Don’t Let Your Fowl Turn Foul

Proper care of game in the field ensures your harvest can make it to the table with it’s full flavor intact (California valley quail – USFWS photo)

Question: I hope you can answer my question about cleaning birds. My friends and I went quail hunting a few weeks ago, and it took us 45 minutes to hike into the area where we hunt. We flushed a large covey of birds, shot two and then continued to hunt singles for several hours. We picked up a few more birds for the day and hiked back out. By the time I was able to clean my birds, several hours had passed. The birds had been in my vest. Are they still safe to eat after being shot several hours before and then not cleaned right away? If not, how do you clean a bird and continue to hunt when you are so far from the truck and without any ice chests? My friend says you can also freeze the birds before cleaning them, then thaw and clean them all at once. Is this safe? Can I do this with all birds such as pheasants, too? (Jim L., Santa Maria)

Answer: As I’m sure you are aware, the most important thing to do with game is to keep it clean and dry, and to cool it down ASAP. I can’t promise the birds in your vest are still safe to eat. However, most of us spend several hours in a day out hunting and by the time we get our birds home, many hours have passed. If you refrigerate them as soon as you return from the field, and it’s the same day you are hunting, it is likely they will be fine and ok to consume. However, if they are left in the back of a truck in the heat, then you may be taking a chance. Small birds like quail will cool on their own (somewhat) much faster than a large goose will.

Since ideal handling is not always an option, preparing for the worst situation is always the best plan. Hunters should keep an ice chest with cold packs or sealed bags of ice handy to quickly cool down their game birds without adding moisture. Moisture and warm temperatures create the perfect environment for bacteria to grow.

If you are concerned about the birds spoiling, you can always gut the birds immediately upon taking possession of them. This will allow them to cool quickly. Remember that you are responsible for proper game care, and letting the birds go to waste is a violation. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) advises that you do everything you can to cool your game quickly so you can enjoy your harvest.


Regulating dangerous fishing practices
Question: Does CDFW have any regulations restricting anglers from placing their fishing gear in an unsafe manner? For example, a person throws their line out into the water and then places their fishing rod back in a position to where the line stretching to the water runs across an area where runners and walkers using the same beach could become entangled. Does CDFW have jurisdiction over this? If not, can the practice of having active rods placed far back from the waterline be banned via a city ordinance, or is the region below the high tide line only covered by state regulations? If someone is seriously hurt by such a fishing practice, does the person fishing have any civil or criminal liability? (Len N.)

Answer: CDFW regulations do not address these issues.


Can dead farm-raised trout be used for bait in lakes and streams?
Question: Is it legal to use dead farm-raised trout for bait in inland waters? When I read the regulations it seems like only “live trout” is called out. Costco has farm-raised rainbow trout for sale at a great price and I was thinking it might make great catfish bait for my kids. (Marcus)

Answer: No. Trout may not be used for bait (California Code of Regulations Title 14, sections 4.00-4.30).


Number of hooks allowed for sand dabs vs. halibut?
Question: How many hooks can be used when fishing for sand dabs? I was planning on using a Sabiki rig. How many hooks can I have on such a rig? Also, how many hooks can I have on my line while fishing for halibut? Is there a limit to the number in either of these situations? (Chris )J.

Answer:  There are no hook restrictions for sanddab or California halibut, but if Pacific halibut, salmon, rockfish, cabezon, lingcod, or greenlings of the genus Hexagrammos are onboard, then only two hooks on one line may be used. The gear restriction for Pacific halibut of one line with not more than two hooks is new this year (see pages 38-39 in the 2016-2017 Ocean Sport Fishing regulations booklet).

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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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