Category Archives: crabs

Targeting Stripers and Sturgeon together in San Francisco Bay

(CDFW photo)

Question: When fishing from a boat in San Francisco Bay, can some anglers target striped bass with barbed hooks while others target sturgeon using barbless hooks? If one angler who is fishing from a boat with a barbless hook legally lands and retains a sturgeon, can all anglers on the boat switch over to target striped bass and continue to use barbed hooks? (Craig. H.)

Answer: There is no regulation that requires all persons fishing aboard a vessel with a sturgeon on board to use barbless hooks. However, the definition of “take” may get anglers in trouble if they are observed fishing in a manner consistent with those methods used to “take” sturgeon. “Take” is defined as “to hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill, or attempt to hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill” (Fish and Game Code, section 86). Game wardens are watching out for people who may be attempting to take sturgeon with barbed hooks, or are trying to circumvent the requirement to purchase a sturgeon report card by saying they are “just striper fishing.” So, be sure that there is no ambiguity over what you are targeting to avoid any questions of intent.


Mouth calls for deer?
Question: My question is regarding deer season. I am wondering if it is ok to use mouth calls for deer hunting here in California. I have found this legal to do in other states but have not heard it mentioned one way or the other here in this state. (Richard T.)

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


Where to fish loop crab snares?
Question: Are there restrictions on where loop crab snares (used with fishing poles) in California can be used? I fish in the southern and central management areas. (Ted B., Oxnard)

Answer: “Crab traps, including crab loop traps, may be used north of Point Arguello, Santa Barbara County, to take all species of crabs….” (CCR Title 14, section 29.80(e)). Make sure the area you’d like to fish is not a Marine Protected Area where take is not allowed.


Marine invertebrates for personal collections
Question: I am a marine biology student who wants to have a simple native “tide pool” type of aquarium for my own personal delight. I have had a tropical salt water reef ecosystem in my home for years but I am also interested in a local cold water reef system. I live in the Orange County area of Southern California and am wondering if it is possible to collect for a non-scientific reason, and if so, what do I need to do? What are the explicit regulations concerning the collection of live marine organisms for use in a personal marine aquarium? From what I understand, live fish are not to be taken under any circumstances. But I am interested in collecting octopus, and it seems that some organisms are allowed as long as they do not come from a protected area. I do have a California sport fishing license. (Cristiana A.)

Answer: Octopus may be collected for a home aquarium and transported live under the authority of a sport fishing license as long as they are exclusively for that person’s personal aquarium display. Maintaining live sport-taken octopus in a home aquarium is not considered public “display” and thus does not fall under the provisions of the marine aquaria pet trade (FGC, sections 8596-8597). Transporting live “finfish” (as opposed to mollusks and crustaceans) is prohibited (CCR Title 14, section 1.62).

Invertebrates collected under the authority of a sport fishing license may not be used to establish breeding colonies for sale or trade with other people. Any trading, selling or possession for sale or trade of these animals constitutes commercial marine aquaria pet trade activity and requires all parties to hold “marine aquaria collectors permits” authorizing this practice. A marine collector’s permit is also required for any animals on display for the public.

People collecting live marine invertebrates for a home aquarium may do so only under the authority of a sport fishing license, and only those species allowed under a sport fishing license may be taken. In addition, any species with sport fishing restrictions (bag, size, possession or season limits, methods of take, etc.) are still covered under those regulations, so collectors must also abide by these laws.

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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.

Czech Nymphing and Weight Placement when Fly Fishing?

(Photo by Ken Oda)

Question: I have a fly fishing question on rigging flies for nymphing. There is a very popular technique called “Bounce Nymphing,” which involves using three nymphs on short droppers off of a long leader with a weight attached to the bottom of the leader. The idea is to bounce the shot off of the stream bottom in order to keep the nymphs in the bottom of the water column. After the cast, a mend is thrown downstream to create a belly and loop in the fly line so that the current catches the line, and drags the rig along in the current. My interpretation of this technique (under California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 2.10 (b)(4)) is that it is an illegal setup, although it is one that’s widely used by guides in the Eastern Sierra. Can you clarify this, please? (Craig B., Oroville)

Answer: There is often confusion regarding this set-up as it is very popular in other states given the presentation, not to mention when the split-shot snag is on the bottom, the angler usually only loses the weights. Unfortunately, in California if the weight is oriented below the flies, it would be illegal (CCR Title 14, section 2.10 (b)(4)).

If an angler is uncertain, an easy way to test the set-up would be to hold the leader in the air, grasping the section above the flies. If the weight hangs below the lowest fly, its illegal. One option that fly anglers use in California to emulate this technique is to use a heavily weighted nymph to replace the spilt-shot, but that runs the risk of losing that terminal fly to snags. The origins of the previously mentioned regulation stem from an unethical technique that uses weights below hooks to snag salmon, but the regulation is also applicable for protecting inland fisheries as well.


