Author Archives: California Outdoors

Collecting Pre-Roasted Turkeys?

(Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: From your column, I’ve learned that roadkill is illegal to recover (so that I don’t hunt with my truck). Here’s my question: In our hilly neighborhood the turkeys often fly into the power lines, causing a power outage right around breakfast time. On my way to work I see the roasted turkey near the road. Since PG&E killed it while it was flying during spring turkey season, and it was obviously fresh, I’m curious if it could have gone into my fridge? If so, I assume it would have counted against my possession limit. Or is PG&E meat treated the same as roadkill? (Respectfully, Scott S.)

Answer: Good one!! Thanks so much for your entertaining question. However, unfortunately, you still can’t load these roasted turkeys into your fridge even if it occurred during an open turkey season. Powerline-killed turkeys are not legal to keep because electrocution is not a legal method of take. To keep a turkey, you must hunt it during the open season with a valid hunting license and upland validation and use a legal method of take.


How to stay safe on the right side of the 50 fathom line?
Question: I have a question about the 50 fathom depth contour boundary for groundfish. I figured out the boundary is defined as a series of GPS waypoints at approximately the 50 fathom depth. Some areas seaward of the boundary are shallower than 50 fathoms (300 ft.) and some areas on the land side are greater than 50 fathoms. So, am I ok as long as I stay on the land side of this boundary no matter the depth? (Jeff L.)

Answer: Yes! A depth constraint means that during the open season, any species with depth restraints may only be taken or possessed in water depths shallower than the specified depth. Two specific definitions of “depth” apply off California. In waters shallower than 30 fathoms, “depth” is defined by general depth contour lines. In waters equal to or deeper than 30 fathoms, “depth” is defined by approximating a particular depth contour by connecting the appropriate set of waypoints adopted in Federal regulations (50 Code of Federal Regulations Part 660, Subpart C) (California CR Title 14, section 27.20(a)).


Bow hunting during a general season?
Question: Is it legal to hunt deer and/or big game in California with a bow during the general season? (Clayton S.)

Answer: Yes, as long as your archery equipment meets the general requirements in section 354(c) of the California Code of Regulations Title 14. This regulation can be found in the California Mammal Hunting Regulations booklet beginning on page 28.


Do you need a fishing license to fish at the Fishing in the City events?
Question: I’ve never fished but I’m planning to take my 13-year-old and his friend to a California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Fishing in the City event in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has little outdoors experience and is always consumed by his cell phone. I know he does not need a fishing license, but do I if I want to participate? (Nancy M., Burlingame)

Answer: Fishing in the City offers a great opportunity to introduce a person to fishing, even if they have no experience or equipment. You and your son (and his friend) are the exact people this program is designed for and we are excited to have you participate. CDFW has rods to loan you and tackle available, and we will teach you what you need to know to get started. Many, many people have caught their first fish at one of these events. You are correct about your son not needing a fishing license as he is 15 years old or younger, but you will need one to participate. Keep in mind, CDFW frequently conducts clinics on either or both of the Free Fishing Days of the year. This year the Free Fishing Days will be July 1 and Sept. 2. More information on the program is available on the Fishing in the City website.

One more thing … many of us parents would like to pull our kids away from the cell phones to enjoy the outdoors, but we recognize how important those devices are to today’s youth. There are many fishing apps available for download that may pique your son’s interest in other fishing opportunities. Even CDFW has a new online map-based Fishing Guide you can access with good cell reception. Turn him loose with the app and see if he comes up with any ideas for the next fishing spot he would like to try!

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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.

Fishing Pacific Halibut with a Buoy from a Kayak?

Landing Pacific halibut from a kayak can be very challenging, especially if not prepared with the right equipment. To ensure success, be sure to plan ahead! (Photo by Eric McDonald)

Question: I wish to target large Pacific halibut from my kayak. I’ve researched several different methods for safely landing a large Pacific halibut from a kayak and have settled on a wireman’s gaff. A wireman’s gaff is a large 18/0 shark hook at the end of a 15-20 foot section of rope. The fish is gaffed with the shark hook and the other end of the rope is normally tied to a cleat – much like a flying gaff. From a kayak, this would be dangerous. Instead, I would tie the other end of the rope to an A1 buoy and throw the buoy overboard. The fish then fights the buoy, tires itself out, and then once tired it can be hauled in and dispatched safely.

My concern is that a hook on a rope attached to a buoy fits the description of “mousetrap gear” in the California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 28.65(f).

