Category Archives: Firearms/Ammunition

Possessing Steel and Lead while Hunting Chukar and Quail?

Chukar (CDFW photo)

Question: The ban on hunting with lead ammunition is being phased in. It now includes chukar, while the use of lead will continue to be allowed for quail until the 2019 season. My question is can hunters carry both types of shells (lead and steel) in the field if they are hunting areas where they might reasonably expect to find both species, switching between one and the other depending on what birds they bump? Or must they only possess steel (or bismuth or tungsten or other certified nonlead ammunition) while hunting chukar, and then have to use that ammunition if they run into quail? (Jim M.)

Answer: No. When hunting and targeting two different species, and the possession of lead ammunition is prohibited for one of those regulated species but not the other, you are held to the confines of the most restrictive regulation. In this case, chukar fall under the regulation that says, it is “unlawful to use, or possess with any shotgun capable of firing, any projectile(s) not certified as nonlead…” (California Code of Regulations, section 250.1(d)(2)).

Thus, if you are using your trusty shotgun to hunt both quail and chukar at the same time, steel/nonlead ammo is required.


Shrimp fishing legal?
Question: I have been trying to research whether it is permissible for a recreational license holder to trap for shrimp in the ocean. Can you please help me understand if this is allowed and if there are any restrictions on type of traps, limits, etc. or any other restrictions that I should be aware of? (Kevin B., Santa Barbara)

Answer: Yes, it is legal to take any type of ocean shrimp in California waters, but spot prawns are the most desirable and sought after for eating purposes. However, because California’s spot prawns are found so deep – usually 100 fathoms (600 feet) or more – and the bag limit is only 35, most people are not interested in trapping these shrimp recreationally.

Another option is the lesser known coonstripe shrimp, also referred to as dock shrimp for their habit of sometimes living around pilings. Unlike spot prawns, coonstripe shrimp inhabit relatively shallow water and can be fished close to shore with lightweight traps. They may occur out to depths of 600 feet, but fishermen often set their traps between 70-150 feet. The sport limit is 20 pounds per day (the first 20 pounds taken, regardless of size or condition), and there is no closed season or size limit for the sport fishery. While they range from Sitka, Alaska to (at least) Point Loma in San Diego County, the highest concentrations of coonstripe are found in far northern California, near Crescent City.

Shrimp and prawn traps may be used to take shrimp and prawns only. South of Point Conception, trap openings may not exceed one half-inch in any dimension, effectively prohibiting shrimp and prawn trapping in the region. This requirement is intended to protect juvenile lobster. For For traps fished north of Point Conception, trap openings may not exceed five inches in any dimension.

To learn more about fishing for these interesting shellfish, please check out the crustaceans section of the current Ocean Sport Fishing regulations for the regulations, legal gear, limits and other information you will need to know (CCR Title 14, sections 29.80 through 29.88).


Is lead shot legal or illegal for doves this season?
Question: I keep hearing from tons of folks who are saying that lead shot is illegal for doves this season. I can’t find anything in the regs that say that, except for when hunting on California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) lands or in the condor zone. The way I read it, lead shot is OK for doves until July 2, 2019. Am I correct or wrong? (Bill K.)

Answer: You are correct. Effective July 1, 2016, nonlead shot is required when taking upland game birds with a shotgun. Exceptions include when hunting dove, quail, snipe; or any game birds taken on licensed game bird clubs. In addition, nonlead shot is now required when using a shotgun to take resident small game mammals, nongame birds, and any wildlife for depredation purposes. For more on the nonlead ammunition implementation, please check our Nonlead Ammunition in California website.


Do smoked fish stored in a freezer count as in possession?
Question: For the regulation of five fish bag limit and ten in possession, do fish that are smoked and retained in freezer count for the latter? (Bob M., Anderson)
Answer: “No more than one daily bag limit of each kind of fish, amphibian, reptile, mollusk or crustacean named in these regulations may be taken or possessed by any one person unless otherwise authorized; regardless of whether they are fresh, frozen, or otherwise preserved” (CCR Title 14, section 1.17). Trout regulations generally allow possession of double the daily bag limit and is covered in the “unless otherwise authorized” exemption described above. To specifically answer your question, smoked or retained fish in a freezer are part of your possession limit.

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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.

Drones for Fishing Offshore

Drone (Photo by USFWS)

Question: I have seen many videos of people using drones to fly their bait out to deeper water. I know drone use is illegal for hunting land animals, but what about for fish? Here is a link to a video of some guys using a drone to fish for tuna. (Mark G.)

Answer: There is currently nothing in the Fish and Game Code or California Code of Regulations Title 14 regulations prohibiting use of drones (or kites or remote control boats) to get your terminal gear out to locations beyond where you can cast. However, drone operators need to comply with all laws applicable to drone use, including restrictions on where they may be operated.


