Category Archives: Finfish

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.

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.

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.

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.

Hunting Over Alfalfa?

Successful pig hunter at Tejon Ranch (CDFW photo)

Question: I know it’s illegal to bait animals to get them to come to you in order to hunt them. However, what about hunting over an alfalfa or corn field? I know some other states allow this and I am wondering if California does, too. (Dakota C.)

Answer: Although feeding big game and hunting over bait is illegal in California, it is legal to hunt over a standing or harvested alfalfa or cornfield. While it is generally prohibited to take resident game birds and mammals from “any area where shelled, shucked or unshucked corn, wheat or other grains, salt, or other feed whatsoever capable of luring, attracting, or enticing such birds or mammals is directly or indirectly placed, exposed, deposited, distributed, or scattered…” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 257.5), this regulation includes several exceptions. One exception allows the “taking of resident game birds and mammals on or over standing crops, flooded standing crops (including aquatics), flooded harvested croplands, grain crops properly shocked on the field where grown, or grains found scattered solely as the result of normal agricultural planting or harvesting.”


Catch and release in MPA
Question: Is it legal to fish catch and release in a no-take State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA) Marine Protected Area (MPA) such as Big River SMCA? Nothing is mentioned in the California Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet. (Robert J.)

Answer: No, it would not be legal to catch and release inside a no-take SMCA or MPA because “take” means to “hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill, or attempt to hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill” (Fish and Game Code, section 86).


Why not able to purchase license and harvest report cards together?
Question: I purchase a California fishing license every December for the following year. Then in May I purchase an abalone report card. And then in September I purchase a lobster report card. I purchase all of these online, which is convenient. Still, it’s three transactions I have to remember and three postage charges. Why can’t I purchase my fishing license and harvest report cards in one transaction? (Ben W.)

Answer: Sport fishing licenses and all sport fishing license items become available for purchase on Nov. 15 each year, except for abalone and lobster report cards. While abalone and lobster report cards are not available for sale at the beginning of the year, you do not have to pay for postage on items purchased through the Online License Sales and Service, unless you select expedited shipping.

Abalone Report Cards become available for purchase on March 15. Abalone regulation changes, based on data gathered from the previous year, frequently require changes to the Abalone Report Card. The March 15 date for the start of sales for Abalone Report Cards allows time for changes to be made to the report card and still allows the report card to be available for purchase 45 days prior to the first day of abalone season. For example, the seasonal limit for abalone recently changed from 18 to 12. Therefore, changes were made within the Automated License Data System to reduce the number of lines printed on the report card and the number of abalone tags included with the report card to 12.

Spiny lobster season spans a part of two calendar years and the report card is valid for the entire lobster season. The upcoming lobster season opens Sept. 30, 2017 and closes March 21, 2018. If Spiny Lobster Report Cards for the 2017/18 season were available at the time 2017 sport fishing licenses first became available for sale (Nov.15, 2016), they would have been available for purchase during the 2016/17 lobster season. It is likely that many people would accidently purchase a spiny lobster report card for the wrong year.


Abalone shell pieces for jewelry?
Question: I realize it is illegal to sell abalone shells as jewelry or other artwork if obtained while sport diving under California regulations, but what if the abalone shells or pieces of them are found while beach combing and the shell had already been vacated by natural means? Can these shells be made into jewelry since there is no limit on taking these shells or pieces? (Scott E., Walnut Creek)

Answer: You can generally pick up abalone shells and shell parts for your personal use. However, Marine Reserves, Marine Protected Areas and other prohibited areas do not allow for any shell collecting. Wherever you go, you should contact the controlling 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 jewelry that is sold.

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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.

Scouting and Hunting from a Paraglider?

It is illegal to scout for big game via a paraglider because using any device capable of flight in order to locate big game during the hunting season is prohibited. (Creative Commons photo)

Question: Is it legal to scout wild game from a non-motorized paraglider? If so, would it also be legal to locate game from the sky and then land and pursue the animals on foot? (Tony A.)

Answer: For scouting big game, this would be illegal because using any device capable of flight in order to locate big game during the hunting season is prohibited. “No person shall pursue, drive, herd, or take any bird or mammal from any type of motor-driven air or land vehicles…. Additionally, no person shall use any motorized, hot-air or unpowered aircraft or other device capable of flight or any earth orbiting imaging device to locate or assist in locating big game mammals beginning 48 hours before and continuing until 48 hours after any big game hunting season in the same area.” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 251)


Carp spearfishing in the Russian River?
Question: I’ve been told that even though the Russian River is a salmon spawning river, I would be allowed to spearfish for carp because the carp are invasive. I need to confirm this from the regulation book though. Can you please help? Is this allowed? (Michael S.)

Answer: No. Spearfishing is only allowed in the waters listed under section 2.30 in the 2017 Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations booklet (CCR Title 14, section 2.30) beginning on page 12. In fact, even possessing a spear within 100 yards of the Russian River is unlawful (CCR Title 14, section 2.09).


Upgrading to lifetime fishing license?
Question: I’ve already purchased my 2017 sport fishing license. Can I pay the difference and upgrade to a permanent fishing license? (Bob I.)

Answer: Thank you for your interest in a lifetime license. Unfortunately, annual licenses cannot be upgraded to lifetime licenses mid-year. We suggest that you continue to use your annual license for the remainder of the year and purchase a lifetime license at the end of the year, before the new year to avoid any potential lifetime license fee increases.


How many hooks are allowed when fishing Sabiki rigs?
Question: My question is regarding Sabiki rigs. These pre-made rigs are sold with six hooks, and I have read that we are only allowed to use rigs with a max of three hooks. Does the three-hook rule also apply to Sabiki rigs since these rigs (the small ones with No. 12 hooks) are only for catching bait fish instead of game fish? If so, do I need to cut the rig in half? (Andy S.)

Answer: It depends on where you’re fishing and what you’re fishing for. To catch and keep some species of fish you’re required to use a certain number of hooks. If you catch one of these fish on a rig with more hooks than permitted, you’d have to throw it back.

Many species of rockfish, especially blue rockfish, will bite Sabiki rigs. So, even though they are designed to catch bait, they target any fish species that sees them as food. If you have rockfish, cabezon, greenling or lingcod on your boat, you cannot use a full Sabiki rig and must cut all but two hooks off.

Also, if fishing in inland waters, you would be restricted to using three hooks or less.

And remember, it’s not legal to keep chinook salmon if taken with barbed hooks or if using more than two barbless hooks per line if a salmon is in possession. If you have no fish onboard and are trying to catch bait with a Sabiki rig, you would be required to release any such species.

I suggest that you read the Gear Restrictions section of the annual Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet beginning on page 33, and the Fishing Methods and Gear Restrictions section beginning on page 12 of the annual Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations booklet, to learn more about the regulations of the fish species you expect to encounter.


Maximum number of crab traps allowed per vessel?
Question: We just bought a new boat and would like to start fishing for Dungeness crabs. The sport fishing regulations state that a maximum of 10 hoop nets are allowed for Dungeness crabs per vessel (CCR Title 14, section 29.80). Does this regulation also apply when fishing crab traps south of Point Arena? (Lynard S.)

Answer: No, there are no restrictions on the number of crab traps the average sport crabber can have on a vessel for recreational purposes between Point Arguello, Santa Barbara County and the California-Oregon state line. The same is not true for charter/party boats that take recreational fishermen crabbing. When fishing for Dungeness crabs, the commercial sport fishing boats are restricted to using 60 traps per vessel (CCR Title 14, section 29.85(a)(4)). When fishing south of Point Arguello, hoop nets for crabs are allowed but crab traps are not.

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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.