“Mousetrap gear prohibited: It is unlawful to use, assist in using, or to possess aboard any vessel, hook-and-line gear commonly termed ‘mouse traps’ constructed of a hook(s) or lure(s), attached to one end of a line that is attached to a float, or floats at the other end, and that when fished, is not attached directly to a person or vessel. Possession of such gear aboard a vessel shall be prima facie evidence that the gear is being used in violation of this regulation.”

Clearly, my intended use is not to fish with the wireman’s gaff as the line is too short to catch anything. The hook is never baited and it is never deployed without first being used to gaff a legally hook-and-line caught fish. Is the use of a wireman’s gaff in this way legal under the regulations? Do you think I would get a ticket if a wireman’s gaff attached to a buoy were in my possession? If it is not legal, is there a way to rig it to make it legal without tying a large agitated fish off to my kayak? (Doug K., Eureka)

Answer: Good question! I think the easiest way for you to make it clear that your device is a gaff and not mousetrap gear would be to rig it so that it couldn’t be used as mousetrap gear. For example, if the hook is tied to a floating rope (e.g. polypropylene) with no weights, it would look like a gaff, whereas if it were tied with clear fishing line it would look like mousetrap gear. If you do this, game wardens will know that your device is a gaff.

“‘Snag’ or ‘gaff’ hooks are hooks with or without handles used to take fish in such manner that the fish does not take the hook voluntarily in its mouth” (Fish and Game Code, section 48).

There is no law that would prohibit your described method of gaffing a Pacific halibut. Many divers use similar devices with floats that detach from their spear guns while spearing large game fish.


Muzzleloaders in a wildlife area?
Question: The wildlife area I hunt states that rifles and pistols are prohibited, so most everyone hunts with shotguns loaded with slugs, or with a bow. Could I legally use a muzzleloader in this area? (Kyle B.)

Answer: Muzzle loading shotguns are legal where shotguns are allowed. When rifles and pistols are prohibited, it’s often due to concerns that bullets may travel too far beyond the targeted game. In these areas, pistols and long guns with rifling in the barrel (including muzzle loading rifles) are prohibited.


Dungeness crab and other health advisories?
Question: What’s the best way to find out when there are health advisories in place to prevent fishing for crabs and other shellfish? (Anonymous)

Answer: Health advisories are usually issued by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and can be found several different ways. You can always check our health advisories website. This is updated whenever a new advisory is issued, though unfortunately we do not know much ahead of time when they will be issued. Links to more information about crab and domoic acid is available toward the bottom, in the Additional Information section. You can also call the CDPH shellfish hotline at (800) 553-4133, available 24/7.

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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.

Hunting Over Alfalfa?

Successful pig hunter at Tejon Ranch (CDFW photo)

Question: I know it’s illegal to bait animals to get them to come to you in order to hunt them. However, what about hunting over an alfalfa or corn field? I know some other states allow this and I am wondering if California does, too. (Dakota C.)

Answer: Although feeding big game and hunting over bait is illegal in California, it is legal to hunt over a standing or harvested alfalfa or cornfield. While it is generally prohibited to take resident game birds and mammals from “any area where shelled, shucked or unshucked corn, wheat or other grains, salt, or other feed whatsoever capable of luring, attracting, or enticing such birds or mammals is directly or indirectly placed, exposed, deposited, distributed, or scattered…” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 257.5), this regulation includes several exceptions. One exception allows the “taking of resident game birds and mammals on or over standing crops, flooded standing crops (including aquatics), flooded harvested croplands, grain crops properly shocked on the field where grown, or grains found scattered solely as the result of normal agricultural planting or harvesting.”


Catch and release in MPA
Question: Is it legal to fish catch and release in a no-take State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA) Marine Protected Area (MPA) such as Big River SMCA? Nothing is mentioned in the California Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet. (Robert J.)

Answer: No, it would not be legal to catch and release inside a no-take SMCA or MPA because “take” means to “hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill, or attempt to hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill” (Fish and Game Code, section 86).


Why not able to purchase license and harvest report cards together?
Question: I purchase a California fishing license every December for the following year. Then in May I purchase an abalone report card. And then in September I purchase a lobster report card. I purchase all of these online, which is convenient. Still, it’s three transactions I have to remember and three postage charges. Why can’t I purchase my fishing license and harvest report cards in one transaction? (Ben W.)

