Category Archives: Saltwater Fishing

How to Fish the Lobster Opener?

California Spiny Lobster (CDFW photo by Derek Stein)

Question: I have some questions about how to best fish the lobster opener. I know that lobster season has a new start time and opens at 6 a.m. on Sept. 30, 2017. If the hoop wet time is a maximum two hours, can I drop my hoops at 4:15 a.m. Sept. 30, 2017 and pull them after the start time of 6 a.m.? (George G.)

Answer: No. Attempting to take lobsters is considered “fishing,” so if you drop your hoop nets before the season officially opens, you will be fishing out of season. The recreational lobster season officially opens at 6 a.m. on the first day of the season. The two hour wet time just means that the net must be checked every two hours once it is legally in the water. So if you legally drop your hoop nets in the water at 6 a.m., they must be serviced by 8 a.m.!

There are also three other new regulations that will go into effect for the 2017-2018 recreational lobster fishing season:

  • Hoop net buoys south of Point Arguello (Santa Barbara County) must now be legibly marked with the operator’s GO ID number for identification and enforcement purposes. Your GO ID number can be found on your sport fishing license and your lobster report card.
  • While diving for crustaceans (including lobsters), divers may be in possession of spearfishing equipment as long as possession of this equipment is otherwise lawful and is not being used to aid in the take of crustaceans (including lobsters).
  • Measuring requirements have been clarified in order to allow for measuring lobster aboard a boat when hoop netting. The change will allow hoop netters to bring spiny lobsters aboard a vessel where they can be measured safely. All lobsters shall be measured immediately and any undersize lobster shall be released immediately into the water. Divers shall measure lobsters while in the water and shall not remove undersized lobsters from the water. Hoop netters may measure lobsters out of the water, but no undersize lobster may be placed in any type of receiver, kept on a person or retained in any person’s possession or under his or her direct control.

These new regulations can be found on pages 36-38 in the 2017-2018 California Saltwater Sport Fishing Regulations booklet available online, at CDFW offices and most tackle shops where fishing licenses are sold.

For more information on the new recreational lobster fishing regulations, please visit our website.


Mouth calls for deer
Question: I am going deer hunting with some friends next week and one of my buddies swears by using deer mouth calls to get their attention. He says they sound like the grunts of bucks during the rut. He says he also sometimes uses predator calls to pique their curiosity. Is it okay to use mouth calls for hunting deer here in California? (Richard T.)

Answer: Yes, as long as the sounds are not generated electronically or amplified.


Record fish caught from private waters
Question: How does the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) handle or verify potential record-sized fish when caught from a private lake requiring catch and release (unharmed) of that species? (Jim Stevens)

Answer: CDFW does not keep records of record fish caught from private waters. For consideration for a State Inland Waters Record, the fish must be taken from a water open to the general public for fishing, and certain verifying procedures must be followed. For more information on how to certify a possible state record fish taken by diving or fishing, please check out our Fishing and Diving Records webpage.


Carrying an additional handgun for protection
Question: I am a California police officer. I was drawn for a G1-C4 Late Season Buck tag. I also have a bear tag. I am planning on hunting with my group. As a sworn law enforcement officer, I am allowed to carry a handgun while off-duty as per my department policy and state law. Can I carry my firearm for defense while hunting? Not to be used for hunting, but in case of a bear or other animal attack. We will be hunting with rifles, but the more I read about hunting, the more I hear about the occasional bear attack. (Brian B.)

Answer: Yes, hunters can carry a handgun in addition to their rifle while hunting during a general season. That said, bear attacks are very uncommon.

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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.

Nonlead Shot Required for Eurasian Collared-Doves?

Eurasian Collared-Dove (Creative Commons photo)

Question: I am preparing my gear for the Sept. 1 dove opener and am wondering if I have to use nonlead shot for Eurasian collared-doves since they are a nonnative species with no season or limit? Do I have to carry two types of shells – lead and nonlead – to hunt both mourning doves and Eurasian collared-doves on the opener? Help! I am so confused. (Anonymous)

Answer: Thanks for your question. We’ve received many similar questions in recent days. For the 2017 dove season opening statewide Sept. 1, lead shot is permitted for the taking of Eurasian collared-doves, mourning doves and white-winged doves – as long as you are hunting outside of a state wildlife area or ecological reserve.