Bag limits for trout and kokanee separate or combined?
Question: I have a question about bag limits for trout and kokanee salmon. In just about every lake I fish, the bag limit is five trout per day. Some of these lakes also contain kokanee salmon, which also have five fish limits. When trout and kokanee occur in the same lake, are their bag limits separate or combined? For example, do two trout AND three kokanee equal one daily bag limit, or could five trout equal one limit and five kokanee equal another bag limit? Could one bag limit be comprised of five trout AND five Kokanee or is the bag limit a total combined limit? I have always assumed it was five per day total no matter what the species. (Ryan H.)

Answer: In 2015, a regulation was adopted by the Fish and Game Commission to expand angler opportunity and define kokanee as an inland salmon, which is exactly what it is. Since kokanee are considered landlocked salmon and not trout (CCR Title14, section 1.57), the bag and possession limits for each species are separate, not combined.


Is it legal to possess a found deer skull with antlers?
Question: I recently found the remains of a dead blacktail deer on public land in northern California. From what I could discern, the buck died of natural causes due to a lion turning him into lunch. Is it legal to retain the skull and antlers from this deer? Clearly, the antlers are not natural sheds and there is not a cancelled tag associated with the antlers. (Mike M.)

Answer: Yes, this would be legal. The Fish and Game Code does not prohibit possession of the dried skull and antlers of a deer that died of natural causes.


Kids and two rods
Question: My nephew (13 years old) will be coming to visit me in the Sierra this month, and I am looking forward to taking him fishing. I’m wondering if he can troll/bait fish with two rods? Would a second rod validation be required? If so, can a second rod validation be purchased without buying a sport fishing license? (Ryan H.)

Answer: Anglers younger than 16 years old are not required to buy a fishing license nor a second rod validation in order to fish with two rods. We are always happy to hear about experienced anglers taking young people out to teach them how to fish. Good luck to both of you and thank you for passing along the tradition!


Will traditional muzzleloaders be required to switch over to nonlead?
Question: I like to hunt with a traditional muzzleloader (1840s era reproduction) that uses round balls. Due to the new law requiring nonlead ammunition, will I be required as of 2019 to use nonlead round balls? (Fred H.)

Answer: Yes. Effective July 1, 2019, nonlead ammunition will be required when taking any wildlife with a firearm anywhere in California. New nonlead forms of traditional ammunition are currently being developed. Nonlead muzzleloading ammunition is readily available with plastic sabots holding copper slugs. The sabot system protects your barrel if that is a concern. For a list of certified nonlead ammunition and for more information on nonlead hunting requirements, please visit our “Nonlead Ammunition in California” website.

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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.

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.

When and Where is Nonlead Ammunition Required?

Turkey strut (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: I have a question about airguns. With the new lead ban going into effect, can I still hunt turkeys with lead airgun pellets? Are pellet rifles included in the nonlead ammunition ban? (Bill K., Placerville)

Answer: Since pellet rifles are not firearms, the use of lead projectiles in pellet rifles is not prohibited.


Was there a federal reversal of the ban on lead ammunition?
Question: I heard there was a federal reversal of the ban on use of lead ammunition for hunting on federal lands. How does this affect those of us who hunt on federal lands in California? (Michael H., Yuba City)

Answer: The new administration reversed a January 2017 federal order from the former director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that would have phased in federal requirements to use nontoxic ammunition (and fishing tackle) on federal lands nationwide. The federal order was separate and independent from California’s effort to phase out the use of lead ammunition. For California hunters, there is no change whether hunting on federal, state or private land. Neither federal action affects the phase-in of California’s prohibition on the use of lead projectiles while taking wildlife in California.

California is currently phasing out the use of lead ammunition for hunting across the state, including while hunting on federal lands. Beginning July 1, 2019, nonlead ammunition will be required when taking any wildlife with a firearm anywhere in California. Until then, non-lead ammunition is required when hunting big game or coyotes in the California condor range with a rifle or pistol. Nonlead ammunition is required when hunting any species on California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s wildlife areas and ecological reserves. When hunting bighorn sheep, or when using a shotgun to hunt waterfowl or upland game birds (except for dove, quail, snipe and any upland game birds taken on licensed game bird clubs) you must use nonlead ammunition. In addition, nonlead shot is required when using a shotgun to take resident small game mammals, furbearing mammals, nongame mammals, nongame birds and any wildlife for depredation purposes.

For more information and details, please check our nonlead ammunition website.