Answer: Sport fishing licenses and all sport fishing license items become available for purchase on Nov. 15 each year, except for abalone and lobster report cards. While abalone and lobster report cards are not available for sale at the beginning of the year, you do not have to pay for postage on items purchased through the Online License Sales and Service, unless you select expedited shipping.

Abalone Report Cards become available for purchase on March 15. Abalone regulation changes, based on data gathered from the previous year, frequently require changes to the Abalone Report Card. The March 15 date for the start of sales for Abalone Report Cards allows time for changes to be made to the report card and still allows the report card to be available for purchase 45 days prior to the first day of abalone season. For example, the seasonal limit for abalone recently changed from 18 to 12. Therefore, changes were made within the Automated License Data System to reduce the number of lines printed on the report card and the number of abalone tags included with the report card to 12.

Spiny lobster season spans a part of two calendar years and the report card is valid for the entire lobster season. The upcoming lobster season opens Sept. 30, 2017 and closes March 21, 2018. If Spiny Lobster Report Cards for the 2017/18 season were available at the time 2017 sport fishing licenses first became available for sale (Nov.15, 2016), they would have been available for purchase during the 2016/17 lobster season. It is likely that many people would accidently purchase a spiny lobster report card for the wrong year.


Abalone shell pieces for jewelry?
Question: I realize it is illegal to sell abalone shells as jewelry or other artwork if obtained while sport diving under California regulations, but what if the abalone shells or pieces of them are found while beach combing and the shell had already been vacated by natural means? Can these shells be made into jewelry since there is no limit on taking these shells or pieces? (Scott E., Walnut Creek)

Answer: You can generally pick up abalone shells and shell parts for your personal use. However, Marine Reserves, Marine Protected Areas and other prohibited areas do not allow for any shell collecting. Wherever you go, you should contact the controlling agency to find out what collecting activities are legal for that area. As long as the shells are legally obtained and not sport-taken, they can be used to make jewelry that is sold.

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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.

Backyard Dove Hunting with Judo Point Arrows?

Eurasian Collared Dove (Creative Commons photo)

Question: I am a recently minted homeowner and my neighborhood is overrun by Eurasian doves. For fun, I would like to do some recurve bow hunting for them with judo point arrows when the season opens later this year. I know that the statute states, “No discharge of firearms or any deadly weapon within 150 yards of a residence.” However, can you please tell me if using judo point arrows with flu-flu fletching would be considered deadly? My plan is to hunt from an elevated position such that the arrows strike within my own backyard. (Anonymous)

Answer: Because you would be hunting, the statute would apply to you even if your bow and arrows were not deadly weapons. “It is unlawful for a person, other than the owner, person in possession of the premises, or a person having the express permission of the owner or person in possession of the premises, while within 150 yards of an occupied dwelling house, residence, or other building…, to either hunt or discharge a firearm or other deadly weapon while hunting” (Fish and Game Code, section 3004(a)). To lawfully hunt in your back yard, you would need to get permission from every owner or occupant of dwellings within 150 yards, and then make sure there are no local ordinances or rules that prohibit hunting in your neighborhood, and then make sure your archery equipment complies with California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 354. You will find this section if you go to page 28 in the current California Mammal Hunting Regulations booklet.


Obtaining gaper clams?
Question: I have a question regarding digging for and obtaining gaper clams. I know the daily bag limit is 10 clams per person. Now, I’m pretty sure you know how hard it is to dig for these clams, so if I’m clamming with my friends, can we assist each other to reach our limits? I’m confused because last year while with friends digging for clams, we were checked by a Fish and Wildlife officer. He just checked our licenses, counted the total quantity that my friends and I had acquired and then sent us on our way. However, this year I heard you can’t help each other. Did they change the regulation or was it always that way? I would hate to get a ticket due to ignorance. (Nam T.)

Answer: As long as all of you were in possession of valid fishing licenses, it would be permissible to help each other as long as each person is retrieving their own clams and each person is involved in the entire process of digging for their own clams. Where you could run into a problem is if one person digs up and retrieves more than 10 clams and “shares” his additional catch among the group. Once a person has dug up and possesses a daily bag limit, he or she must stop assisting other members of the group. This is important because if the individual possesses a limit, he or she is no longer able to attempt to take any more.

Before setting out to harvest gaper clams or any other species of shellfish, please first check the California Department of Public Heath shellfish hotline at (800) 553-4133. This recording is available 24/7, is updated frequently and will tell you about any health concerns or health-related harvest closures in effect for shellfish and finfish in California ocean waters.


