Category Archives: Freshwater Fishing

Properly Catching and Releasing Fish while Taking Photos?

(CDFW file photo by Roger Bloom, Heritage and Wild Trout Program)

Question: My friends and I are all fly fishermen who promote catch and release fishing rather than taking fish for consumption. Many other fishermen, fishing guides and lodges, as well as most fly fishing magazines also claim to share this philosophy but then publish untold numbers of photos of people holding the fish they’ve caught. Typically these photos reveal the fish being held for quite a few seconds out of water, and clearly their slime barrier is being broken by the clutching hands. I wonder how many fish handled in this way ultimately die from the stress of being caught, held out of water and having their protective coating compromised. While growing up, I was taught if you break the slime barrier, the fish will likely die. Is this true? Moreover, most anglers I know count successful days of fishing as catching (and releasing) as many fish as possible. If you consider the increased probability of a fish dying from being caught and held, multiplied by the number of fish caught, there could be a lot of mortality which goes directly against the point of catch and release. Can you please provide some information on this issue? (David W.)

Answer: While many photo layouts suggest prolonged time out of water, it can obviously vary greatly. According to Senior Environmental Scientist Jeff Weaver, a good rule of thumb is to hold your breath when you lift the fish and get it back into the water before you run out of breath. Wetting hands before handling fish is probably the most effective method to minimize damage to the slime coating. Handling fish with dry hands generally removes at least some areas of this protective barrier, subjecting the fish to increased risk of fungal or other infection (though not necessarily mortality). If extra time is needed to set up the photo or make adjustments to correct for lighting problems, etc. the fish should be retained under water in a net for as much time as possible.

Steelhead (Photo by Ken Oda)

There are four important practices that will help reduce mortality: 1) keep most of the body of the fish in the water while photographing it, particularly the opercula and gills so they remain oxygenated, 2) always hold the fish with wet hands underneath the pectoral fins (near the head) and at the caudal peduncle (narrow part just forward of the caudal or tail fin) to avoid injury to the vital organs in the belly, and 3) assuming you have a fishing partner that will serve as photographer, have them get the camera settings ready and set up the frame of the picture while the fish is retained underwater in a net. Quickly remove the fish from the water for a picture and return it to the net to rest and respirate for some time, then lift it again for another shot (only if necessary to get a good photo), and 4) always recover the fish before releasing it to the point that it can swim of its own accord and remain upright. If necessary, hold the fish with the mouth facing upstream in an area with adequate flow to ensure thorough oxygenation of the gills.


When transporting turkeys home, which parts are required for ID?
Question: What portions of a turkey is a hunter required to retain for identification purposes? I’m not sure that “plucking a turkey in the field but leaving the beard attached” is sufficient to stay legal when transporting. While keeping the beard would certainly help identify, I believe a fully feathered head or wing is the actual requirement. In fact, if a hunter chooses to pluck both wings and leave the “fully feathered head” attached, would that be enough proof for identification purposes? Please advise. (Blake D.)

Answer: Hunters are not required to retain the turkey’s beard. However, “all birds, including migratory game birds, possessed or transported within California must have a fully feathered wing or head attached until placed into a personal abode or commercial preservation facility or when being prepared for immediate consumption” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 251.7).

Since the law only authorizes the take of bearded turkeys during the spring season, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recommends leaving the beard attached during the spring season (CCR Title 14, section 300).


How to properly preserve and transport Pacific halibut?
Question: I’m planning some trips this year to fish for Pacific Halibut. If we should happen to catch one of any size, what is the legal way to transport a fish if it won’t fit in a cooler? Could it be filleted, and if so, when could that be done? I’m very particular about preserving fresh fish properly as soon as it’s caught. (Ross B.)

Answer: You may not fillet your Pacific Halibut when on your boat or before you land the fish (Fish and Game Code sections 5508-5509). Once ashore, there are no restrictions on filleting your fish into the size and conformity you want.


Video recording crab traps?
Question: Are there any regulations or restrictions regarding using video cameras (GoPros) on crab traps or lobster hoop nets? (Josh F.)