California is phasing-in the use of nonlead ammunition for hunting. Until July 1, 2019, doves quail and snipe will not be included in the nonlead shot requirements unless hunting on state wildlife areas or ecological reserves where nonlead shot is required for all hunting.  In addition, hunting programs on military bases now require nonlead for all hunting as well.

You are correct in that the Eurasian collared-dove is a non-native species that can be hunted year-round with no daily bag or possession limit. The Eurasian collared-dove is officially defined as a dove and listed as a game bird under Resident Small Game (California Code of Regulations, section 257) and, like all doves, quail and snipe, can be taken with lead shot. Eurasian collared-doves do not count toward your daily bag and possession limit of mourning and white-winged doves.


Determining creek and river boundaries during closed seasons
Question: When a stream, river or creek is closed year-round or has a closed season, how do you determine the boundary between the closed creek, stream or river, and the river it flows into? Water flows can change on a daily basis depending on dam releases, rain, snowmelt etc. I see the regulation for flows from rivers/creeks into lakes (CCR Title 14, section 1.44). I heard from one person that the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) told them the boundary was 100 yards, but then another person said the boundary extends 300 yards into the creek or stream. For example, the area where Cottonwood Creek or Battle Creek flows into the Sacramento River in Northern California. (Bryan R.)

Answer: Generally, for areas where a creek flows into a river, the term “mouth” or “confluence” is used to describe the boundary or divide between the two bodies of water. For your example, if a person was floating downstream in Battle Creek, once they passed the location where the channel of Battle Creek ends (which is the mouth or confluence), they would be in the Sacramento River. (For a description of the boundary or divide between an area or body of water, go to CCR Title 14, sections 7.00 and 7.50).

The Fish and Game Commission defines “stream” (which includes rivers) for the purpose of hunting and fishing as, “…a body of water that flows at least periodically or intermittently through a bed or channel having banks and supports fish or other aquatic life. This includes watercourses having a surface or subsurface flow that supports or has supported riparian vegetation” (CCR Title 14, section 1.72).


Saltwater use of dead carp
Question: Many lakes want people to catch and remove carp yet they cannot be disposed of on site, and many people do not eat them. I have used cut carp in the Imperial Valley for catfish and it has amazingly tough skin that sometimes has to be cut off the hook. I would like those properties for shark/ray bait when casting into the surf but do not know about the legality of using carp. Can carp be used as chum or bait in saltwater? Their tough skin may also be a plus as a lobster bait. Can carp be used as bait in freshwater? It they could be used as bait, this might encourage people to remove them from our lakes as they then would then have a viable use. (Jim G.)

Answer: There are no regulations that prohibit the use of dead carp as bait in saltwater. However, the use of fish as bait in freshwater is only allowed in certain locations. To find a complete description of where finfish may be used as bait, see CCR Title 14, sections 4.00 through 4.30 found at http://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Inland/2017-Regulations#ch2art3.


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

Answer: Yes, so long as your archery equipment meets the general requirements for “Archery Equipment and Crossbow Regulations” found in the California Mammal Hunting Regulations and CCR Title 14, section 354(c).

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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.

What’s the Scoop on Razor Clams?

Razor clams (NOAA photo)

Question: I have looked at the regulations for clams and I cannot find a size limit for razor clams. I see the 1-1/2 inch limit for littlenecks, cockles and steamers, but under razor clams there is no size limit given. Do they have a size limit?

I am also very interested in finding more places to clam in Tomales Bay. I know there are no razor clams in Tomales Bay but there sure seems to be a lot of clamming going on there. Do you have any resources that provide specific information on clamming inside the Bay? (Peter C.)

Answer: There is no size limit for razor clams, so the first 20 you dig you should keep regardless of size, especially if their delicate shell has been crushed.

According to California Department of Fish and Wildife (CDFW) Environmental Scientist Christy Juhasz, who works on California’s recreational clam fisheries, razor clams are generally found on open coast, sandy beaches and are more of a coldwater regime species. In fact, California is the southern extent of their geographic range. Because of this, they are not typically found in the warmer and siltier mudflats of inner Tomales Bay.

Recreational razor clamming is popular in the more northern California counties of Del Norte and Humboldt. Since this area constitutes more of their expected home range, clams in this area are potentially more productive but, unfortunately, the fishery has been closed since 2016 due to continued high domoic acid levels (see http://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Ocean/Health-Advisories).

