Category Archives: Lobsters

Why Not a Split Season for California Waterfowl?

Mallard drake (USFWS photo)

Mallard drake (USFWS photo)

Question: Global warming and climate change seem to have seriously affected waterfowl migration patterns. Last year we saw the effects exacerbated as birds delayed migrations from summer nesting grounds until late into the year. So, why do we ignore this change in California and persist in starting our waterfowl season so early in the year? My native state of Texas pushed its waterfowl season opener back into early November. Baja Mexico, just a stone’s throw south of us, has a waterfowl season that runs later and doesn’t close until the end of February. And further south in the Mexican states of Sonora and Sinaloa, the seasons run as late as March.

How about considering a split season? One option our extremely elongated state could employ would be to open waterfowl season in the northern part of the state a month before the southern part of the state. Another option could be to have an early season for a couple of weeks, separated by a two to three week break, and then a late season that runs to the end of February. Other states have split seasons, just like we do for doves in California. This last season’s start and finish dates did not track our modern day weather patterns or the flights of birds. It is time to change the hunting season to match the change in our climate. What will it take to implement such a change? (James P. Hill, San Diego)

Answer: It is difficult to determine the exact cause of delayed migrations for some species or populations. According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Senior Waterfowl Program Manager Melanie Weaver, California historically has started waterfowl seasons in October to accommodate the early arrival of some duck species, like pintail, that arrive in late August. The peak concentrations do occur from mid-December to January or so, much of that having to do with stormy weather pushing birds further south. Additionally, habitat conditions tend to be more favorable and abundant in northern California, so there is incentive to stay put.

As far as season timing, federal regulations do not allow hunting of most migratory game birds past the last Sunday in January. Currently, we are in what is called the liberal regulations package for all four flyways. This allows California (Pacific Flyway) 107 days while Texas (Central Flyway) is allowed 74 days. California is allowed a longer season and higher bag limits because we have far fewer hunters than the other flyways (this equates to less harvest). CDFW could recommend that the season open in November or later but that would reduce the season length. CDFW has overwhelmingly heard that hunters value a longer season as that allows the greatest opportunity to get out. To be able to hunt past the last Sunday in January would require a change in the federal regulations.


Fishing for cuttlefish?
Question: Can you please tell me if recreational cuttlefish fishing is allowed in Los Angeles County? I am interested specifically in Santa Monica Bay from Playa Vista all the way down to Redondo Beach? (Karim B.)

Answer: Cuttlefish (a cephalopod closely related to squid and octopus) are seldom seen in cool California waters, so it’s unlikely you will encounter them here, thus we have no fishing regulations for them.


Possession of lead shotshell when hunting predators?
Question: Because I am near the state line and often hunt out-of-state, I keep lead ammo in my truck. Is this breaking the law? I understand that it’s against California law to have lead in the field. (Anonymous)

Answer: “It is unlawful to possess any projectile containing lead in excess of the amount allowed … and a firearm capable of firing the projectile while taking or attempting to take wildlife” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 250.1). If you are hunting from your vehicle in an area or for a species that requires the use of nonlead ammunition, leave your lead ammunition at home.


Lobster fishing in Santa Monica Bay
Question: Is there a restricted season for taking lobster in Santa Monica Bay? Appreciate any information and rules or regulations you can supply, if there are any. (Danny B.)

Answer: Yes, there is a restricted recreational lobster season in Southern California, not just in Santa Monica Bay. Lobster season is underway now — it always begins the Saturday preceding the first Wednesday in October and ends the first Wednesday after the 15th of March. But commercial take of lobster is always unlawful in Santa Monica Bay.

Some marine protected areas (MPAs) do not permit the take of lobster. There are no MPAs within Santa Monica Bay, but there are some immediately to the north and south of the Bay. You can find MPA regulation information in the regulations booklet, and in greater depth at http://www.wildlife.ca.gov/fishing/ocean/regulations/fishing-map/southern.