Answer: No, there are no fishing regulations that prohibit use of a video camera while fishing.

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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 are Turkeys Nesting?

Wild spring turkeys (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: I know that turkeys roost in trees at night and that this is their courtship and nesting season, but where do they nest and for how long? We’re seeing lots of toms running around right now but not many hens. I’ve not found any sitting on nests. When can we expect the newly hatched chicks to be out and on their own? (Dwayne J.)

Answer: In most areas, nests can be found in a shallow dirt depression surrounded by moderately woody vegetation that conceals the nest. Hens look for locations close to food and water and with ample cover to safely conceal the hen and her poults (chicks) once hatched. Hens are very leery of predators, such as coyotes and fox, but do leave the nest unattended for brief periods to feed and drink.

Hens typically lay a clutch of 10 to 12 eggs during a two-week period, usually laying one egg per day. She will incubate her eggs for about 28 days, occasionally turning and rearranging them, until they are ready to hatch.

A newly hatched flock must be ready to leave the nest to feed within 12 to 24 hours. Poults eat insects, berries and seeds while adults will eat anything from acorns and berries to insects and small reptiles. Turkeys usually feed in early morning and in the afternoon.

For more on wild turkeys, please see our “Guide to Hunting Wild Turkeys in California” publication online as well as the National Wild Turkey Federation website.


How to catch spot prawns with only a half-inch trap opening?
Question: I took a look at a few online California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) articles about traps, mesh sizes, etc. Once I saw that other types of shrimp traps have a logical trap opening size compared to the size of the shrimp, I began to wonder if the regulations might have an error.

Can you verify if there has been some sort of error in defining the half-inch opening of the trap as the mesh size of the trap? If this is the case, the size of the opening of the spot prawn trap should be more in line with other shrimp traps. If the opening of the shrimp traps could be in the 3-5 inch range with an alum hoop as the standard, recreational spot prawn trap fishing would be as enjoyable as lobster hooping. (Geoff H.)

Answer: The trap openings cannot exceed a half-inch as you’ve noted, and the regulation has not changed. “Shrimp and prawn traps may be used to take shrimp and prawns only. Trap openings may not exceed one half-inch in any dimension on traps used south of Point Conception nor five inches in any dimension on traps used north of Point Conception” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.80(f)). The reason for the difference in opening dimensions is to protect juvenile lobsters (found south of Point Conception) from being incidentally taken in these traps.


Does a licensed fishing guide’s son need a guide fishing license, too?
Question: I’m a licensed fishing guide on the upper Sacramento and Feather rivers. Is it legal for my son to help me on my vessel while I’m guiding? I’m seeing that there is a guide employee permit but in this situation that permit doesn’t seem right. Is there a deckhand permit where he can help me and help other friends in their boats that are guided also? He’s not being paid; he’s just there for the experience. (Michael T.)

Answer: If he is not collecting a fee or accepting tips, then he would not meet the definition of an employee as he is a family member and simply a volunteer. However, if he took any kind of compensation, then he would technically be an employee and subject to those licensing requirements. If he is assisting people by casting or fishing and he’s 16 years old or older, then he will need to have a fishing license.


Kangaroo leather motorcycle gloves
Question: I got my motorcycle gloves back in 2014-2015 and the palm area and parts of the digits incorporate kangaroo leather. I don’t intend to sell them but I’m OK to possess and wear them, right? (Anonymous)

Answer: Yes, you are fine as long as you do not have any intention of selling them. It is illegal to “import into this state for commercial purposes, to possess with intent to sell or to sell within the state, the dead body, or any part or product thereof, of a polar bear, leopard, ocelot, tiger, cheetah, jaguar, sable antelope, wolf (Canis lupus), zebra, whale, cobra, python, sea turtle, colobus monkey, kangaroo, vicuna, sea otter, free-roaming feral horse, dolphin or porpoise (Delphinidae), Spanish lynx or elephant” (Penal Code, section 653o).