The fishery is open south of these counties and Juhasz suggests checking out Dillon and Doran beaches in Marin and Sonoma counties, respectively. You may find some available clamming grounds at low tide. Some local clammers have reported though that they have not been able to find razors at their clamming grounds on Doran Beach in recent years. This may be due to the fact that it is the southern region of their range so populations that exist there may not be as productive for a variety of factors (e.g. low recruitment and high fishing pressure.)

Clam and Seal islands in Tomales are popular clamming grounds where most people clam for horseneck/gaper clams and Washington/butter clams. To find these clamming grounds, look for the exposed mudflat areas during low tide just outside of Lawson’s Landing. There is no size limit for these species but the first 10 of each species that you dig, you should keep.


Rock pigeons
Question: While out dove hunting, for years I have also been shooting rock pigeons. People call them by different names like park pigeons, barn pigeons and domestic pigeons, but I am pretty sure they are all the same. Recently, I was told that they are illegal to shoot, but why when there are tons of them, and they taste pretty good, too. Is it legal for me to shoot them, and if so, do I have to use nonlead ammunition? (Mr. Squab)

Answer: According to CDFW Senior Environmental Scientist Karen Fothergill, you are correct that the rock pigeon is also being called by all those other names, but as of July 1, 2017, they are now legal to hunt. Prior to that date there was no regulation specifically allowing for take. The law requires that in order to hunt a particular species, there must be specific laws stating when, how many and method of take. Rock pigeons have been added to the CCR Title 14, section 472 along with starlings and house sparrows. They are classified as a non-game bird and a valid hunting license is required to hunt them. Hunting rock pigeons also requires the use of nonlead ammunition.


Helping grandsons to fish with a two pole license?
Question: If I take my two grandsons fishing, would I be able to fish also if I have a second rod stamp validation? The kids are seven and five years old and would need help from me to fish. (Barry W.)

Answer: You would be able to fish with your two poles as long as you are just assisting your grandsons and not controlling the rod or reeling the fish in for them on your own. You also have to ensure that you are able to closely attend your own two poles. We thank you for taking the time to introduce your grandsons to fishing. We’re pretty sure they will thank you too someday!


Is an abalone gauge/iron combo legal?
Question: When diving for abalone, am I required to carry both a measuring gauge and an abalone iron or can I use a combo device that meets the requirements of both? The dive shop told me they had to be separate tools. (Joon P.)

Answer: Combination devices with fixed (non-moving) opposing arms, capable of measuring abalone accurately that also comply with the requirements for ab irons are legal to use. (See subdivisions (e) and (f) of CCR Title 14, section 29.15.)

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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.

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.

Compliance Requirements with Game Wardens?

Game warden Nicole Kozicki checks a waterfowl hunter’s hunting license

Question: What are the penalties for refusing to cooperate with and speak to a California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) game warden or to show I.D. upon request? (P.T.)

Answer: You are required to show your hunting or fishing license, tags and/or harvest report cards, proof of identification and any fish or game in your possession upon request. “All licenses, tags, and the birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, or amphibians taken or otherwise dealt with under this code, and any device or apparatus designed to be, and capable of being used to take birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, or amphibians shall be exhibited upon demand to any person authorized by the department to enforce this code or any law relating to the protection and conservation of birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, or amphibians” (Fish and Game Code, section 2012). Noncompliance with this regulation is punishable as a misdemeanor.


Are spiny dogfish considered sharks under the sharkfin ban?
Question: I know you can no longer buy shark fin soup at a restaurant. How about spiny dogfish fin soup? Are spiny dogfish included in this ban? (Anonymous)

Answer: Although the name may be confusing, dogfish are actually sharks in the elasmobranch subclass and are covered by Fish and Game Code, section 2021, which prohibits commercial trade of shark fins and products made thereof. A restaurant cannot lawfully sell shark fin soup made from the fins of a dogfish. As used in this section, “shark fin” means the raw, dried, or otherwise processed detached fin or the raw, dried, or otherwise processed detached tail, of an elasmobranch.