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

Scuba Diving through MPAs with Lobsters in Possession

California spiny lobster (CDFW photo by Derek Stein)

California spiny lobster (CDFW photo by Derek Stein)

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Bird Feeders May Lure Other Unwanted Wildlife Visitors

than you’d

Wild bird feeders often lure in more than just the intended birds (Creative Commons photo)

Wild bird feeders may be a lure for a lot more unintended wildlife visitors than you’d expect (Photo courtesy of Creative Commons)

Question: Is it okay in California to put bird feeders out to feed wild birds? Assuming it is, if we observe deer eating the seeds intended for birds, are we obligated to remove the bird seed and stop feeding the birds or can we continue to put out seeds for the birds even if the deer are also coming in to consume it? (Mark M.)

Answer: Wild bird feeders are legal to use, but keep in mind that you don’t want the birds to become completely dependent on this artificial food source. If they do become dependent, then if/when this artificial food source becomes unavailable, the birds may have trouble going back to find a natural food source to sustain them.

Which leads into your second question … if you find that the deer are changing their behavior and coming onto your property in pursuit of any spilled bird seed, you should stop feeding the birds until the deer stop coming in. Pretty soon there won’t be any birds, just deer standing around waiting for their handout. It’s either that or move the feeder to a spot the deer can’t get to. It’s never a good idea to start feeding deer.

Another potential problem is that bird feeders can also be a big attractant for black bears who are trying to consume enough calories to support hibernation during winter months when natural food is scarce. The suet (animal fat) used to hold bird seed together in many products is also a dense calorie source which bears can become dependent upon. Knowingly attracting bears with this food source, which can be considered bait, is a citable offense.

Keep in mind, it’s illegal to feed big game (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 251.3) and unlawful to harass wildlife (causing them to alter their normal behavior). Harassment can include feeding (CCR Title 14, section 251), even if it’s via bird feeders.


Spiny lobster hoop net buoy regs
Question: I read where crab traps need the owner’s GO ID number on the buoys this year. Is this required for lobster hoop nets as well? I did not see it but the locker room lawyers I hang with say the requirement applies to both. (Joe H.)

Answer: For this season, that is not the case. Beginning with the 2017 season, however, this will be required unless the hoop net is deployed from shore. You can get a preview of the adopted regulation changes for sport lobster fishing on the California Fish and Game Commission website.

“Beginning on April 1, 2017, hoop nets used south of Point Arguello shall be marked with a surface buoy. The surface buoy shall be legibly marked to identify the operator’s GO ID number as stated on the operator’s sport fishing license or lobster report card. Hoop nets deployed from persons on shore and manmade structures connected to the shore are not required to be marked with a surface buoy.”


Bear tag on my body?
Question: I have a question about bear hunting. This past season while in camp and talking to wildlife officers , a big bear walked by about 100 yards away. I was about to shoot it when I remembered my tag was in my trailer and not on my body. I got the tag first, then contained my dog, but by then the bear was gone. I could have shot him but didn’t have the tag on me. Did I just save myself a ticket for shooting without my tag in possession or did I just miss the bear? It says on the tag that it must be in immediate possession while hunting. (Rick W.)

Answer: Because you were at your camp and not hunting at the time, you are not expected to have your tag/license on you. However, according to Fish and Game Code, section 4753, “The person to whom a bear tag has been issued shall carry the tag while hunting bear.” So, you did the right thing. Once you would have picked up your firearm, you would have been actively hunting, so therefore required to carry your tag. Also keep in mind that if you were in a designated campground area, many campgrounds have safety zones around them where shooting is not allowed.


Trout fishing at night
Question: Can you clarify the exact rules for trout fishing at night? The regulations aren’t very clear to me when I read them. (Brandon C.)

Answer: In most cases, trout and salmon may not be taken at night. However, some exceptions can be found in the 2016-2017 Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations handbook on page 16 under CCR Title 14, section 3.00. Night is defined as one hour after sunset to one hour before sunrise.