Fishing with live bait in Lake Mendocino?
Question: Can I buy minnows in Lake County (Clearlake Outdoors) and then use them as bait in Lake Mendocino? I have tried to read the regs but they are soooo confusing. (William W.)

Answer: Remember, the term “minnows” is used for a number of baitfish species. Golden shiner, fathead minnow, red shiner, mosquitofish, longjaw mudsucker and staghorn sculpin are authorized live bait for Lake Mendocino. The regulations you are asking about can be found in the 2017 Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations booklet under CCR Title 14, section 4.25.


Kelp collecting for a science class?
Question: I am a science teacher planning a unit on photosynthesis, and I’d like to include a few pieces of kelp in the kids’ exploratory activities. They’ll be looking at leaves and at other aquatic algae, too. Before I go collecting, is it even legal to go get some kelp fronds from the beach wrack? If so, where it is legal to collect? (Kelly T., Pacific Grove)

Answer: Take of kelp is legal, as long as you’re not in a Marine Protected Area (MPA) that prohibits the take of kelp. The daily bag limit for recreational harvesters of marine algae is 10 pounds wet weight in the aggregate. Recreational harvesters are prohibited from harvesting or disturbing eelgrass (Zostera species), surfgrass (Phyllospadix species) and sea palm (Postelsia palmaeformis).

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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.

Scouting and Hunting from a Paraglider?

It is illegal to scout for big game via a paraglider because using any device capable of flight in order to locate big game during the hunting season is prohibited. (Creative Commons photo)

Question: Is it legal to scout wild game from a non-motorized paraglider? If so, would it also be legal to locate game from the sky and then land and pursue the animals on foot? (Tony A.)

Answer: For scouting big game, this would be illegal because using any device capable of flight in order to locate big game during the hunting season is prohibited. “No person shall pursue, drive, herd, or take any bird or mammal from any type of motor-driven air or land vehicles…. Additionally, no person shall 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 beginning 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)


Carp spearfishing in the Russian River?
Question: I’ve been told that even though the Russian River is a salmon spawning river, I would be allowed to spearfish for carp because the carp are invasive. I need to confirm this from the regulation book though. Can you please help? Is this allowed? (Michael S.)

Answer: No. Spearfishing is only allowed in the waters listed under section 2.30 in the 2017 Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations booklet (CCR Title 14, section 2.30) beginning on page 12. In fact, even possessing a spear within 100 yards of the Russian River is unlawful (CCR Title 14, section 2.09).


Upgrading to lifetime fishing license?
Question: I’ve already purchased my 2017 sport fishing license. Can I pay the difference and upgrade to a permanent fishing license? (Bob I.)

Answer: Thank you for your interest in a lifetime license. Unfortunately, annual licenses cannot be upgraded to lifetime licenses mid-year. We suggest that you continue to use your annual license for the remainder of the year and purchase a lifetime license at the end of the year, before the new year to avoid any potential lifetime license fee increases.


How many hooks are allowed when fishing Sabiki rigs?
Question: My question is regarding Sabiki rigs. These pre-made rigs are sold with six hooks, and I have read that we are only allowed to use rigs with a max of three hooks. Does the three-hook rule also apply to Sabiki rigs since these rigs (the small ones with No. 12 hooks) are only for catching bait fish instead of game fish? If so, do I need to cut the rig in half? (Andy S.)

Answer: It depends on where you’re fishing and what you’re fishing for. To catch and keep some species of fish you’re required to use a certain number of hooks. If you catch one of these fish on a rig with more hooks than permitted, you’d have to throw it back.

Many species of rockfish, especially blue rockfish, will bite Sabiki rigs. So, even though they are designed to catch bait, they target any fish species that sees them as food. If you have rockfish, cabezon, greenling or lingcod on your boat, you cannot use a full Sabiki rig and must cut all but two hooks off.

Also, if fishing in inland waters, you would be restricted to using three hooks or less.

And remember, it’s not legal to keep chinook salmon if taken with barbed hooks or if using more than two barbless hooks per line if a salmon is in possession. If you have no fish onboard and are trying to catch bait with a Sabiki rig, you would be required to release any such species.

I suggest that you read the Gear Restrictions section of the annual Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet beginning on page 33, and the Fishing Methods and Gear Restrictions section beginning on page 12 of the annual Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations booklet, to learn more about the regulations of the fish species you expect to encounter.


