Category Archives: Spear Fishing

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.

Determining the Sex of Black Bass

Largemouth bass are very difficult to sex unless you catch them in spawning mode (Creative Commons photo)

Largemouth bass are very difficult to sex unless you catch them in spawning mode (Creative Commons photo)

Question: We fish Lake Silverwood most of the time, and usually it’s for bass. Is there a way to determine the sex of a largemouth bass? We are interested primarily in the fish we catch in the spring. Also, are crayfish part of the diet for bass in Lake Silverwood? (Doug T., Hesperia).

Answer: Unfortunately, there is no easy way to sex black bass (including largemouth bass) unless they are in spawning mode. The males move up first into the spawning areas and make the nests. The females then join them when they’re ready. When you see a pair on a nest, the male is usually the smaller of the pair and will be the most aggressive. A single female will mate with more than one male during the spawning season. And regarding their diet, yes, crayfish are part of the black bass diet.


Deer hunting from my house?
Question: I have a house on five acres in northern California and have some really nice bucks on my land. Every day they come within a few feet of my house and graze on my garden and plants. If I purchase an A Zone tag this year, can I legally shoot a deer on my land from my house or porch? My house is situated more than 200 yards from any other property or house and it is outside of the city limits. Thanks. (Brian T.)

Answer: Yes. The safety zone law prohibits shooting within 150 yards of any occupied dwelling without the permission of the occupant. As long as it is otherwise legal to discharge a firearm in this area (e.g. not in the city limits or not prohibited by county ordinance), then go for it!


Landing net size for ocean kayak fishing?
Question: What size opening on a landing net is needed for ocean fishing? I fish from a kayak between San Francisco Bay and the Mexico border, and all points in between. (Jeff K.)

Answer: A landing net is required when fishing from any vessel on the ocean. “No person shall take finfish from any boat or other floating device in ocean waters without having a landing net in possession or available for immediate use to assist in landing undersize fish of species having minimum size limits; the opening of any such landing net shall be not less than eighteen inches in diameter” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, 28.65(d)).

Fishermen are ultimately responsible for being able to determine whether the fish they take are of legal size. When in doubt, your best bet is to consult the California Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet.


What license for crabbing via a “crab snare”?
Question: A friend and I would really like to try our hand at getting some crab this year using crab snares (loop traps). I am referring to the types that have a bait cage with a bunch of snares attached and are cast out using a rod and reel. The problem is that I’m not sure if we just need a normal fishing license or something else. Can you please clarify? (Kyle C.)

Answer: Just a normal fishing license is all that is required for crabbing.


Is ocean fishing with a crossbow legal?
Question: Is it legal to take fish in Southern California oceans using a crossbow? I know that using a bow and arrow is legal but I would like to know if crossbows are also legal. I also realize that the usual bag limits, size limits and closures apply. (Rod)

Answer: Spears, harpoons and bow and arrow fishing tackle (including crossbows) may be used for taking all varieties of skates, rays and sharks, except white sharks. Such gear may not be possessed or used within 100 yards of the mouth of any stream in any ocean waters north of Ventura County, nor aboard any vessel on any day or trip when broadbill swordfish or marlin have been taken. Bow and arrow fishing tackle may also be used to take finfish other than giant (black) sea bass, garibaldi, gulf grouper, broomtail grouper, trout, salmon, broadbill swordfish and white shark (CCR Title 14, section 28.95).

For hunting purposes, crossbows are not considered to be archery equipment (see CCR Title 14, section 354). But under the fishing regulations, crossbows qualify as bow and arrow fishing tackle. It does not matter what type of bow or crossbow is used under legal bow and arrow fishing, but a line must be attached to the bow and the arrow/bolt (CCR Title 14, section 1.23). If using a crossbow for shark fishing, be sure of the species and any associated size and/or bag limits before pulling that trigger.

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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.

Spearfishing for White Seabass

Kirby Morejohn and Garo Hachigian_photo by Kirby Morejohn)

Large white seabass taken by spear fishermen Kirby Morejohn and Garo Hachigian (Photo by Kirby Morejohn)

Question: It’s been an ongoing debate among our small spearfishing group and it’s time to ask the authorities. When spearfishing from a boat, if a diver reaches his maximum limit of three white seabass (WSB) for the day and then gifts one of his fish to somebody who does not have a fish, can the person who caught the fish hunt for one more WSB since he now only has two in his possession? (Chester L.)

Answer: No, each spear fisherman (or angler) is allowed to catch and keep up to three white seabass per day, period. If a fisherman chooses to give one away, that’s fine, but they cannot then continue to try to catch another to refill their personal bag limit for the day. That spear fisherman would have to wait until the next day, and if they still had their two WSB in possession, they would only be able to catch one more the next day because three WSB is both the daily bag limit and the possession limit.

There are a couple of exceptions here, though. Anglers/divers who will be out to sea for multiple days can get a multi-day fishing permit that will allow them to keep up to three limits of WSB over three days if they have secured this permit prior to their trip and followed all of the associated regulations under California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 27.15. There is also a one-fish limit between March 15 and June 15 for the take of white seabass south of Point Conception.


Finishing hunt after legal hunting hours?
Question: I hunt with a bow and on some occasions will shoot my game right at sundown and then have to chase my animal sometimes for an hour or more. And then when I find it, I may have to shoot it again. Is it legal to finish off an animal after dark if it was shot during the legal hunting hours? (Geoff M., Camarillo)

Answer: No. Authorized hunting and shooting hours are clearly stated in the regulations as running from one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset (CCR Title 14, sections 310, 310.5 and 352). To shoot an animal outside of those authorized hours is illegal.