Crab fishing with both traps and snares simultaneously?
Question: Is it legal (and ethical) to drop a crab trap, and then use my fishing pole to cast out a crab snare? In other words, can I use them simultaneously? I am hoping to get the most out of my gear. (An avid fisher)

Answer: Yes. On a public pier, this would be the maximum amount of gear you could use at one time (CCR Title 14, section 28.65(b)).


Selling elk antlers from Idaho?
Question: I work at Moscow Hide and Fur in Moscow, Idaho (not Russia). We received an email recently referring us to your Q and A web site. It’s a great resource and we appreciate the time you put into it and all the other things you do. We think we may be one of the companies referred to in this previous question about elk antlers.

I remember that CDFW used to publish a brochure about selling wildlife. It parsed out the language of 3039(c) in a way that is more readable, the same way your answers do. I’ve asked people much smarter than me to read 3039(c) and they don’t seem to be able to agree exactly how to interpret it either. So since we are not sure, we strictly follow the information from the old brochure we have from CDFW. In one part of the brochure it states that no part of an elk or various other animals can be sold.

We assume the status of elk antlers has changed at some point since that brochure was printed, but not by statute. Can you please point me to someone who could clarify this to satisfy our lawyers? (Barrett S., Moscow, ID)

Answer: Statutes regulating trade in wildlife parts have changed over the years, so CDFW doesn’t recommend relying on a brochure that is out of print. As you mentioned, Fish and Game Code, section 3039 is the key statutory provision regarding elk to be aware of. Within this code section, subdivision (a) provides that:

(a) Except as otherwise provided in this section, Section 3087 [relating to unclaimed taxidermy mounts], Section 4303 [allowing sale of lawfully taken deer hide], another provision of this code, or a regulation adopted pursuant to this code, it is unlawful to sell or purchase a bird or mammal found in the wild in California.

It doesn’t matter whether a species is indigenous. This language would also apply to wild pigs that are not native, but “found in the wild.”

Subdivision (c) makes an exception for shed antlers and some other antlers, but complete antlers or mounts may not be sold. Here’s the statutory language:

(c) Shed antlers, or antlers taken from domestically reared animals that have been manufactured into products or handicraft items, or that have been cut into blocks or units which are to be handcrafted or manufactured into those articles may be purchased or sold at any time. However, complete antlers, whole heads with antlers, antlers that are mounted for display, or antlers in velvet may not be sold or purchased at any time, except as authorized by Section 3087.

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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.

Fish Carcasses for Bait?

Generally in ocean waters, if a fish can be legally possessed, it can be used for bait. However, there are some situations you need to watch out for.

Question: I recently went deep sea fishing and was wondering if the carcass and/or leftovers of fish caught could be used as bait? I cleaned the fillets today and thought that the skin left attached for identification purposes could be frozen and taken back on a future trip to use as an additional attraction attached to my jigs. The head and body after being filleted might also make for good bait. Are either or both of these ideas legal? I know that crab fishermen often use fish carcasses for baiting their traps, but then I also know of others who have been cited for baiting with fish carcasses. What do the regulations say? (Mark B.)

Answer: Generally in ocean waters, if a fish can be legally possessed, it can be used for bait. You may use rockfish carcasses for crab bait, but there are some situations you need to watch out for.

To eliminate any questions or confusion when you go out crabbing and fishing for rockfish, set your crab traps baited with rockfish carcasses first. Then, at the end of the day when you are returning with limits of rockfish, you can pull your crab traps and discard the used rockfish carcasses before returning to port. Otherwise it may look as though you went out and caught a limit of rockfish to use as crab bait and then continued to catch another limit of rockfish to take home. People have been caught and cited for doing this.

Also, make sure that any fish carcasses you use are from fish that are legal to possess. Many crab fishermen get cited because the carcasses they are using are from undersized salmon, lingcod, cabezon, greenling or other fish with size limits, or from cowcod, canary, yelloweye or bronze-spotted rockfish or other restricted species. They may tell their friends they got cited by the warden for using a fish carcass as crab bait, but the real story is that they got cited for the illegal take and possession of restricted fish.


Following the trout planting schedule?
Question: When the trout planting page on your website says plants will occur the week of any Sunday, does that mean the plant occurred in the week before or will occur the week following that Sunday date? Thanks for all of the help for sportsmen in California. (Robert G.)

Answer: When you see this message, it means that those waters are scheduled to be planted some time in that upcoming week (meaning following that Sunday). To learn more about the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) fish hatchery program and to view the upcoming trout planting schedule in waters throughout the state, please visit our website.


