Category Archives: hatcheries

Using a Dinosaur Blind for Waterfowl Hunting?

(Creative Commons photo)

(Creative Commons photo)

Question: I realize this may sound like a really dumb question or a joke, but I’m honestly being serious. Can I make a plywood cutout of a dinosaur to hide behind so that I can better sneak up on waterfowl? I recently heard about using a plywood cutout of a cow as a way to approach ducks and geese. However, I then saw that this is illegal in California because hunters are not allowed to use something that looks like a mammal to approach waterfowl. Dinosaurs aren’t mammals though so I don’t see why this wouldn’t work, but I just wanted to ask. (Sydney M.)

Answer: Fish and Game Code, section 3502, which is derived from a provision of the Penal Code dating to 1909, prohibits using “any mammal (except a dog) or an imitation of a mammal as a blind in approaching or taking game birds.” Since dinosaurs are not mammals, you will be ok as long as your blind can’t be confused with a mammal.

Is a SUP considered a vessel?
Question: Is a stand-up-paddle (SUP) board considered a vessel when used in the taking of abalone? I ask because I’m wondering if I have to fill out my abalone tag on my SUP before coming to shore. (Jonathan W.)

Answer: No, you may wait until you come ashore to tag and fill out your abalone report card. Although California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.16(b)(1) requires that people taking abalone “shall tag any red abalone either immediately upon exiting the water or immediately upon boarding a vessel, whichever occurs first,” it also provides that people “who dive from a non-motorized vessel such as a kayak that is in the water may wait until immediately after disembarking from the non-motorized vessel to tag and record any abalone in possession.”

Still confused about antibiotics in stocked fish
Question: I just read with interest in the Modesto Bee your answer to the question about antibiotics in stocked fish. The answer doesn’t make sense to me. First, you say that hatchery fish are treated with antibiotics when necessary to save their lives and it is done on an as-needed basis. Knowing that hatchery fish number in the tens of thousands, and no individual fish would be pulled out and antibiotics delivered to just those fish, you must be saying, yes, they are treated, right? And then you finish the answer with “none of the stocked fish have antibiotics.” Huh? (Barbara S.)

Answer: Sorry for any confusion. When the fish need to be treated with antibiotics, then they are treated as a group since most ailments would be ones that would affect them all. Antibiotics are only used when necessary to save lives, and there is a good chance that none of the fish raised during a growing cycle were ever treated with antibiotics at all.

Prior to the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approving (registering) any antibiotics for use in food fish, they set withdrawal times to ensure public safely. Withdrawal times are meant to guarantee that residual antibiotics are either non-detectable, or lower than the FDA’s acceptable limits, prior to the fish being released.

Once all treatments are finished, the fish are held for the required time for the chemicals to work their way out of their bodies. Only after this time can those fish finally be planted and available for human consumption.

Some other agricultural industries have been criticized for using antibiotics as a growth aid. We don’t do that for the fish we supply to our anglers.

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? (Anonymous)

Answer: Yes, if the commercial vessel is not engaged in any commercial activity (FGC, 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.


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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

Antibiotics in Hatchery Fish?

Trout planting_CDFWQuestion: I would like to fish at a local stocked pond. Do the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) fish that are stocked there have antibiotics in their systems? Are they fed antibiotics on a routine basis or even on an occasional basis? I just want to be sure any fish I’m catching will be safe to eat. (Connie S., Big Pine)

Answer: CDFW hatchery fish are treated with antibiotics when it is necessary to save their lives. According to Dr. William Cox, CDFW Program Manager of Fish Production and Distribution, this is done on an as-needed basis and using only antibiotics that are approved and registered by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for diseases listed on the label and in fish species approved. This is all done under veterinary prescriptions by CDFW veterinarians. To be approved by the FDA, there are many hurdles to prove human food safety, animal safety and environmental safety. These are all met in the process of becoming registered. So to answer your basic question, none of CDFW’s stocked fish have antibiotics when they are stocked for anglers. They are perfectly safe to eat.

Steel shot for chukars
Question: A friend told me that we are now required to use steel shot when hunting chukars (Red-legged Partridge). Is this a new regulation? Since these are introduced non-native birds, why shouldn’t they be treated similar to the Eurasian doves? Please let me know because I would not want to get a ticket. (Chris J.)

Answer: As you may know, we are in the middle of a transition to nonlead ammunition for all hunting in California. As of July 1, 2016, nonlead ammunition is now required for all hunting on CDFW wildlife areas and ecological reserves and when taking upland game birds with a shotgun, except for dove, quail, snipe and any game birds taken on licensed game bird clubs. 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 under the authority of a CDFW depredation permit.

In regards specifically to chukar (which are related to Red-legged Partridge but a different species), you are required to use nonlead shot when hunting them with a shotgun from this season on unless you are hunting at a licensed game bird club.

According to CDFW Upland Game Bird Senior Environmental Scientist Karen Fothergill, there is no species-related or ecological reason for the manner in which we are phasing-out lead ammunition. Rather, in order to implement the nonlead legislation in a way that is least disruptive to hunters, we coordinated question and answer sessions at sportsmen’s shows, held meetings with hunting organizations, hosted a series of public workshops throughout the state and sent letters to major ammunition manufacturers before we finalized the implementation plan.

For more information on the laws and phase-out of lead ammunition in California, please visit our website.

