Category Archives: Baiting

Bird Feeders May Lure Other Unwanted Wildlife Visitors

than you’d

Wild bird feeders often lure in more than just the intended birds (Creative Commons photo)

Wild bird feeders may be a lure for a lot more unintended wildlife visitors than you’d expect (Photo courtesy of Creative Commons)

Question: Is it okay in California to put bird feeders out to feed wild birds? Assuming it is, if we observe deer eating the seeds intended for birds, are we obligated to remove the bird seed and stop feeding the birds or can we continue to put out seeds for the birds even if the deer are also coming in to consume it? (Mark M.)

Answer: Wild bird feeders are legal to use, but keep in mind that you don’t want the birds to become completely dependent on this artificial food source. If they do become dependent, then if/when this artificial food source becomes unavailable, the birds may have trouble going back to find a natural food source to sustain them.

Which leads into your second question … if you find that the deer are changing their behavior and coming onto your property in pursuit of any spilled bird seed, you should stop feeding the birds until the deer stop coming in. Pretty soon there won’t be any birds, just deer standing around waiting for their handout. It’s either that or move the feeder to a spot the deer can’t get to. It’s never a good idea to start feeding deer.

Another potential problem is that bird feeders can also be a big attractant for black bears who are trying to consume enough calories to support hibernation during winter months when natural food is scarce. The suet (animal fat) used to hold bird seed together in many products is also a dense calorie source which bears can become dependent upon. Knowingly attracting bears with this food source, which can be considered bait, is a citable offense.

Keep in mind, it’s illegal to feed big game (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 251.3) and unlawful to harass wildlife (causing them to alter their normal behavior). Harassment can include feeding (CCR Title 14, section 251), even if it’s via bird feeders.


Spiny lobster hoop net buoy regs
Question: I read where crab traps need the owner’s GO ID number on the buoys this year. Is this required for lobster hoop nets as well? I did not see it but the locker room lawyers I hang with say the requirement applies to both. (Joe H.)

Answer: For this season, that is not the case. Beginning with the 2017 season, however, this will be required unless the hoop net is deployed from shore. You can get a preview of the adopted regulation changes for sport lobster fishing on the California Fish and Game Commission website.

“Beginning on April 1, 2017, hoop nets used south of Point Arguello shall be marked with a surface buoy. The surface buoy shall be legibly marked to identify the operator’s GO ID number as stated on the operator’s sport fishing license or lobster report card. Hoop nets deployed from persons on shore and manmade structures connected to the shore are not required to be marked with a surface buoy.”


Bear tag on my body?
Question: I have a question about bear hunting. This past season while in camp and talking to wildlife officers , a big bear walked by about 100 yards away. I was about to shoot it when I remembered my tag was in my trailer and not on my body. I got the tag first, then contained my dog, but by then the bear was gone. I could have shot him but didn’t have the tag on me. Did I just save myself a ticket for shooting without my tag in possession or did I just miss the bear? It says on the tag that it must be in immediate possession while hunting. (Rick W.)

Answer: Because you were at your camp and not hunting at the time, you are not expected to have your tag/license on you. However, according to Fish and Game Code, section 4753, “The person to whom a bear tag has been issued shall carry the tag while hunting bear.” So, you did the right thing. Once you would have picked up your firearm, you would have been actively hunting, so therefore required to carry your tag. Also keep in mind that if you were in a designated campground area, many campgrounds have safety zones around them where shooting is not allowed.


Trout fishing at night
Question: Can you clarify the exact rules for trout fishing at night? The regulations aren’t very clear to me when I read them. (Brandon C.)

Answer: In most cases, trout and salmon may not be taken at night. However, some exceptions can be found in the 2016-2017 Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations handbook on page 16 under CCR Title 14, section 3.00. Night is defined as one hour after sunset to one hour before sunrise.


Mouth calls for deer
Question: My question goes back to deer season. I am wondering if it is ok to use mouth calls for deer hunting here in California. I have found this legal to do in other states. (Richard T.)

Answer: Yes, you can use mouth calls for deer as long as the sounds are not electronically generated or electronically amplified (FGC, section 3012).

# # #

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.

Baiting or Habitat Enhancement?