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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.

Are Green Lobsters Safe to Eat?

(CDFW photo by Derek Stein)


Question: A buddy of mine got two lobsters in San Diego Bay right before the season closed. While he was cleaning them, he noticed green algae on their shells and then found the meat to be white, looking like it was already cooked. Both lobsters were still alive when detailing them. Have you heard any other stories like this? Would they have still been okay to cook and eat? (Ray C., San Diego)

Answer: When you find a lobster with algae on its shell (exoskeleton) it usually means it hasn’t molted in quite a while. This should be nothing to worry about, though. An animal getting ready to molt pulls salts out of its existing shell and creates a soft exoskeleton underneath that will expand with water and salts once the animal molts. Our best guess is that the old exoskeleton may have been overgrown and what your friend encountered (white, cooked-looking meat) could have been the new exoskeleton just under the old. As long as the animal was acting normally and was still alive before it was cooked, there was likely no problem with the meat.

One test seafood businesses use when cooking whole lobsters is whether they curl. The shell should turn to a darker red color and the tail tends to curl (not tightly, but it’s difficult to lay the animal flat). If there’s no curl, discard the animal.


Trapping opossums?
Question: My city neighbor is now renting a home and has taken it upon himself to trap local opossums and release them elsewhere. He says he is taking them to a county road (Dry Creek) but there is no way to verify this. We have lived in our home for 15 years and so we, along with our neighbors, are concerned. We have lived with the possums and raccoons for a lot of years without issues. This tenant intends to exterminate them. Is there anything we can do? (Tyler)

Answer: “All furbearing and nongame mammals that are legal to trap must be immediately euthanized or released” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 465.5(g)(1)). So it is not legal to transport opossums elsewhere for release. Possums should not be “relocated” from where they were trapped for many reasons, the most important being to prevent the spread of disease, and immediately releasing the opossums would not take care of the “pest” problem that your neighbor probably wants to solve. There are other options that you could inform your neighbor about though. “Keep me Wild” is a campaign that strives to limit conflicts between wild animals and humans. More information about how your neighbor can avoid problems with opossums may be found at the Keep Me Wild website.


Python skins to make leather goods?
Question: I’m a fashion designer located in New Jersey and I am looking to move my business to California. I’ve heard and read things about Python skin being illegal in California. I was looking for more information on this and whether this is 100 percent true? I currently make leather goods, but with exotic skins. (Michael S.)

Answer: Pythons are on the list of animals, or parts or products thereof, that are illegal to import into this state for commercial purposes, to possess with intent to sell, or to sell within the state (see California Penal Code, section 653o.) Prohibited species include: polar bears, leopards, ocelots, tigers, cheetahs, jaguars, sable antelope, wolves (Canis lupus), zebras, whales, cobras, pythons, sea turtles, colobus monkeys, kangaroos, vicunas, sea otters, free-roaming feral horses, dolphins or porpoises (Delphinidae), Spanish lynxes or elephants.


Fishing with kids and friends
Question: I am taking my daughter and a couple of friends and their dads on our boat this weekend. The girls are all under 16. I have a license but do all of the dads need them, too? Or, can I be the only adult angler? (Eric N.)

Answer: As long as the non-licensed adults on the boat do not assist in any way with fishing, they do not need to have a sport fishing license to ride along with you on your fishing trip. “Every person 16 years of age or older who takes any fish, reptile or amphibian for any purpose other than profit shall first obtain a valid license for that purpose and shall have that license on his or her person or in his or her immediate possession or where otherwise specifically required by law or regulation to be kept when engaged in carrying out any activity authorized by the license” (Fish and Game Code, section 7145).

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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.