Mouth calls for deer
Question: My question goes back to 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. (Richard T.)

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

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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.

Human-Powered Boats?

(Photo courtesy of David A. Jones, Ducks Unlimited)

(Photo courtesy of David A. Jones, Ducks Unlimited)

Question: I have a question regarding a human-powered boat for duck hunting. I understand from the regulations that sails and motors can’t be used, but paddles and oars can. My boat has a prop for propulsion, but it isn’t gas or battery powered. Instead, it has bike pedals so I power it with my legs. It’s called a drive so would that be considered a motor? I am wondering if the “spirit of the law” originally allowed for the use of human power, but because pedals weren’t thought about when the law was written, they aren’t specifically mentioned under the “letter of the law.” How would this be enforced? Would I be OK to use it? (Doug T.)

Answer: Your drive may give the impression that your boat is under power, so if you are checked in the field, I would expect that you would be thoroughly inspected to determine the source of propulsion.

Regulations generally prohibit the take of “any bird or mammal from any type of motor-driven air or land vehicles, motorboat, airboat, sailboat or snowmobile” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 251). However, take is allowed if “the motor of such motorboat, airboat or sailboat has been shut off and/or the sails furled and its progress therefrom has ceased, and it is drifting, beached, moored, resting at anchor or is being propelled by paddle, oar or pole.”

Since our regulations don’t define what a “motor” is, courts would interpret the word by looking at the dictionary. Most definitions of motor seem to point to a machine or engine. However, many definitions refer to devices that convert one kind of energy into mechanical energy to produce motion. Given this potential ambiguity, many wildlife officers would likely not cite you for shooting from your human powered boat. But, to avoid the potential of being cited, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recommends you take the propeller out of the water in addition to being stopped while actively hunting.


Lobster double limits?
Question: What form will I need to obtain in order to possess double limits of lobster and what requirements are there? Thank you. (John K.)

Answer: The daily bag and possession limit is seven lobsters. Generally, the law only allows a person to possess a single limit (CCR Title 14, section 1.17). The only exception would be for multi-day trips as authorized under CCR Title 14, section 27.15. This section requires you to submit a Declaration for Multi-Day Fishing Trip to CDFW and to keep a duplicate on the vessel. The trip must be continuous and extend for a period of 12 hours or more on the first and last days of the trip. If you were diving for lobster for 12 hours or more before midnight on the first day of your trip, then you would be able to take your second day’s limit after midnight, as long as your trip extended for at least 12 hours on the second day as well.

The multi-day fishing declaration process is intended to allow persons fishing offshore, on a trip that lasts multiple days, to catch and keep up to three daily limits of finfish, lobster and rock scallops (in Southern California). In addition, no berthing or docking is permitted within five miles of the mainland shore, including Catalina Island. If passengers disembark the vessel to spend time ashore in Avalon, the trip is not continuous and the permit is invalid. This is the intention of the section when it talks about not berthing along the mainland shore.


Are artificial fish scent attractants considered bait?
Question: Are products like artificially scented fish eggs considered “bait” when it comes to areas where the regulations call for artificials only? My guess is they would be considered bait, but what about just plastic salmon egg imitations with no scent? Does scent play into the regulations at all? (Mike S.)

Answer: An artificial lure is “a man-made lure or fly designed to attract fish. This definition does not include any scented or flavored artificial baits.” (CCR Title 14, section 1.11). This means attractants may not be applied to the lure while fishing in waters restricted for artificial lure use.

In addition, some people spray WD-40 on their lures. This substance contains petroleum and is specifically prohibited by law to be deposited or introduced into the waters of the state (Fish and Game Code, section 5650).


Pistol on a wildlife area?
Question: Is it legal for me to have a pistol unloaded and locked up in my truck while hunting at a wildlife area for ducks (for example, in the Mendota Wildlife Area)? (David R.)

