Legal Hitchhiking?

(CDFW Photo by Athena Maguire)

Lingcod hitchhiking on a rockfish caught on a shrimp fly (CDFW Photo by Athena Maguire)

Question: If I am using a legal shrimp fly rig to fish in California waters for rockfish and a legal-sized lingcod bites and holds onto an otherwise legal-sized rockfish, can I legally gaff and possess that legal-sized hitchhiking lingcod? I am assuming the lingcod has not been hooked in the mouth on my shrimp fly rig, but has merely bitten and held on to the rockfish all the way to the surface. Would this be legal? (James O. Peterson)

Answer: Yes. The take of “hitchhiking” lingcod with a gaff is legal as long as the fish is of legal size. Gaff hooks cannot be used to take or assist in landing any finfish shorter than the minimum sizes limit. Gaffs also cannot be used to take salmon, steelhead, sturgeon or striped bass.


What does new mandatory deer hunt reporting mean for hunters?
Question: I’ve noticed the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) are now requiring all deer hunters to report their deer tags. Every person who is issued a deer tag must submit a report for the tag either online or by mail after the hunt, even if they did not hunt or did not harvest a deer. Does this new regulation mean that mandatory validation of all deer tags by an authorized individual is no longer the case? If not, why? Doesn’t mandatory reporting cover all circumstances, except for the poacher types? Given that we are required to participate in more and more validation reports, is it possible that down the line this information will be used to close a zone or severely limit tag numbers? Will more and more zones be transformed into draw only, such as what occurred with the B zone a few years ago? (Bill A.)

Answer: The reporting regulation did nothing to change validation requirements. Hunters have always been allowed to transport deer from the kill site to where it’s going to be validated and the tag must still be validated. Many folks are authorized to validate deer tags (see the current California Mammal Hunting Regulations booklet, pp. 2-13 for full list), but if one of those people are not available, the online reporting system will provide a number to at least prove that the tag has been reported.

According to CDFW Wildlife Programs Manager Craig Stowers, this is a harvest report (not a “validation report”). Successful deer hunters have always been required to report their take. However, due to hunter failure to report, tags picked up in the field and never sent in for processing, or even losses in the mail, we know darn well that we don’t get all the successful take reports.

Harvest information is an important component of population estimates, so you are partially correct in that this information is used to set tag quotas. California’s deer populations are stable, but given the high demand for tags, it is highly likely we will see more zones go to draws in the future. There is no system we could design and implement that will allow deer hunters to get any tag they want, whenever they want.

Here’s one example of how the harvest report system could help deer hunters: calculations of the hunter success ratios that so many hunters seem to use to make their hunt selections. Many hunters get tags they don’t use, but we used to include those hunters in the success calculations. This reporting system gives us a handle on that so we can provide tighter, better information than we ever have before.


Two anglers sharing one rod?
Question: If there are two guys with fishing licenses and they are fishing from shore, is it legal for them to share one fishing pole between them? If so, can both anglers continue fishing until they both get their limits of fish? (Kong C.)

Answer: This would be legal, but CDFW recommends that each angler have their own bags or stringers for the fish they catch in order to keep them separate. It is not legal for one person to catch their limit and then to continue fishing to help their friend get their limit. If each person keeps their own fish separate, there will be no confusion if asked by a warden to display the fish they’ve caught.


Eotech or red dot sights?
Question: Can I legally hunt deer in California with my Eotech Holographic sight on a rifle? Since it has a lighted dot but does not project a visible light outside of the viewfinder, I assume it would be legal but want to be sure. (Ken M., Redding)

Answer: As long as the sight does not emit a directional beam of light, then it may be used (Fish and Game Code, section 2005). The problem comes when a light is emitted out away from the rifle or bow sight to give the hunter what some would consider an unfair advantage over the game. A light might also substantially contribute to hunting before or after legal hours.

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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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