Mule deer on scenic hillside (USFWS photo)

Mule deer on scenic hillside (USFWS photo)

Question: I am an avid outdoorsman here in Southern California. I noticed on a recent scouting trip that someone left a bucket in one of my upland game hunting locations. It had some water in it and it looked like it was placed there to act as a person’s DIY waterhole. I’m not sure if they left it by accident or if they placed it there in the hopes of attracting deer and game birds. Does this count as feeding? I’m fully aware there are prohibitions on feeding and baiting big game, and I am aware there are restrictions on baiting small game like quail, but does leaving your own water count as feeding or baiting? I looked at the regs and I didn’t find a definition of what feeding is, at least in regard to this situation. NGOs build these types of devices all the time as habitat enhancement in areas where big game need access to water. I’d imagine it is done with proper permission and permits, yet I did not want to leave a CalTIP report about a poacher if this was not illegal. (Robert T.)

Answer: As long as the person placing the watering device has permission from the land owner or controlling agency to place it on the property, there should be no issue. However, regulations may prohibit hunting near the watering device if it is on public land (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 730). This code section prohibits hunting for more than 30 minutes within 200 yards of wildlife watering places on public land within the boundary of the California Desert Conservation Area, or within ¼ mile of six specified wildlife watering places in Lassen and Modoc Counties. The definition of “watering place” includes man-made watering devices for wildlife.


Fishing outside restricted depths?
Question: A while back I read some fishing reports from some partyboats out of Sonoma County who were reporting they had picked up limits of rockfish and lings and were then running out to 220 feet of water to fish trolling gear for salmon. Isn’t this illegal? How do these commercial sportfishing boats get away with it? (Dan F.)

Answer: Yes, that practice would be illegal. Partyboats must abide by the depth restrictions for the groundfish management area where they are fishing. For the area you describe it would be 180 feet, and if groundfish are on the boat, no fishing may occur in deeper water. A partyboat could have gone salmon fishing in 220 feet and then moved to legal depths to catch rockfish inside 180 feet, but not in the manner you describe. If groundfish were caught while fishing the deeper water for salmon, they would have had to be released.


Fishing by Delta farmer’s pumps
Question: I was fishing in a boat on the California Delta yesterday. A farmer’s pump was pumping and the farmer stopped his truck on the levee to tell me that it’s against the law to fish within 100 yards of a running pump. I’ve never heard of that, and I was wondering if the farmer was just blowing smoke. What do you think? (Ken A.)

Answer: The farmer was mistaken, but CCR Title 14, section 2.35 does prohibit taking fish within 250 feet of any fishway; egg-taking station; dam, weir or rack that has a fishway or an egg-taking station; and the upstream side of any fish screen.


Sport fishing on a commercial crab boat?
Question: Can commercial boats sport fish for Dungeness crab during the sport season when the commercial season is closed?

Answer: Yes, if the commercial vessel is not engaged in any commercial activity (Fish and Game Code, section 7856(f)), the commercial vessel does not hold a Dungeness crab vessel permit (CCR Title 14, section 132.1(a)), and everyone taking crab or fishing onboard has a sport fishing license and is following sport fishing regulations.


Bear spray for personal protection?
Question: Is bear spray legal for personal protection while deer or pig hunting in California? (Tony B.)

Answer: Yes. And not only is it legal, many people also recommend it!

# # #

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 with an Airbow?

Benjamin Pioneer Airbow (www.crossman.com photo)

Benjamin Pioneer Airbow (www.crossman.com photo)

Question: I’ve been learning about the Benjamin Pioneer Airbow and am curious about the legal status of using these for hunting. It seems to be the functional equivalent of a crossbow and so I would think they would be appropriate for general big game seasons where archery is a legal method of take. Does the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) have a position on this innovative hunting tool? (Gregory Z.)

Answer: Airbows are essentially airguns that shoot arrows. They are not firearms nor are they (by definition) bows or crossbows (see California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 354). Game mammals and birds may only be taken by the methods listed in CCR Title 14, sections 311, 507 and 354. While firearms, bows and crossbows are all allowable methods of take, the airbow does not fall under any of these definitions, and thus may not be used to take wildlife in California.


Chumming for Pacific halibut?
Question: Is it legal to fish for Pacific halibut using a chum bag? The bag would be independent with no hooks, just a bag of bait on the ocean floor. (Dan R.)

Answer: Yes, chumming is legal in the Ocean and San Francisco Bay District (see CCR Title 14, sections 1.32 and 27.05.). Please be aware that Pacific halibut is managed as a quota fishery and will close once the annual quota is reached. Before engaging in fishing activity, please check our Pacific halibut website for weekly tracking of harvest while the season is open or current closure notifications or call one of the hotlines listed at this site.


License required for frogs, bugs and other insects?
Question: I know I need a license to catch fish, but I was wondering if I need a license to catch dragonfly nymphs, snails or any other kind of water bugs as long as they are not a fish. Do I need a license to catch frogs and tadpoles? I’m going to take my kids to a river and help them explore and I know I’m going to have to help them catch the small water critters. (Pedro A.)