Scuba Diving through MPAs with Lobsters in Possession

California spiny lobster (CDFW photo by Derek Stein)

California spiny lobster (CDFW photo by Derek Stein)

Question: If a scuba diver legally enters an area for lobster, proceeds to catch lobster in that area but then is unable to exit the water safely, could they surface swim through a Marine Protected Area (MPA) zone with their catch and exit legally? (Tom)

Answer: Yes, the diver can swim through but should make sure they are clearly not actively hunting for lobsters. For example, if when kicking in on the surface and are right in close to the rocks, they then stop and shine their lights into holes or reach into holes, they may appear to be hunting for lobsters. If they have lobsters in their possession and a warden determines they are attempting to hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill any lobster, they may be issued a citation for fishing in an MPA.

“Spear fishermen with or without catch shall be allowed to transit through MPAs and MMAs. While transiting MPAs and MMAs that prohibit spearfishing or while in possession of species not identified as allowed for take in the MPA or MMA being transited, spearfishing gear shall be in an unloaded condition, not carried in hand, and the diver shall remain at the surface” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 632(a)(8)).


Hunting with an Atlatl (spear thrower)?
Question: Is it legal to use an Atlatl, or spear thrower, to hunt game animals in California? If it is legal, what are the regulations for their use? (Charlie)

Answer: No, a spear thrower is not legal to use. Only methods defined in the 2016-2017 California Mammal Hunting Regulations booklet for the take of small game (CCR Title 14, section 311, on page 26) and for big game (CCR Title 14, section 353, beginning on page 27) may be used.


Personal limits vs boat limits?
Question: When on a boat with a group of fishermen, does the bag limit apply to the boat (as I believe I’ve read in the statutes and have seen on party boats) or does it mean that anyone catching their limit must stop fishing altogether?

I ask because we were ordered off the water when some wardens told us one of our friends could no longer be out there with us since his gear was still in the boat and he was considered to still be fishing. He was the only one with a limit.

Also, since fresh and saltwater regulations are slightly different, where in your regs are the lines of demarcation for San Francisco Bay? (Jerry Z.)

Answer: Boat limits apply to anyone fishing aboard a boat in ocean waters off California or in the San Francisco Bay (CCR Title 14, section 27.60(c)). Boat limits allow fishing by all licensed persons aboard until boat limits of finfish are taken and possessed aboard the vessel. Boat limits do not apply to sturgeon, shellfish or when fishing in inland waters.

“The San Francisco Bay is the waters of San Francisco and San Pablo bays, plus all their tidal bays, sloughs, estuaries and tidal portions of their rivers and streams between the Golden Gate Bridge and the west Carquinez Bridge. For purposes of this section, waters downstream of the Trancas Bridge on the Napa River, downstream of Highway 121 Bridge on Sonoma Creek and downstream of the Payran Street Bridge on the Petaluma River are tidal portions of the Napa River, Sonoma Creek and Petaluma River, respectively” (CCR Title 14, section 27.00).

“Inland waters are all the fresh, brackish and inland saline waters of the state, including lagoons and tidewaters upstream from the mouths of coastal rivers and streams. Inland waters exclude the waters of San Francisco Bay and the waters of Elkhorn Slough, west of Elkhorn Road between Castroville and Watsonville” (CCR Title 14, section 1.53).

When fishing in inland waters, bag limits apply to each individual angler and not to the boat as a whole.


Bear skin rug and Alaskan whale bone carving for sale
Question: I have a bear skin rug, along with the head, that was the property of my mother-in-law. We also have a whale bone carving from an Alaskan artist. These are not things we wish to hold on to. Is there any way to sell these items in another state (outside of California) even though we live in California? What are the other options? (Kathy S.)

Answer: Regarding your bear skin rug, it is “unlawful to sell or purchase, or possess for sale, the meat, skin, hide, teeth, claws or other parts of any bear in this state (Fish and Game Code, section 4758). And as far as the whale bone carving, “it is unlawful to sell or purchase a bird or mammal found in the wild in California” (FGC, section 3039). So, if your carving comes from a whale that occurs in California waters, it may not be sold in the state. While neither of these laws apply to transactions taking place entirely outside of California, you are encouraged to consult the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine if any federal laws may apply.

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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.

Waterfowl Hybrid Limits?