Answer: Yes, as long as the pistol is securely locked and stowed.

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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.

Cooking Crabs Aboard my Boat

Dungeness crab (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Dungeness crab (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: I occasionally spend three days (and two nights) aboard my boat (fully self-contained) on Tomales Bay. Is it legal to cook all or part of your day’s limit of crabs or fish while on board as long as you keep the top shells or full-length filleted fish carcasses as proof of size and limits? I’ve never cooked fish or crab aboard my boat but I’ve always wondered if it was legal. (Dennis G., Placerville)

Answer: Yes, this is permissible. Basically, each licensed person on your boat may only be in possession of one limit of crabs or fish at any time. And while in possession, the fish or crabs must be in a state where the species and size can be readily determined. Once they have been prepared for immediate consumption, carcasses and carapaces may be discarded. But a person who chooses to consume any portion of their legal limit of crabs or fish taken on that day may not take additional crabs or fish until the next day. Taking additional crabs or fish on the same day would result in an overlimit.


Can medical marijuana card holders hold a hunting license?
Question: Is a person who possesses a medical marijuana card legally prohibited from having a hunting license? If so, are there different hunting licenses required by those who archery hunt vs those who hunt with a firearm? (Mario R.)

Answer: According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Captain Patrick Foy, fish and wildlife laws don’t prohibit a person with a medical marijuana card from obtaining a hunting license. However, the Fish and Game Code (FGC) and common sense prohibit a person from hunting while under the influence (see FGC, section 3001.) There are also regulations relating to use and possession of marijuana on CDFW lands, including those who are in possession for medicinal purposes (see California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 550(x)(2)).

A California hunting license authorizes a person to hunt with any legal method of take. There are a few specific hunts and tags that require a person to use only archery, but the same hunting license is used. All archery hunters are encouraged to take an archery education class in addition to regular hunter education, but it is not required.


How many lobster hoop nets?
Question: How many hoop nets can a person use at one time? On piers and jetties the rule is one hoop net and one fishing pole or two hoop nets, right? I want to be sure I am complying with California laws. (Anonymous)

Answer: On designated public piers and jetties, you’re allowed to use no more than two appliances at a time. That means: 1) one rod and one hoop net, 2) two fishing rods, or 3) two hoop nets at a time (see CCR Title 14, section 1.88 at page 25 in the 2016-2017 Ocean Sportfishing Regulations booklet for the definition of “public pier”).

When it comes to hoop nets fished from a nonpublic jetty or boat, “Between Point Arguello, Santa Barbara County and the United States-Mexico border, not more than five hoop nets … shall be possessed by a person when taking spiny lobster or crab, not to exceed a total of 10 hoop nets possessed when taking spiny lobster or crab, per vessel. The owner of the hoop net or person who placed the hoop net into the water shall raise the hoop net to the surface and inspect the contents of the hoop net at intervals not to exceed two hours” (CCR Title 14, section 29.80(b)).


Gun concealed in glove box while archery hunting?
Question: As a concealed carry permit holder, is it legal to have my gun stored in my vehicle (glove box) while archery hunting? (Birgit G.)

Answer: The answer to your question depends upon what you are hunting and whether you are hunting from your vehicle. The general rule is that “archers may not possess a firearm while hunting in the field during any archery season, or while hunting during a general season under the provisions of an archery only tag” (CCR Title 14, section 354(h)). Similarly, during archery season a deer hunter cannot legally “carry, nor have under his or her immediate control, any firearm of any kind” (FGC, section 4370). These provisions would allow you to leave your handgun in your vehicle as long as you are not hunting from your vehicle.

As of Nov. 11, 2016, a different rule went into effect when taking resident small game. Regulations now authorize the “lawful possession of a concealed firearm pursuant to a concealed carry permit” when hunting resident small game during any archery season (CCR Title 14, section 311). (187)

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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

Kite Fishing

(CDFW photo by Sabrina Bell)

(CDFW photo by Sabrina Bell)

Question: Can you tell me the regulations regarding using a fishing kite from shore or a pier to catch fish? We use these specially modified kites to help us get our lines out farther than the distance we could normally cast them. (Jenny C.)