What are the nonlead ammunition requirements on private land?
Question: We enjoy hunting on a friend’s private ranch and would like to know if the nonlead ammunition laws apply to private lands and landowners. This property is not open to public access and is only hunted by family and friends of the landowner. (Samuel P., Paso Robles)

Answer: These laws apply both to public and private lands. Please refer to the previous answer regarding California’s phase-out of lead ammunition and where restrictions apply, as well as CDFW’s nonlead ammunition website.


Will nonlead ammunition be required for target shooting?
Question: When we go out target shooting, are we required to shoot only nonlead ammo? (Anonymous)

Answer: No. You are not required to use nonlead ammunition when target shooting. Use of lead projectiles for target shooting is legal unless CDFW or another government entity has determined otherwise for lands they administer. California’s prohibition on the use of lead projectiles only applies while taking wildlife. For more information and details, please check our nonlead ammunition website.


Nonlead requirements for concealed carry firearms?
Question: I know that nonlead is required for use when hunting, but if I have my concealed carry weapon (CCW) permit and I’m carrying my pistol concealed for my personal protection along with my shotgun, does the pistol have to also contain only nonlead bullets? (Ben W., Merced)

Answer: No. CCR, Title 14 section 250.1(c) provides, “Nothing in this section is intended to prohibit the possession of concealable firearms containing lead ammunition, provided that the firearm is possessed for personal protection and is not used to take or assist in the take of wildlife.” With the exception of ammunition for concealable firearms possessed for personal protection, hunters may not possess lead ammunition along with a firearm capable of firing that ammunition when nonlead ammunition is required.


How will wildlife officers check for compliance??
Question: How will wildlife officers check and confirm that hunters are using nonlead ammunition? (Anonymous)

Answer: All ammunition in a hunter’s possession may be inspected by wildlife officers. In some cases, if a wildlife officer suspects a hunter is in possession of lead ammunition and cannot prove otherwise in the field, he or she may seize a cartridge or bullet for further analysis. Hunters are encouraged to assist in confirming compliance by retaining ammunition boxes or other packaging.

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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.

Hoop Netting for Crabs off California Piers

Dungeness crab (DFG photo)

Dungeness crab (DFG photo)

Question: Is it legal to use hoop nets to catch crab off piers in California this time of the year? I thought that I read crab season runs through June. However, the hoop net is a net that people use for catching California spiny lobster too, so do I need the California Spiny Lobster Report Card even though I’m not fishing for lobster? I ask this because someone might think that I intend to fish for lobster if I am operating a hoop net.

Also, I have a fishing license I recently purchased for this year, but in general, does one need a license to operate a crab trap during crab season on a pier in California? (Trevor W.)

Answer: Dungeness are the only crabs with a closed season, and they are found mostly along the northern half of California’s coast. Dungeness crab season varies depending on location, so you should check the regulations once you know where you will be crabbing (see section 29.85 on page 51 of the 2016-2017 Ocean Sportfishing Regulations booklet).

The other crabs belonging to the Cancer genus (yellow crab, rock crab, red crab and slender crab) are found statewide and may be taken year round. You need a sport fishing license to take crab generally, but whenever you are fishing from a public fishing pier, a sport fishing license is not needed. You are limited to two fishing appliances on a public fishing pier, though (two nets, rods, lines, etc.).

As long as you immediately release any lobster that may wander into your net, you do not need a Spiny Lobster Report Card. This means you cannot keep them for any length of time. If you pull one up, it must go right back into the water.

Before taking crab, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) encourages you to check for any health advisories related to domoic acid by calling the California Department of Public Health at 1-800-553-4133.


Using artificial scents as fish attractants?
Question: Are you allowed to use artificial scents applied to lures such as fish oil-based products to attract fish in freshwater lakes of California? What’s the difference between bait and using scents that do not contain food to attract fish? (Dean H.)

Answer: Artificial scents may be applied to lures or baits except in areas with specific artificial lure restrictions. An artificial lure “does not include scented or flavored artificial baits” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.11). This means attractants may not be applied to the lure while fishing in waters restricted for artificial lure use only. It is very common to use fish oil products and or scents in many areas of the state.


Does a loaded Bandolier make an unloaded gun loaded?
Question: If a gun is unloaded but has a Bandolier attached to the stock containing loaded bullets/shells, is it actually considered to be a loaded gun? (Anonymous)

Answer: No. Loaded gun laws that apply to vehicles on roads open to the public have changed over the years, and there are differences between the Fish and Game Code and the Penal Code. Long guns are considered to be loaded pursuant to Fish and Game Code, section 2006 “when there is an unexpended cartridge or shell in the firing chamber but not when the only cartridges or shells are in the magazine.” Under the Penal Code, a firearm is also considered to be loaded if there is a round in the magazine that can be loaded into the firing chamber with the firearm’s action. A firearm with rounds in a holder attached to the stock would not be considered loaded under these standards.