Bait balls for chumming?
Question: I have seen a product called Bait Balls advertised from a store where I routinely buy my fishing supplies. Would the use of this product in inland waters be considered chumming? (Nina)

Answer: “Chumming” is the practice of “placing any material in the water, other than on a hook while angling, for the purpose of attracting fish to a particular area in order that they may be taken” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.32). If this product will be broadcast independently and not used as bait on a hook, then using it would be considered chumming. Chumming is allowed while fishing in saltwater, but it is prohibited in most inland waters.

When fishing in inland waters (as per CCR Title 14, section 2.40), “Chumming is permitted only in:

(a) The Colorado River District, but only the approved bait fishes for this District may be used as chum (see Section 4.15) except in the Salton Sea where corn may also be used.
(b) Carquinez Strait and Suisun Bay and their tributaries and saltwater tributaries.
(c) Sacramento River and tidewater of tributaries downstream from Interstate 80 bridge.
(d) San Joaquin River and tidewater of tributaries downstream from Interstate 5 bridge.”


Fully feathered dove wings required in a permanent camp?
Question: I have a dove possession question that my buddy and I argue about. After a day of hunting doves when we come back to camp, must we leave the wing on if we are spending a week at camp and are going to eat some of the doves that week? I know we must leave the wings on while transporting, but once we are in a permanent camp can the wings be removed? By leaving the wing on, after a couple days the birds develop a foul taste (no pun intended!). To me, they stink, even in the cooler. Last year a game warden came into camp and I forgot to ask him about it. My buddy said, “See, we were lucky!” But were we really? (Jim M.)

Answer: Your doves must retain a fully feathered wing either until you return to your home or until the bird(s) are being prepared for immediate consumption. “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” (CCR Title 14, section 251.7). Camps are NOT considered to be your permanent or personal abode.

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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 for Black Bass after Catching a Limit of Stripers?

Striped Bass (Photo courtesy of Ken Oda)

Question: My buddies and I do a fair amount of striper fishing and seem to always debate this question. Am I allowed to keep fishing after keeping a limit of stripers as long as I am fishing for largemouth/smallmouth bass instead? The techniques are similar, so I’m wondering if we could be cited. (Brett M.)

Answer: After catching your limit of striped bass, you can continue fishing for largemouth and smallmouth bass. However, once you have made this switch, you must make sure to immediately release any accidentally caught stripers.


Collecting a road-killed opossum?
Question: I saw an opossum dead on the side of the road yesterday, not playing possum (it was actually dead). I wanted to take it home to keep the bones but I left it there untouched because I didn’t know what the law on collecting was. If I find an animal like that again, can I take it home and process it? If I can’t, is there someone I can talk to who might allow me to keep the bones after the state processes it? (Rachael)

Answer: Road-killed wildlife may not be possessed. “The accidental taking of a bird, mammal, reptile, or amphibian by collision with a motor vehicle while the vehicle is being operated on a road or highway is not a violation of this code” (Fish and Game Commission, section 2000.5). This means it is not illegal to accidentally kill the animal, however, the Fish and Game Code does not authorize possession of wildlife accidentally killed in vehicle collisions. Opossum are classified as non-game mammals that may be hunted with a hunting license (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 472(a)). The only way for you to legally possess them would be to hunt them or to obtain a scientific collecting permit, if your collection purposes are for scientific research purposes.


Illegal animal imports?
Question: A while back I saw the reply in your column regarding the legality of buying/selling python snake skin. I see kangaroo on the prohibited list. Does this include all species? As I understand it, the Australian government allows the cull of Marcropus giganteus due to gross overpopulation. (Steve B.)

Answer: Yes. California Penal Code section 653o includes all species of kangaroo and provides that it “is unlawful 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.”


Where can to use two rods in San Francisco Bay?
Question: I’m a little confused about the rules on using two rods when fishing San Francisco Bay. The rules state, “While fishing from the shore in San Francisco and San Pablo bays between the Golden Gate Bridge and the west Carquinez Bridge, you may only use one line with no more than three hooks; you may also use an unlimited number of crab traps. Species-specific gear restrictions (such as for rockfish, lingcod and salmon) do apply when fishing from the shore.”