Pintail drake (USFWS photo)

Pintail drake (USFWS photo)

Question: When hunting waterfowl in California, how do hybrid ducks and geese count toward species limits? For example, the first duck of the day someone shoots looks like a cross between a pintail and a mallard. Would that hunter be within his/her limit to shoot another two pintail? Another example would be if a hunter was within the Special White Fronted Goose Zone and shot a goose with both Canada goose and White Front features. I’ve heard other hunters claim everything from you can consider it the more restricted species, to it’s an “other” duck on a refuge kill card/entry permit, to it’s the species with fewer restrictions. (Andy D.)

Answer: The bird will count towards your daily bag limit, and if it looks like a pintail, it will count towards your pintail limit. Always consider the most conservative approach to your limit even if you think you might have a hybrid. Your best bet would be to consider it the more restricted species.


Halibut fishing out of Tomales Bay during a groundfish closure?
Question: I want to fish for California halibut from a boat out of Tomales Bay near Bird Rock or Elephant Rock or go out of the Gate. I used to fish for them whenever herring, squid or anchovy would come in to spawn during the winter or spring. The halibut would lay in wait as the forage fish came through, usually from January through April or May.

I haven’t done this kind of fishing for a long time (years in fact) because no one wants to go out there in the wintertime when no one else is fishing and we are absolutely alone at sea. My fishing buddy wants to go but is worried that we would be cited for targeting lingcod or rockfish. I told him that as long as we were not keeping anything except the halibut, we would not be cited. We wouldn’t be doing anything wrong. But he repeated that he was worried that we would have no protection against being cited because we were out there during the closed groundfish season.

Can we be cited for targeting groundfish as long we do not keep any incidentally caught groundfish? Or, how about steelhead or Pacific halibut or canary cod or anything else that you are not allowed to keep? (Jerry Z.)

Answer: Warmer ocean water temperatures have made some interesting adjustments to the ocean and fish distribution in recent years. During the summer months when the water warms, more halibut move into Tomales Bay. You know that the sandy bottoms are where the halibut hang out. You indicated fishing the Bird and Elephant Rock areas, so keep in mind there are a lot of underwater rock croppings there. That’s where the rockfish and lingcod hang out.

According to local California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Lt. Jim Jones, incidental catch is not a violation. However, once you do catch a species that is prohibited, it’s recommended that you leave that area. If you continue to fish and catch fish you are not targeting, you could be cited.

If you are fishing during a closure (such as now) and start catching lingcod and rockfish, even if you are fishing catch and release, you could receive a citation for targeting those fish, depending on the situation.


Van Duzen River pikeminnow fishing regs?
Question: After a short 35-year hiatus, I have decided to return to sport fishing. I live within walking distance of the Van Duzen River and my friends tell me it is “infested” with pikeminnow, a non-native and destructive predator of salmonid eggs in this watershed. I have tried to read the regulations online but am confused as to the restrictions on this fish in my area. (Tony W.)

Answer: Welcome back! Sacramento pike are a California native species, and although they are natural predators of salmonids, they have coexisted in streams for many years.

For regulations on the Sacramento pikeminnow, please check section “5.95. OTHER SPECIES” on page 27 of the 2016-2017 Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations handbook. Here it states that other species of fish not included in the species-specific regulations may be taken “in any number and at any time of the year by angling,” except for in the closures and restrictions listed under district special regulations. Specific regulations for the Van Duzen River can be found on page 42 of this regulations booklet (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 7.50(b)(63)(B)). Sacramento pikeminnow (Ptychocheilus grandis) are also referred to by some as Sacramento squawfish.


Selling skulls?
Question: Is it legal to sell skulls and bones from small mammals such as fox, skunk, raccoon, opossum, coyote, badger and bobcats? (Kayla M.)

Answer: No, it is “unlawful to sell or purchase a bird or mammal found in the wild in California” (Fish and Game Code, section 3039). However, “products or handicraft items made from furbearing mammals and nongame mammals lawfully taken under the authority of a trapping license may be purchased or sold at any time.”

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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.