How to lose big game preference points?
Question: I have accrued several preference drawing points over the past years for various species. If I don’t put in for the preference points every year, do I lose all of those that I currently have accrued? (Dick D.)

Answer: No, accumulated preference points are zeroed out if you do not participate in the drawing for that species for five consecutive years. A missed application deadline is considered as not applying. In addition, you can also lose accumulated preference points for each of the species in the following manner:

Deer – when you are drawn for a premium deer tag as your first choice
Elk, Pronghorn Antelope and Bighorn Sheep – when you are drawn for and pay for the tag.


Rockfish size and possession limits?
Question: Is there a size limit for rockfish in California? Also, are lingcod counted in the 10 RCG Complex bag limit? (John S.)

Answer: No, there are no size limits or fillet limits for any rockfish species. Lingcod are counted OUTSIDE of the RCG Complex bag limit of 10 Rockfish, Cabezon and Greenlings in combination. The bag limit for lingcod is two fish per day/in possession. You can find this information in the current Ocean Sport Fishing regulations booklet, in groundfish tables toward the front of the booklet, and online.


Crab pot line length suggestion?
Question: Is there a regulation or suggestion regarding length of line for a second buoy for crab pots? Many individuals add a second buoy that is attached to the main buoy to make it easier to grab the line to hoist the pot. My impression is that this line should be about four to six feet long. I have seen the second buoy line very long such that it could be caught in the boat’s prop very easily. (Ken H., Santa Rosa)

Answer: There are no regulations regarding trailer buoy length at this point in time. My best advice would be to check out this “Best Practices Guide” 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.

What Can Be Collected from Ocean Beaches?

Sea Stars of the California Coast (CDFW photo)

Question: I am an artist and my medium is to work with natural items I find in nature. I was wondering if I am allowed to take items from the beaches near my home. I see people collecting many things but I know that the beaches are protected and I don’t want to take anything that is forbidden. I am particularly interested in the seaweed and colorful algae that washes up after storms. There are also items such as sponges, tree fans, dead crabs, even little animal skulls, and of course drift wood. I would really love to know if I am allowed to collect anything so as not to disrupt the natural process of things. Any information you could offer would really be great. (Aggie M.)

Answer: Aside from state parks and marine protected areas that prohibit take/collecting of marine life within their boundaries, some collecting of beach wrack for personal use is allowed under certain conditions. If any of the algae/kelp you collect will be used for products that will be sold, a commercial Kelp Harvesters License will be required. Please check our website for all of the details regarding kelp and marine algae collection.

Shells that have been discarded by their occupants may be taken as long as you’re doing so in an area where collecting is not prohibited by the governing agency. Wherever you go, you should contact the governing agency to find out what collecting activities are legal for that area. As long as the shells are legally obtained and not sport-taken, they can be used to make art and or jewelry that is sold.

Marine protected area information is available online. Notice that some areas do not allow any “take.” You will find information on this page regarding the areas you may want to avoid.

As far as animal skulls, sea otters and all other marine mammal skulls may not be collected or possessed unless specifically authorized through the federal government (NOAA). If you are selling your artwork, Fish and Game Code, section 3039 generally prohibits selling any parts of a bird or mammal found in the wild in California.


Go ID required on buoys when crab fishing from a pier/dock?
Question: The 2016-2017 Dungeness crab fishing regulations say you have to have a buoy on your crab pot with your GO ID number. Does this requirement apply when you are crabbing off a pier or dock, too? (Judy and John F.)

Answer: Yes, if you already have a fishing license when fishing off a pier or jetty (even where no license is required), then you must fish with buoys marked with your GO ID. It’s OK to use a small net float/buoy instead of a full size buoy if you’d prefer. According to the California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.80(c)(3), every recreational “crab trap” except those used by a Commercial Passenger Fishing Vessel (CPFV) “shall be marked with a buoy” with the operator’s GO ID on it. One exception to the GO ID requirement in this scenario would be if the person fishing from a public pier or jetty was not required to have a fishing license and therefore has no GO ID. The trap would still need a buoy attached, but would not need to be marked. Anyone can get a GO ID, even if they have no fishing license or are under age 16. Instructions for getting a GO ID are available on our website.

Baiting turkeys with water?
Question: I have a friend who bow hunts for turkeys and puts a tub of water near his turkey blind. He also places small water tanks in brush areas during deer season and says it’s ok. Is this true? Is it legal to use water as bait? (Dennis B., Palmdale)

Answer: Your friend should be informed that CCR Title 14, section 251.1 prohibits intentional acts that “disrupts an animal’s normal behavior patterns.” This activity is also specifically prohibited on some public lands (CCR Title 14, section 730). This section prohibits hunting for more than 30 minutes within 200 yards of wildlife watering places on public land within the boundary of the California Desert Conservation Area or within ¼ mile of six specified wildlife watering places in Lassen and Modoc Counties. The definition of “watering place” includes man-made watering devices for wildlife.

