission Bay, San Diego in recent years. Live crabs show more of a bluish or purplish coloration (CDFW photo by Travis Buck)

Question: I have seen what appears to be blue crabs in the Mission Bay area of San Diego that look like crabs normally found in the southern U.S. What are these? What is the limit, size and permitted way of catching them in California? I cannot seem to find it in the handbook. (Don F.)

Answer: The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has received several reports of blue crabs, Callinectes sapidus, in the Mission Bay area of San Diego. However, none of the reports thus far have been substantiated. According to CDFW Marine Environmental Scientist Travis Buck of San Diego, the crabs you have seen are most likely Portunus xantusii (swimming crab), which are native to Southern California and resemble the East Coast/Gulf of Mexico blue crab.

To harvest these crabs, you will need a California sport fishing license with an ocean enhancement stamp. There is no closed season or minimum size limit, the bag limit is 35 and these crabs may be taken by hand or with a hoop net. No more than five hoop nets may be used per person from a boat and no more than two per person from a pier or jetty. There is a maximum of 10 hoop nets per vessel. Also, divers may not possess any hooked devices while diving for crustaceans, including crabs.

Regulations for these crabs fall under section 29.05, “general regulations for invertebrates,” and 29.80, “gear restrictions for crustaceans,” found on pages 46, 49 and 50 in the current Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet.


Can drones be used to find and track wildlife?
Question: A discussion came up at our rod and gun club the other day about whether there are any official regulations or restrictions regarding hunters using drones to assist in locating and tracking big game and/or other wildlife. I personally can’t believe they would be legal to use but none of us have ever heard any official determination on this subject one way or another. With deer season in full swing and more people now owning drones, I shudder to think that these increasingly sophisticated aerial contraptions might be used by other hunters for wildlife surveillance and even possibly for the driving or tracking of animals that they are hunting. Or conversely, what about anti-hunters using them to spook wildlife and disrupt hunters while they are tracking and stocking their animals? What is the official word on this issue? (Anonymous)

Answer: It is unlawful to use a drone to assist in taking wildlife as you describe, and it would be unlawful to harass legal hunters with a drone (Fish and Game Code, section 2009). It is also unlawful for any person to “… use any motorized, hot-air, or unpowered aircraft or other device capable of flight or any earth orbiting imaging device to locate or assist in locating big game mammals 48 hours before and continuing until 48 hours after any big game hunting season in the same area” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 251).

Drone owners/pilots should keep in mind that additional legislation is currently being considered that may further restrict the use of drones in different public and private areas. Drones are already prohibited in National Parks and that list may soon grow, so stay tuned.


Crayfish trap limits?
Question: Had a question about crawfishing that no one can seem to answer for me. My questions are how many traps are allowed per person with a fishing license? I have been told that it’s a limit of 2 but when I look into the California Fish and Game for 2015-2016 Handbook it doesn’t say anything about how many traps are allowed. (William P., Lemoore)

Answer: Crayfish may be harvested year round with a sportfishing license (except for closures listed below) and there are no limits on the number you can possess or take home. Regarding methods of take, crayfish may be taken only by hand, hook and line, dip net or with traps. There is no limit on number of traps, however, they may not be over three feet in greatest dimension. Any other species taken must be returned to the water immediately. Traps need not be closely attended.

For a list of those areas closed to harvest in order to protect the Shasta crayfish, please refer to section 5.35(d) on page 21 of the 2015-2016 California Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations booklet. In addition, crayfish may not be used for bait in sections of the Pit River (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 4.30). The season closures in Chapter 3 (District Trout and Salmon Special Regulations) do not apply to crayfish fishing with methods other than hook and line (see sections 7.00 and 7.50(a)(2)).


Multi-day trip for abalone
Question: I’m a rock picker for red abalone. Because of long distance driving I plan to go for a two-day trip. With daily limits of three, I would get three on the 1st day and another three on the 2nd day before driving home. I will then have six abalone in possession. Would this be legal? (Henry)

Answer: No. The bag limit is also the possession limit. You may only legally possess up to three red abalone. You would have to eat or give away all or part of your first day’s limit before you picked more abalone on a subsequent day.

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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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