Maximum number of crab traps allowed per vessel?
Question: We just bought a new boat and would like to start fishing for Dungeness crabs. The sport fishing regulations state that a maximum of 10 hoop nets are allowed for Dungeness crabs per vessel (CCR Title 14, section 29.80). Does this regulation also apply when fishing crab traps south of Point Arena? (Lynard S.)

Answer: No, there are no restrictions on the number of crab traps the average sport crabber can have on a vessel for recreational purposes between Point Arguello, Santa Barbara County and the California-Oregon state line. The same is not true for charter/party boats that take recreational fishermen crabbing. When fishing for Dungeness crabs, the commercial sport fishing boats are restricted to using 60 traps per vessel (CCR Title 14, section 29.85(a)(4)). When fishing south of Point Arguello, hoop nets for crabs are allowed but crab traps are not.

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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.

Bait Launching with a DIY Spud Gun?

Pneumatic potato guns that use compressed air are legal as long as they are not used like a weapon (e.g. shot at a person, etc.) (Creative Commons photo)

Question: Is the use of bait launchers legal in California? I have seen many videos and DIY plans showing how to build fishing bait launchers. They look pretty much like a potato gun but are used only for propelling the bait past the surf for a chance at the larger fish. They are made of PVC pipe and filled with air, probably from a bike pump. Its only purpose is for getting the fishing bait out farther than one can cast. I would imagine that certain areas would be opposed to their use, but in general, are these legal to use? (Daniel N.)

Answer: Potato-style guns like you are referring to are legal under federal law. However, under state law, potato guns that use combustion (instead of compressed air) to launch the projectile are “firearms,” and one with a bore of over 0.5 inches is a destructive device.

Pneumatic potato guns that use compressed air are legal as long as they are not used like a weapon (e.g. shot at a person, etc.), so this line launching device would be legal under state and federal laws. However, you should check for local city and county ordinances because some local governments prohibit use of any devices that propel projectiles. If you intend to use this line launching device on a state beach, you may also want to consult State Parks. And if you plan to use it to fish within a National Marine Sanctuary, I suggest you check in with that Sanctuary office to be sure they do not prohibit these types of devices.

As far as using it to cast a fishing line, nothing in the Fish and Game Code or its implementing regulations prohibit using this compressed air launcher as long as the fishing line remains attached to a rod and reel, or the person is brave enough to hold the other end of line in their hands!


Catching crabs both inside and outside San Francisco Bay
Question: Let’s say I’m in the ocean at Baker Beach in San Francisco and I catch a Dungeness crab. Then I want to go fishing and crabbing nearby at Ft. Point Pier (just inside the bay) or Aquatic Park. Basically, I don’t want to leave my crabs in the car for hours, and I have one bucket with an aquarium pump to keep all the crabs in. Can I bring the bucket with the crab onto that pier or will a California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) warden presume I caught it there? And similarly, would leaving it in the parked car be allowed or would they presume it was from that area? (Fred D.)

Answer: “Dungeness crab may not be taken from or possessed if taken from San Francisco Bay and San Pablo Bay, plus all their tidal bays, sloughs and estuaries between the Golden Gate Bridge and Carquinez Bridge” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.85(a)).

Based upon the scenario you describe of having Dungeness crabs in possession in a prohibited area, you could get into trouble if you have Dungeness crabs on the pier with you or while returning from a prohibited area with fishing equipment. As per Fish and Game Code, section 2000(b): Possession of a bird, mammal, fish, reptile, amphibian, or part of any of those animals, in or on the fields, forests, or waters of this state, or while returning therefrom with fishing or hunting equipment, is prima facie evidence the possessor took the bird, mammal, fish, reptile, or amphibian, or part of that animal.

CDFW recommends that you first fish in the more restrictive area (the Bay), then move outside the Bay to fish for Dungeness crab to avoid any misunderstandings or extra scrutiny by wildlife officers. But, what you describe is not prohibited, and experienced local wildlife officers will be able to tell the difference between freshly caught crab and those that have been in your bucket for hours.


Transporting a compound bow
Question: What are the requirements to legally transport a compound bow? (Antoine R.)

Answer: “No person may nock or fit the notch in the end of an arrow to a bowstring or crossbow string in a ready-to-fire positon while in or on any vehicle” (CCR Title 14, section 354(i)).


Lost fishing license
Question: I purchased a fishing license a couple of months ago but now cannot find it. I do have a picture of it. How can I get a copy of my original? (Dee D.)