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.

Do licensed fishing guides also need a fishing license?
Question: Is a California licensed fishing guide required to also have an individual sport fishing license? (Tom H.)

Answer: If the guide is just driving the boat and only verbally guiding clients while they fish, then no. However, if the guide does any fishing themselves, then a sport fishing license is also required.

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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.

Rainbow Trout/Steelhead vs Coastal Cutthroat Trout

Steelhead fishing (Photo courtesy of Ken Oda)

Question: I have a question regarding regulations on non-adipose fin-clipped (“wild”) rainbow trout/steelhead and coastal cutthroat trout in tributaries on the North Coast (e.g. the lagoons in northern Humboldt County). Anglers are not permitted to keep wild rainbow trout/steelhead but are permitted to keep wild coastal cutthroat trout. However, these two species are well known to hybridize and hybrid offspring are reproductively viable.

Hybrids also exhibit a continuous spectrum of phenotypic expression that runs from the rainbow phenotype (few spots below the lateral line, small head, maxillary terminating before the rear of the eye and no throat slashes) to the cutthroat phenotype (heavily spotted including below the lateral line, large head, maxillary extending past the rear of the eye and throat slashes present). These phenotypes are what the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) website recommends for identification of the two species, but there is no reference to the basibranchial teeth that are specific to cutthroat.

Therefore, if an angler catches a non-adipose fin-clipped trout that has no throat slashes, no spots below the lateral line, a small head and a maxillary that does not extend beyond the rear of the eye, but has basibranchial teeth, is the angler allowed to keep the trout? The fish described is likely a hybrid “cuttbow.” Alternatively, if an angler catches a trout that outwardly looks like a coastal cutthroat but does not have basibranchial teeth, is the angler allowed to keep the trout? Again, this fish is likely a cuttbow. (Brian P., Sacramento)

Answer: According to CDFW Environmental Program Manager Roger Bloom, it is true that rainbow trout/coastal cutthroat hybrids exist at some low level in sympatric populations. However, based on a recent scientific study, the practice of using phenotypic traits to distinguish hybrids is not very effective. Although the presence of basibranchial teeth are a strong indication of a cutthroat trout lineage, it should not be used exclusively as a definitive sign to retain/harvest a fish.

From a regulatory/enforcement perspective, field identification of coastal cutthroats should be based on commonly agreed upon morphology of red/orange slashes found under the jaw. If there is a question about a fish being a hybrid coastal cutthroat crossed with a rainbow trout, anglers should err on the side of caution. It must have observable red/orange slashes if the trout is to be considered a coastal cutthroat for harvest.

Interestingly, some Central Valley hatchery steelhead may exhibit orange/yellow slashes which could stem from genetic influences via ancestral redband trout. Hence, if an angler encounters an adipose-clipped fish that looks like a rainbow trout but has these characteristics, it can be retained/harvested as there are currently no hatchery coastal cutthroats with clipped adipose fins.


Eating fresh-caught fish while at sea?
Question: Is it legal to eat just-caught fish while still at sea? For example, if I catch a tuna, fillet it into six pieces and later that day have one piece for dinner, would that be a criminal offense under the new fillet rules? (Jim K.)

Answer: No, you are welcome to cook sport-caught fish on a vessel as long as the fish is counted toward the angler’s individual bag limit and the vessel’s boat limit. The fish must also meet the fillet length requirements and any skin patches must be left on until the fish is prepared for immediate consumption (Fish and Game Code, sections 5508 and 5509). Remember, you cannot catch another fish to replace the one that has been eaten once the bag/boat limit has been filled for that type of fish for that day.


Ranching wild pigs on private property?
Question: Are there circumstances under which a California rancher or even a private resident can keep live wild pigs on their property? I haven’t found any regulations that specifically address this. (Mike A.)

Answer: No, it is not lawful for any California resident to possess wild pigs (Sus scrofa) (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 671(c)(2)(Q)). However, there is an exception for Sus scrofa domestica, also known as the domesticated pig one commonly sees on a farm (CCR Title 14, section 671(c)(2)(Q)(1)).


Crab Hawk
Question: Is it legal to use the device called the “Crabhawk” to fish for Dungeness crabs? (Forrest L., Watsonville)

Answer: This device, which attaches to the end of a fishing line, is not legal in California. For descriptions of legal devices that may be used to take crabs, please check CCR Title 14, section 29.80. The Crabhawk does not meet the regulatory criteria.

An alternative trap that may be attached to the end of a line is the crab loop trap. These have been legal to use in California for many years.

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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.