So, if I’m fishing from Alameda, can I use two rods? The rule says only from between Golden Gate to Carquinez Bridge. Alameda is to the east of the Golden Gate but I’m fishing from the shore in San Francisco Bay. Please let me know. (San S., Alameda)

Answer: The answer to your question is no, but you’ve asked an excellent question. There is a section in our regulations (CCR Title 14, section 27.00) that defines the waters of San Francisco Bay. The waters off Alameda are part of San Francisco Bay pursuant to this definition. This section, as recently amended, includes the following definition:

“The Ocean and San Francisco Bay District consists of the Ocean and San Francisco Bay, as described herein. The Ocean is the open seas adjacent to the coast and islands and the waters of open or enclosed bays contiguous to the ocean, including the waters of Elkhorn Slough, west of Elkhorn Road between Castroville and Watsonville. 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. …”.

In the San Francisco Bay (as defined above), “only one line with not more than three hooks may be used” (CCR Title 14, section 28.65(a)).

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Carrie Wilson is a marine environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. While she cannot personally answer everyone’s questions, she will select a few to answer each week in this column. Please contact her at CalOutdoors@wildlife.ca.gov.

How to Bring Home Fish Caught Out of State?

(U.S.F.W.S. photo)

Question: Later this year I am planning a trip to fish in the state of Washington. The limits and retention are different. What is the best way to bring fish home from the trip? Is there some paperwork trail that must be kept or some type of certification? (Ross B.)

Answer: Yes. To import fish into California, you are required to complete a declaration of entry form once you reach the California border (Fish and Game Code, section 2353). On this form you will list your fishing license information from Washington, along with the county where the fish were taken. You must deliver one copy of the declaration to the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) entry station, mail one to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and keep one for your records. The declaration of entry provides you the paper trail back to the county and state where the fish were legally harvested.


No deer tag, so what can we hunt?
Question: Half of our group drew tags for our favorite hunting zone and half did not. The unlucky ones will be helping with chores, fishing and hunting coyotes. Can we carry a rifle for coyotes while riding with the hunter with a tag? Many times we’ll drop the deer hunter off and then come back to pick them up, meanwhile calling coyotes as a way to kill the time. Is it legal or would it be best to leave the guns at camp and separate the two activities? (Mark)

Answer: This would be legal as long as the coyote hunters are clearly not attempting to hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill a deer. If your friends are hunting deer and you are hunting coyotes, it’s best to keep the two practices separate. This is especially true during deer season, so the coyote hunters will not appear to be deer hunting without a tag. In addition, as coyote hunters, you cannot engage in driving deer for your friends to shoot because this is considered “take” of deer. Take is defined as, “Hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill, or the attempt to hunt pursue, catch, capture or kill” (FGC, section 86). If the coyote hunters are involved in any activity which results in the pursuit of deer, they would be in violation.

Keep in mind that coyote hunting methods are often not compatible with deer hunting, so wildlife officers sometimes encounter hunters claiming to hunt coyotes when in fact they are deer hunting and trying to fill a friend’s tag. This is a significant problem in areas where drawing a tag is difficult, such as the X-1 zone, so the officers are watching for this.


Measuring salmon correctly
Question: Salmon fishing can be challenging because it often entails spending all day on the water, with some days not even getting a legal size fish. I was fishing over the weekend and caught a salmon that when laid flat on the deck measured 23-3/4 inches. If I grabbed it by the tail and held onto it, the fish would measure 24-1/4 inches, making it a legal catch. If a warden had checked me, would it have been a legal catch if I squeezed the tail while the game warden was measuring it? (Ralph C., Santa Cruz)

Answer: Since salmon are measured by their total length, this means measured to the longest length from the tip of the nose to the longest point of the tail. Pinching the tail or stretching the fish using gravity or muscle to find the longest possible length is not permissible. The best way to get the longest length is to lay the fish down flat on a flat surface, pinch the mouth shut and then swing the caudal (tail) fin back and forth until you find the longest point.

Some species, such as tunas, are measured by fork length rather than by total length. This measurement is taken from the tip of the mouth to the length inside the fork of the tail. Minimum and maximum size are defined as, “Tip of the head shall be the most anterior point on the fish with the mouth closed and the fish lying flat on its side” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.62). A diagram showing the correct measurement methods can be found in the 2017-2018 Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet or online.

Keep in mind, fish that are just barely legal can often measure differently between the person’s on deck measuring device and a warden’s device on shore, especially after cleaning/bleeding. I suggest using a bit of caution when keeping a fish that appears to be exactly the legal minimum size as it might come up short when measured later on.

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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.