Answer: Thank you for taking the time to ask about the regulations before taking your kids out. Here are the basics: A sport fishing license is required for individuals 16 years of age or older who wish to take fish, amphibians, mollusks, crustaceans, invertebrates or reptiles in California (freshwater or ocean waters).

Remember that tadpoles are baby frogs, and only the amphibians listed in CCR Title 14, section 5.05 may be taken. While technically it is legal to catch (and collect) certain tadpoles under a fishing license, you have to know how to ID them so you don’t accidentally collect a species that is not on the list. The species not in section 5.05 are endangered or threatened species, or species of special concern, and their possession is illegal without a special permit. Also, if you and your kids want to collect and rear the tadpoles to frogs, be aware they must be kept for life or given away because it’s illegal to release them back into the wild after being taken into captivity.

If you are going to actively catch frogs, tadpoles, etc. (amphibians) with your kids, you should first have a fishing license. If the kids do all of the work themselves and they’re under 16, they don’t need a license.

This information is contained in the current Freshwater Fishing Regulation booklet beginning on page 5 which can be found online or at any CDFW license office, bait shops, sporting goods stores or other places where fishing licenses are sold.


Importing mount of a species prohibited to hunt in California?
Question: Is it legal to own a mount of a wild animal that is illegal to hunt in California, but legal in another state? The critter is a sandhill crane that is illegal to hunt in California, but was legally bagged in another state (some 15 states consider these game animals, but not here). Can I bring this mount into California and publicly display it? (James S.)

Answer: Yes, but you should keep all documentation of where it came from and/or hunting licenses with it in case the origin of the mount ever comes into question.

Fish and Game Code, section 2353, requires that you declare the entry into California of any legally taken birds, mammals, fish, reptiles or amphibians. The Declaration for Entry form requires you to put down information such as a hunting license number, game tag number, etc. and indicate the county and state in which the animal was killed. With the exception of animals like a mountain lion or mountain lion mount that cannot be legally imported, you are allowed to import legally acquired wild animals or wild animal mounts and should have documentation of where and how they were acquired as some states allow the sale of wildlife and wildlife mounts, too.

# # #

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.

Explosive Numbers of Wild Turkeys Causing Havoc

Wild Turkeys (CDFW photo)

Wild Turkeys (CDFW photo)

Question: I live in the San Francisco East Bay and in my neighborhood there has been an explosion in the numbers of wild turkeys roaming freely and they are causing havoc wherever they go! These birds destroy flower beds and yards with their endless search for food. They relieve themselves frequently leaving a mess able to be tracked into peoples’ residences and family vehicles. A small child’s toys may even come into contact with their biological waste. These turkeys travel in large groups. I have even counted two separate groups numbering 25 large turkeys. They don’t have many natural predators except maybe larger dogs, but the turkeys steer clear of those yards. Cats only fear them. The only predator that can make a difference is MAN. Any suggestions? (Jimmy W.)

Answer: There are a few things that you and your neighbors can do. First of all, do whatever you can to discourage them from getting too comfortable on your property and becoming permanent residents. Talk to all of your neighbors to make sure no one is feeding or providing them water (e.g. fountains, dog dishes, bird baths, etc.). Also, make sure no one is leaving pet food out. You and your neighbors can always try hazing them with non-lethal methods, such as a quick spray with a hose or a motion-detecting sprinkler.

To curtail the problems with unwanted droppings under their roosts, remove the areas where they perch or else use bird spikes to make perches inhospitable. You can also try stringing visible lines to disrupt their flight paths. If none of these actions prove effective and the turkeys are causing substantial property damage, and if you’ve exhausted all other methods, your last option may be to contact the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) for  issuance of a depredation permit to authorize the lethal removal of the turkeys. Relocating turkeys is not an option.


Can shore anglers use a kayak to drop baited lines over fish?
Question: While my wife and I were camping at Lake Comanche last week we observed two young men arrive in a pickup with a small kayak in the back. As they prepared to fish in the pond section, one of the guys took the kayak out to look for fish using his polarized sunglasses while the other set their rods up on the bank. Once the guy in the kayak found where the fish were hanging out, he went back to the bank and prepared four very large baits. One of the baits looked like roe and three others looked like chicken intestines. He then loaded them one at a time into his kayak and rowed back out to drop the baited lines over the fish he’d found while his friend held the rods on the bank. They repeated this action until all four baited lines were fishing. We didn’t stay around to see what they caught, but when they were leaving in the dark I asked them how they did. Their reply was that they’d caught several fish.