Answer: Go to any License Agent or CDFW License Sales Office to buy a duplicate sport fishing license. A small fee is charged for each duplicate validation. If you lose your Abalone Report Card or Sturgeon Fishing Report Card, you can obtain a duplicate from CDFW license sales offices only. You must complete an Abalone Report Card Affidavit (PDF Form) and pay the duplicate fee to replace an Abalone Report Card. You must complete a Sturgeon Fishing Report Card Affidavit (PDF Form) and pay the duplicate fee to replace a Sturgeon Fishing Report Card. Duplicate fees are listed on the license description page.

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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.

How to Begin a Career as a Wildlife Officer?

Wildlife Officers have a passion to protect California’s fish and wildlife resources while patrolling in 4×4 trucks, boats of all sizes, ATVs, and even horseback and personal watercraft. Most Wildlife Officers think spending a career outside in California’s wild places beats pretty much any other career out there.

Question: I’m in high school and last month my dad and I were contacted by a game warden while we were out fishing. He was really nice. After checking our licenses and sturgeon cards, and once he figured out we were all good, he spent at least another 20 minutes with us answering a bunch of questions. Afterward my dad and I were talking about it and I’m thinking now that becoming a game warden is something I would like to consider someday for a job. I’m only 16 though so what should I do now to prepare for a career as a game warden? (Josh M., Benicia)

Answer: First of all, thank you for your interest! You are lucky you have a dad who is interested and willing to pass along the love of fishing to the next generation. We are always excited to hear from young enthusiastic outdoors people like you who desire a career that will benefit California’s extraordinary fish and wildlife resources.

According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Captain Patrick Foy, “The same things that may motivate you also motivated most of today’s Wildlife Officers (Game Wardens). We have a passion to protect California’s fish and wildlife resources while patrolling in 4×4 trucks, boats of all sizes, ATVs, and even horseback and personal watercraft. We think spending a career outside in California’s wild places beats pretty much any other career out there. As law enforcement officers, we have the authority to investigate all crimes and arrest all criminals – whether they are poachers, polluters, violent criminals, drug dealers, reckless drivers, auto thieves, etc. and therefore we help keep law abiding Californians safe. We thrive on helping the most vulnerable of California’s citizens and the fish and wildlife with no voice. And we are excited to meet young people, such as you, who share our values and want to pursue a career as a Wildlife Officer.”

Knowing what career you want to pursue in high school makes it much easier to make that dream a reality. And yes, there are several actions you can take to prepare yourself for a wildlife officer career with CDFW. Here are a few important tips:

  • Continue to develop your passion for fishing and the outdoors, and consider taking up hunting if you don’t already. Although a fishing and hunting background can help with your career as a wildlife officer, it is not required. Sounds like you’ve got the fishing part figured out!
  • Do well in high school, plan to attend college, and do well there. We check all of your grades in both high school and college. The grades you are earning right now make a difference. Earn a four-year college degree to be more competitive than those who meet the minimum requirement of 60 units.
  • What to study in college? Whatever interests you! Many Wildlife Officers have bachelor’s degrees in subjects ranging from English and math, to the more traditional wildlife management and biology. Just be sure to meet the minimum 18 units of required courses listed at the link below.
  • Develop excellent public speaking and communication skills.
  • Learn to speak a second language if you do not already.
  • Never use drugs. Even a single use of any “hard drug” results in automatic disqualification depending on how old you are and when you used them.
  • Maintain a good driving record. We thoroughly examine your driving record from the day you begin driving.
  • Crimes such as shoplifting, vandalism, theft from employers, etc., are inconsistent with a career in law enforcement, but that should be obvious! You are required to disclose all crimes committed on your initial application, whether or not you were caught.
  • Consider military service. Serving in the military is an excellent way to gain real world experience and develop the leadership skills needed to thrive as a Wildlife Officer. Veterans who pass our written exam are automatically moved into the number one rank which is a substantial benefit to them. Just make sure you also gain the college education necessary to meet minimum qualifications.
  • Maintain excellent physical fitness, including knowing how to swim. You must pass a series of physical fitness tests, including a swim test to be accepted into the Academy.

Become thoroughly familiar with the CDFW Law Enforcement Division website. It lists the minimum qualifications you will need to be accepted into the Academy.

With the above tips in mind, everywhere you exceed our minimum qualifications makes you more competitive for selection. We hope this helps you develop a plan to make your career goals a reality!

Note: Although Josh is in high school and not yet eligible to apply, any interested and eligible applicants should begin checking back around August. The application period is expected to be open in the September-October timeframe.

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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.