Hunting small game with a .22 air rifle?
Question: What are the laws on hunting small game (doves, quail, etc.)? Do I need a hunting license to hunt small game? I live in the Bakersfield area and am wondering if I can hunt doves and quail with a .22 air rifle? (Arnold C.)

Answer: You will need a hunting license to hunt big and small game mammals as well as game birds. If you don’t yet have your license, you will need to take and successfully pass a Hunter Education course. You can find information about the courses, dates and locations of upcoming classes, and you may sign up for a class on our Hunter Education website.

Methods of take for resident small game include “air rifles powered by compressed air or gas and used with any caliber of pellet, except that wild turkey may only be taken with a pellet that is at least 0.177 caliber” (CCR Title 14, section 311(f)). Different methods of take are specified for migratory birds, such as doves. Air rifles or all other rifles are prohibited for the take of migratory birds (CCR Title 14, section 507).

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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.

“Butterflying” a Legal Alternative to Traditional Filleting?

Only certain ocean fish are allowed to be filleted at sea. Check section 27.65 (c) in the Ocean Fishing Regulations booklet

Only certain ocean fish are allowed to be filleted at sea. Check section 27.65 (c) in the Ocean Fishing Regulations booklet

Question: As an alternative to traditional filleting, some people will do what they call “butterflying.” This is where fish are filleted but the cut is not completed leaving the fillet connected to the skin and the skin attached to the carcass. Is that technique legal for striped bass and sharks? I believe it’s not permissible to fillet greenlings and cabezon at sea. That is where I have seen this done in the past by deckhands that want to be able to make a buck filleting onboard without violating the regs. The patron just pulls the pieces apart when dockside to separate the fillet from the remainder. I just want to see if perhaps further clarification directly to the individual might help them, should they be a deckhand checking to see if there is some means of cutting fish at sea. This might be worth running by a warden to be sure that the butterfly trick is legit. (John B.)

Answer: It is illegal to possess fish on a boat in such condition that the size and species cannot be determined (Fish and Game Code, sections 5508 and 5509). Fillet laws allow for the fillet of certain species as sea (under California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 27.65) consistent with identification requirements specified in the rule (such as retention of attached skin patches or the entire skin of a rockfish). Other than the provisions allowing for the fillet of certain species, no one should jeopardize the ability to identify the species and size of ocean fish. Striped bass, sharks, greenlings and cabezon may not be filleted at sea. So, if the person filleting your fish at sea, while rolling back and forth, makes a mistake and removes the whole piece of skin, you would be in violation. To be safe, the butterflying can occur once the fish are landed.


Determining when and where a gun is considered “loaded”?
Question: Please clarify the definition of “loaded” that you gave in your column: “Live round in the chamber.” Is it okay to have the clip or magazine loaded if there’s no round in the chamber? (Will B., Palmdale)

Answer: This is a classic example of the answer depending on where you are and what activity you are engaged in. Loaded gun laws applying to vehicles on roads open to the public have changed over the years, and there are differences in the definitions of loaded between the Fish and Game Code and the Penal Code. Long guns are considered to be loaded “when there is an unexpended cartridge or shell in the firing chamber but not when the only cartridges or shells are in the magazine” (FGC, section 2006). Under the Penal Code, a firearm is also considered to be loaded if there is a round in the magazine that can be loaded into the firing chamber with the firearm’s action.

So if you are in a vehicle along a public roadway while hunting, the Fish and Game Code does not prohibit rounds in the magazine of the rifle or shotgun, but rounds in the firing chamber would violate Fish and Game Code section 2006. The situation is different when you’re not hunting though. The Penal Code treats a firearm as loaded when a round is in the magazine, and Penal Code section 25850 provides that “a person is guilty of carrying a loaded firearm when the person carries a loaded firearm on the person or in a vehicle while in any public place or on any public street in an incorporated city or in any public place or on any public street in a prohibited area of unincorporated territory.”


Fishing with live minnows purchased at a bait shop?
Question: I know it’s illegal to move live finfish, so how can it be legal to use live minnows purchased from a bait shop for sport fishing in inland waters? (Mike R.)

Answer: It depends upon what area of the state the minnows are purchased in and where they are used. The term “minnow” often refers to many different species of small baitfish, some of which belong to the minnow family. Some lakes no longer allow the use of live bait due to possible water contamination (quagga or zebra mussels) in the water containing the bait fish. Depending upon where in the state you plan to use the minnows and, more specifically, which species of minnow (e.g. longjaw mudsucker, fathead minnow, Mississippi silverside, etc.), you will need to check the appropriate baitfish regulations that apply to the specific waters where you intend to fish. Please check sections 4.00 – 4.30 on pages 16-18 in the 2016-2017 Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations handbook for these regulations.

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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.