Filleting sheephead at sea
Question: I was recently told that I could not fillet a sheephead aboard my vessel since they do not have a minimum fillet length but do have a size limit of 12 inches (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 27.65).

My question is whether it still applies for a large sheephead if the fillet was longer than the 12-inch size limit? I am assuming the reason for not allowing sheephead to be filleted aboard a vessel is because it is difficult to determine the overall size of the fish from the fillet. However, if the fillet is greater than the minimum size limit for the species, it would seem like there should be some type of exception to the no fillet rule, or perhaps there is another reason I’m not considering?

Answer: Only those species listed as allowed to be filleted may be filleted on a vessel. Since California sheephead have a minimum size limit of 12 inches total length but no fillet length specified in the regulations, they may not be filleted while on any boat or brought ashore as fillets, steaks or chunks (CCR Title 14, section 27.65).

If you think this regulation for California sheephead should be revised to allow for a minimum fillet length allowance, you are welcome to bring a proposal before the California Fish and Game Commission for consideration.

Use of blue tarp with decoys
Question: Can I use a blue tarp and place dove decoys around it? I’m hoping the doves will think the blue tarp is water and will be attracted to fly over or land near the decoys. (Anonymous)

Answer: Sure, you can give it a 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

Why Tag Large Trophy Trout?

Rainbow Trout _RB097

CDFW’s Eastern Sierras hatcheries, especially Fish Springs, have been placing floy tags on broodstock, or super catchable, fish to inform the public that CDFW is stocking larger fish than the usual two-to-four-pound fish. (CDFW photo)

Question: A friend caught a tagged fish in Deadman’s Creek near Glass Creek in Mono County. The tag was on the top fin of the fish, orange in color, about one inch long and slightly thinner than a spaghetti noodle with black printing on it. The message on the tag read: “CA DFW TROPHY – DO NOT REPORT.” What exactly does this mean? (Paul and Gloria W.)

Answer: This was likely a derby fish from Crowley Lake that migrated upstream. According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Fisheries Environmental Scientist Nick Buckmaster, “CA DFW-Trophy” floy tags are put on broodstock (or any large trout) that CDFW’s Fish Springs Hatchery releases in an effort to show the fishing public that CDFW does stock fish larger than the usual “catchables.” Many of these fish go to “special waters” for tournaments or events.

According to CDFW Fish Springs Hatchery Manager Matt Norris, who oversees the hatchery that stocks Deadman Creek, we do not have record of any trophy trout being stocked in Deadman Creek, but broodstock have been placed into the Upper Owens River and Crowley Lake (downstream of Deadman Creek). In spring many of our Eastern Sierra rainbow trout move into smaller headwater streams (such as Deadman Creek) to spawn, and this may be the case here.

CDFW’s Eastern Sierras hatcheries, especially Fish Springs, have been placing floy tags on broodstock, or super catchable, fish to inform the public that CDFW is stocking larger fish than the usual two-to-four-pound fish.

Crabbing from jetties?
Question: I have a question regarding crabbing on jetties. I have a valid sports fishing license and I am wondering if I can use more than two rods on the Pillar Point jetty? I’ve always thought there are no limits on the number of rods that can be used for ocean fishing, besides on public piers and special targeted species regulations. I will be mainly using crab snares with six loops. Is a valid fishing license even required to fish on jetties? (John)

Answer: If a jetty meets the definition of a public pier, no license is required but there are gear restrictions. “On public piers, no person shall use more than two rods and lines, two hand lines, or two nets, traps or other appliances used to take crabs” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 28.65).

“A public pier is a publicly owned manmade structure that has the following characteristics: is connected, above the mean high tide, to the main coastline or to the landmass of a named and charted natural island; has unrestricted free access for the general public; and has been built or currently functions for the primary purpose of allowing angling access to ocean waters. Additionally, publicly owned jetties or breakwaters that are connected to land, as described above, that have free unrestricted access for the general public and whose purpose it is to form the most seaward protective boundary of an ocean harbor are public piers. Jetties, breakwaters, promenades, sea walls, moles, docks, linings, barriers and other structures that are not the most seaward protective boundary of an ocean harbor, are not public piers” (CCR Title 14, section 1.88.)

In this case, the two outermost jetties at Pillar Point Harbor meet the definition of public piers. The inner jetties do not meet the definition as they are not the most seaward protective boundary, and the harbor district currently does not allow fishing from them.

For any jetties or piers that do not meet the definition of a public pier (as in section 1.88), anglers need a fishing license and are able to use as many lines or other appliances as wanted, per regulations.

Documentation needed to collect and keep antler sheds?
Question: I work on a ranch with a lot of property. Among the wildlife on the property, there are a lot of deer. Whenever I hike around I find antler sheds. I was wondering if it is legal for me to take them, and if so, what documentation would I need to keep them? (Lindy K., Sacramento)

Answer: It is legal to collect antlers that have been naturally shed or dropped by deer or elk in California. No documentation is needed to possess them. Keep in mind that everything in nature is recycled. Many mammals, rodents in particular, gnaw on shed antlers as they are valuable sources of calcium and other micronutrients. Recognize that if you remove it from the field, you are denying that source of nutrient. Next time you find a shed antler, inspect it closely and you will often see teeth marks from these animals. Also, be sure to check local regulations because some areas (e.g. most parks) do not allow collecting of sheds in areas under their jurisdiction. Fish and Game Code, section 3039(c) provides the authority to have them and sell them.

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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