Were these men fishing legally? If not and we observe this action again, should we call CalTIP? (Robert H.)

Answer: Each angler could use bait to fish with two rods if they both had second-rod validations. If one of them handled all four rods while the other dropped the baits, it could be a problem because one person would then be angling with four rods. To comply with the letter of the law, they would have to switch roles after two of the lines were set. They could also only use up to three baited hooks on each line.


What’s wanton waste of fish?
Question: What would be considered deterioration or waste of fish? I understand that leaving them on the shoreline or in a garbage can would be waste, but would it also apply to using the whole fish as fertilizer or something like that? (Zach T.)

Answer: Anglers are expected to make reasonable efforts to retrieve and utilize any fish taken. It is unlawful to cause or permit any deterioration or waste of any fish taken in the waters of this state (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.87). Although most fish taken under the authority of sport fishing licenses are utilized for human consumption, the regulation does not prescribe how fish are to be used.


Sturgeon card required for anglers under 16 years old?
Question: If I am taking fishermen that are under 16 who do not yet need fishing licenses sturgeon fishing, do they need sturgeon tags? (John B., Livermore)

Answer: Yes. Anglers under 16 are exempt only from having to purchase a sport fishing license. However, they must still purchase and carry report cards for any fishery with report card requirements and follow all other sport fishing regulations.

#  #  #

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.

Wildlife Feeders to Attract Turkeys?

Spring turkey (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Spring turkey (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: A buddy of mine has a feeder on his ranch that he loads up with feed to attract turkeys to his property. He intends to hunt them once the season opens. I told him this was illegal baiting but he said he would pull the feed out before hunting the area. What do you think? Is this really legal? (Anonymous)

Answer: No. It is illegal to harass any game or nongame bird unless authorized by a regulation or the Fish and Game Code (California Code of Regulations, Title 14, section 251.1). Under this section, “harass” is defined as an intentional act which disrupts an animal’s normal behavior patterns, which includes, but it is not limited to, breeding, feeding and sheltering. Consequently, if your friend’s feeder disrupts the normal behavior pattern of the turkeys, it would be a violation of the law to feed the turkeys even if he/she pulls the feeder out before hunting the area. Also, please note that a person may not take resident game birds, such as turkeys, within 400 yards of any baited area unless an exception in CCR Title 14, section 257.5, has been met.


Legal sturgeon in tow?
Question: While out sturgeon fishing, we noticed a smaller boat with a legal sturgeon in tow. The rope was double hitched and wrapped around the fish just behind the gills. As ropes and snares are now illegal, where does this technique fall into the rules?  (Bill A.)

Answer: If the “double hitch” you saw was a flexible loop made from any material that can be tightened like a noose around any part of the fish, then what you saw was not legal (CCR Title 14, section 5.80(d) and 5.81(a)). The no-snare regulation is to reduce harm to sturgeon. Oversized white sturgeon and all green sturgeon may not be removed from the water and shall be released immediately (CCR Title 14, section 5.80(c) and (e) and 5.81(b)). Legal-sized white sturgeon that anglers choose to release must be released immediately without taking them out of the water

If the person in possession of the fish you saw had not recorded the fish on a Sturgeon Fishing Report Card, it was also illegal under CCR Title 14, section 5.80(f). The tagging requirement is to prevent waste of white sturgeon through “high grading” (releasing a smaller fish when a larger one is caught) as well as to enforce the daily and annual bag limits.

If you see something like this again, I recommend calling the 24-hour Californians Turn in Poachers and Polluters (CalTIP) hotline at (888) 334-2258. Tipsters also can text anonymous information, including photographs, to CalTIP via “tip411” (numerically, 847411). Wildlife officers can respond directly, resulting in an anonymous two-way conversation. Users must start the text message with the word “Caltip”. Phone number line, type: 847411, message line, type: Caltip (followed by the message/tip).


Diving and crabbing at the same time?
Question: I live in Monterey County and freedive/spearfish in the approved areas frequently. I see crab while I’m down on the bottom and have decided maybe I’d like to try and grab a few. I’ve read through the rules and regs and think I have a pretty good idea of what’s expected of me. Would it be possible (and legal) for me to purchase a crab trap, place it out before my spearing, then go dive for a few hours and return to collect it once I’m done diving? It would all be done in one trip and from a kayak. Just a thought. For now I’m just going to get a measuring devise and try my luck by hand.