Answer: There are no specific regulations prohibiting the use of a kite or other windborne device (a helium-filled balloon, for example) to help you get your line out to where the fish are. However, please be mindful of the environment and remember that any items or materials discarded or abandoned could be considered litter. If, for instance, an angler used a balloon to catch a fish and then released the balloon when the fish was hooked — or when the line reached the desired distance from shore — the angler could be subject to citation.

Also, there may be city or county ordinances that pertain to this, so please check with local authorities.


What to do about raccoons visiting my backyard
Question: I live in a residential area and raccoons have begun visiting my backyard at night. They are using my yard as a rest stop in their nightly urban foraging. Our backyard is landscaped including a grass lawn. I am looking for anything short of cages to discourage them. Is there any non-toxic substance I can spread near their entrance/exit point to discourage their visits? They do not appear to be eating or digging up anywhere in the yard, but they’ve adopted my yard as their restroom. I would appreciate any insight or suggestions you may have. (John W., Elk Grove)

Answer: We see an upsurge in raccoon sightings and reports this time of year because youngsters born in the spring are now independent of their moms and the adults are building up their fat reserves for the winter.

According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Wildlife Biologist Jeff Cann, you should first remove all attractants from your yard such as pet food, dropped fruit, old garden vegetables, and securely close all garbage cans and compost heap containers. Even water can be an attractant this time of year, so if you have a fountain or fish pond, try to make it off limits (e.g. electric fence or dry it out). If the raccoons are coming in through holes in the fence, block those entry points with wire, wood or some other barrier.

Keep in mind that raccoons are excellent climbers and are capable of gaining access to yards by climbing fences or using overhanging limbs to bypass fences altogether. Cutting overhanging limbs may help to keep them from dropping in. If the raccoons are climbing over your fence, one deterrent could be to line the top with spikes or sharp tack strips. An easy way to do this is via carpet tack strips which are essentially a lot of little nails anchored in wood that carpet installers use to stretch carpet over. If you completely line the top of the fence with these then the raccoons will not use the top board as a transit way either. A “hot wire” from an electric fence charger at the top of the fence will greatly increase the effectiveness of a fence for excluding raccoons but you’ll need to find a way to properly ground it.

While these may all seem like extreme measures, the point here is to make your yard less hospitable than your neighbors so the pesky critters will move on.

If you’re looking for chemical detractors, one option you could try is Capsaicin (a chile pepper extract). It’s registered as a repellent for raccoons and may be useful in deterring trash-raiding raccoons.

A great place for more information on all of this is the University of California Integrated Pest Management Program page on raccoons. Good luck!


Is licorice legal bait?
Question: My brother and I have two burning questions we have been wondering about. Is it legal to use licorice to fish with as bait? Also, we observed a man with a syringe injecting air into his bait worms so they would float off the bottom. Is this legal? (Marcus O.)

Answer: Processed food, such as licorice, are legal under bait regulations for inland waters where bait is legal (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 4.00). It is also legal to inject air into a fishing worm and many such kits are found at sporting goods outlets. This method can be a very effective way to keep a worm off the bottom of lakes with heavy bottom vegetation.


Can you lure a lobster with a sardine?
Question: Are you allowed to lure lobsters out of a hole with a piece of sardine in your hand? (David C.)

Answer: Sure, you can give it a try, but I don’t know how successful you’ll be. The law says that skin and SCUBA divers may take crustaceans by the use of the hands only and may not possess any hooked device while diving or attempting to dive for them (CCR Title 14, section 29.80). There is no prohibition against waving snacks in front of them.

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

Carrie is on vacation. This column was originally published Nov. 20, 2008.