Answer: Yes, if you are north of Point Argulello (Santa Barbara County), you may legally set traps for crabs and have them fishing while you’re diving. Then after you have finished diving, you may return to collect crabs from the trap. You cannot service traps while still diving because while diving for crustaceans, you are restricted to taking crabs only by hand (CCR Title 14, section 29.80(g)). Note that for hoop nets, the limit between setting and pulling is two hours.


Passengers netting fish?
Question: Can a person net fish for others without having their own California Sport Fishing License?  (Pete)

Answer: Yes, as long as you are referring to using a “landing net” to net another angler’s fish that is unable to use the landing net them self for some obvious reason, then it’s ok. Assisting someone with the use of a landing net in this way would not require a license, but using other types of nets, such as gill nets, seines, dip nets for catching baitfish in the ocean would require a license.

#  #  #

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.

Although They Sell Deer Chow, Don’t Be Deceived

Even if you find deer chow for sale in your local feed store, it is not legal to use to feed deer or any big game in California. (Photo of a white-tailed deer courtesy of USFWS)

Even if you find deer chow for sale in your local feed store, it is not legal to use to feed deer or any big game in California. (Photo of a white-tailed deer courtesy of USFWS)

Question: I was at my local feed store today and was astounded to find bags of Purina Deer Chow for sale, and another feed for wild pigs. I know it is illegal in California to feed big game animals, including deer, bear, elk, wild pigs and pronghorn. So why is it okay to sell deer food? I asked the proprietor and they said that it was not illegal to sell the food and that their customers wanted the product. Isn’t this a little bit like saying it is okay to sell drugs, even if it is illegal to use them? What is the rationale for allowing the sale of a product when its use is banned? (Roy “Confused in Caspar” Falk)

Answer: Although feeding deer or any big game species is prohibited in California, deer are allowed to be fed in other states. Hunters are even allowed to bait them in some states, probably even with this feed. The deer picture that they show on the package is of a white-tail deer which we don’t have here in California. Feeding deer unnaturally concentrates the animals in a very confined location and increases the potential spread of disease. It also makes them more vulnerable to predation by mountain lions and coyotes who quickly figure out where to find concentrated numbers of deer. CDFW has investigated many cases of deer feeding that inadvertently attracted mountain lions which killed the deer the people were trying to feed.

You’re right to feel confused and I’ve asked the same question. It doesn’t seem right since it sends the wrong message to the customers, but the Fish and Game Code generally doesn’t regulate the products that feed stores and pet stores may carry. Many also sell ferret food, and those animals are illegal to possess in California.


Why do fishing and hunting license fees increase every year?
Question: Why do fishing and hunting license fees and various cards and tags increase in price every year? This concerns my friends and me as we are of the older population of California and are on fixed incomes. Hunting and fishing are some of the only pleasures we have to enjoy in our old age, but it is becoming so costly we won’t be able to afford it if you keep raising prices. (Bill D.)

Answer: California law establishes fishing and hunting license fees each year, not the Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). The base fee for sport fishing licenses is established in Fish and Game Code, section 7149 and the fees for stamps and most report cards are established in other sections of the Fish and Game Code or California Code of Regulations, Title 14.

According to CDFW License Program Analyst Glenn Underwood, the Fish and Game Code, section 713 requires license fees to be adjusted in response to increases (or decreases) in costs of goods and services using an index called the “Implicit Price Deflator.” This index is a gauge of the change in the cost of goods and services from year to year.

For example, as hatchery, law enforcement and wildlife management costs have increased, license fees needed to increase to keep pace with these rising costs. Essentially, license fees are adjusted to compensate for inflation. If license fees were not adjusted for inflation, then funding for fish and wildlife management and protection would actually decrease because the “buying power” of a dollar has declined over the years.

License fee increases over the past five years have ranged from a low of 1.2 percent in 2013 to a high of 2.8 percent in 2011. The average index over the past five years has been 1.91 percent. For 2014, the cost of goods and services increased by 1.3 percent and 2015 license fees increased accordingly. If the cost of goods and services were to decrease, then license fees would actually decrease the same percentage. However, when is the last time the cost of living actually decreased?

Although fishing and hunting license fees have increased throughout the years, the increase ensures that the CDFW has adequate funding to manage California’s diverse fish and wildlife resources and provide the public with enjoyable fishing and hunting experiences.


Hunting by javelin?
Question: I just tried javelin throwing for the first time and it sparked an idea that I could hunt with this for big game mammals. But I can’t find it specified anywhere in the mammal hunting regulations booklet. Does this mean that since it isn’t mentioned it’s illegal to use to take down an animal? (Brent L.)

Answer: Yes, you are correct. Hunting by spear or javelin is not a legal method of take for big game.

#  #  #

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.