Ultra-lights and Fixed Wing Aircraft Harassing Wildlife

Ultra-light aircraft cannot be flown lower than 500 ft. from the surface (Creative Commons photo)

Ultra-light aircraft may not be operated at an altitude lower that 500 feet or closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel or structure (Creative Commons photo)

Question: We live around the Imperial Wildlife Area (Wister Unit) and over the past two years we’ve seen an influx of ultra-light air craft flying over the Imperial Wildlife Area, sometimes very low. For example, on June 15 we saw three ultra-light crafts fly from a local airport and circle all of the wildlife area where there’s water, sometimes getting as low as 25 feet. This spooked all of the waterfowl and shore birds, and most of the shore birds were nesting and harassed by this.

I know there are harassment laws in place for this (Fish and Game Code, section 3003.5) as I contacted California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) wildlife officers, but all of us were uncertain how or if there are any height restrictions for aircraft flying over state wildlife areas. This has also happened during waterfowl season where the ultra-lights were flying within feet of hunters’ spreads of 2,000 or more snow goose decoys.

Can you please help us determine whether there are any height restriction codes prohibiting such activities over state wildlife areas? I have Googled this and have only found Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) results for federal lands and know now that the FAA doesn’t have state wildlife areas listed. (Richard F.)

Answer: While there is no specific section in the Fish and Game Code regarding these low-flying aircraft, section 2009 may apply. This section

makes it a misdemeanor to willfully interfere with someone who is engaged in the sport of hunting. Given the circumstances you described, this section could be used to prevent these low-flying

aircraft from interfering with hunters on state wildlife areas during the open season.

There are also two regulations that may apply to the actions you describe. “No person shall pursue, drive, herd or take any bird or mammal from any type of motor-driven air or land vehicles, motorboat, airboat, sailboat or snowmobile” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 251). Also, “No person shall harass, herd or drive any game or nongame bird or mammal or furbearing mammal. For the purposes of this section, harass is defined as an intentional act which disrupts an animal’s normal behavior patterns, which includes, but is not limited to breeding, feeding or sheltering” (CCR Title 14, section 251.1). These regulations are punishable as misdemeanors.

Low-flying aircraft are regulated by FAA Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) and the US Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). Generally, when flying over other than congested areas (i.e. cities, towns or settlements), they may be operated at an altitude not lower than 500 feet above the surface, except when over open water or sparsely populated areas where they may not be operated closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel, vehicle or structure (FARs, CFR Title 14, section 91.119(c)).


Shipping sport-caught fish home
Question: We have chartered a sportfishing party boat for 25 of our out-of-town clients. If they get their daily bag limits and want their fish shipped home via overnight carrier, would each person have to be present at the shipping office with their fish? If so, would each person need to show their fishing license to the clerk at the shipping office? Would each person’s fishing license need to be packed inside the box with the fish being shipped out? Or could someone from our business have each person’s fishing license/ID and just ship everyone’s fish home for them? (Annette T.)

Answer: Each person would need to be present to check their fish into the shipping office because it is unlawful for someone to transport more than one limit of fish (FGC, section 2347). It’s also illegal for someone to ship more than one limit of fish (FGC, section 2346). While each angler will need to be at the shipping office with their fish, they are not legally required to show their fishing license to the shipper, nor do they need to include a copy of their fishing license inside the box containing their fish (but it’s not a bad idea to do so). The carrier may have their own policy on this, but CDFW does not regulate it. The outside of the package containing the fish must clearly and conspicuously indicate the name and address of the shipper, name and address of the consignee and the number and kind of fish inside the package (FGC, section 2348).


Making your own abalone irons
Question: I would like to make my own abalone irons. What are the specifications to do so legally? (Jim B., Oakdale)]

Answer: Abalone irons must be less than 36 inches long, straight or with a curve having a radius of not less than 18 inches, and must not be less than 3/4 inch wide nor less than 1/16 inch thick. All edges must be rounded and free of sharp edges (CCR Title 14, section 29.15[e]).

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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.