Whenever possible, try to plan your hunt so that you will not be pushing the envelope right at the end of hunt hours and can leave ample time to track and retrieve the animal during legal hours.


Shooting aggressive ravens?
Question: What are the restrictions on shooting ravens in California? I have personally witnessed ravens killing baby chukar and baby red-tailed hawks. At my home they raid my chickens and steal the eggs. They like to sit on a pole where the remnants of their kill ends up on the ground, including a variety of egg shell bits and baby desert tortoise shells. I have also seen a group of ravens attempting to kill a cat. I know that they became protected at one time, but what is the status now? Can I shoot the ones on and around my property? (David C.)

Answer: No. Ravens, Corvus corax, are protected by both California (Fish and Game Code, section 3513) and federal laws (Title 50-CFR). Ravens may not be taken in California except under the authority of a permit issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). For more information regarding the availability of permits, please check the USFWS Permits website.


Transporting overlimits?
Question: Can I transport an overlimit of fish carcasses to the dump? For example, three peoples’ fish limits are cleaned at a home location. Then, one person pulls the short straw and gets stuck having to take the combined carcasses by vehicle to the dump. I can see how if they were stopped by law enforcement and they had an overlimit of three peoples’ carcasses carried by one person, an explanation stating that person was dumping three legal limits of carcasses may or may not fly with a warden. Can you please provide some clarity? (Trevor L.)

Answer: The department recommends that the person transporting the carcasses have copies of each person’s fishing licenses, or at least their names and contact information in case the transport and disposal of more than one person’s limit comes into question.

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

What’s Required When Packing out Game?

Mule deer around Clear Lake (USFWS photo)

Mule deer around Clear Lake (USFWS photo)

Question: What are the laws on deboning a bear or deer to pack out the meat? I don’t know of any laws saying I cannot debone a deer or bear as long as I am able to prove that the quarters and heads are all part of the same animal. I’m just looking for clarity as I am heading into X9A for my first time and I plan on hiking into deep country on foot. (Brad P.)

Answer: This is a legal practice as long as you can verify what animal the meat belongs to. The only problem that may arise is when people are packing out multiple animals at the same time. If that’s the case, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) asks that hunters keep each animal separate to avoid any misunderstandings.

For deer, you must pack the antlers out with the meat to verify the sex, and the antlers must be tagged. With bears, you must pack the skin and the portion of the head bearing the ears along with the meat so that we can extract a tooth for aging purposes (FGC 4757). You are not required to prove the sex of bears.

In addition, all hunters must comply with Fish and Game Code, section 4304, which prohibits needless waste of any portion of the meat that is usually eaten by humans.


Nontraditional measurement devices?
Question: I am aware that a person must be able to judge the size of their take, but are there any regulations saying what types of devices the person must carry? For example, I recently observed a group that were crabbing and their only means of measurement was a cut zip tie, but it was indeed the correct minimum length. (Katlyn G., Sausalito)

Answer: It varies, but for crab, the only requirement is that the device be capable of accurately measuring the minimum size of the species (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.05(c)). But, sometimes the regulations are very specific about the type of measuring device that is required. Persons taking abalone, for example, “shall carry a fixed-caliper measuring gauge capable of accurately measuring seven inches. The measuring device shall have fixed opposing arms of sufficient length to measure the abalone by placing the gauge over the shell” (CCR Title 14, section 29.15(f)).

An object such as a ruler is capable of accurately measuring rock crab because size limits are “measured by the shortest distance through the body, from edge of shell to edge of shell at the widest part.” For Dungeness crab though, the measurement is “five and three-quarter inches measured by the shortest distance through the body from edge of shell to edge of shell directly in front of and excluding the points (lateral spines).” Because of the curvature of the Dungeness carapace, and the need to measure the straight line distance across a curved surface between the points, a measuring device such as a ruler or zip tie is not accurate. CDFW recommends using a fixed or adjustable caliper for Dungeness crab. It does not have to be commercially purchased and we have seen devices cut out of wood or plastic that work fine.


Sale of valley quail during the offseason?
Question: Is it legal to sell pen-raised valley quail during the offseason to be used to train dogs? The pen-raised valley quail will have CDFW tags that I think only cost a few cents each. (Matthew W., Santa Rosa)

Answer: Interesting question since very few people raise California quail and instead raise bob white. However, the answer is yes, they can be sold if they were bred and raised under the authority of a CDFW Domesticated Game Breeder License (see Fish and Game Code, section 3201). The birds will need to be marked with game bird tags to differentiate them from wild birds. These tags are sold to game bird breeders through our License and Revenue Branch for less than four cents each.


Spearfishing with scuba before free diving for abalone?
Question: If I’m out spearfishing with scuba gear, can I leave the scuba gear in the boat to also free dive for abalone? (Anonymous)

Answer: No. Sport divers are prohibited from using scuba or other surface-supplied air equipment to take abalone, and they cannot possess abalone on board any boat, vessel, or floating device in the water containing scuba or surface-supplied air. There is no problem transporting abalone and scuba gear together while on land. Divers working from boats, kayaks, float tubes or other floating devices who wish to use scuba equipment to spear fish or harvest sea urchins, rock scallops or crabs of the genus Cancer, will need to make a separate trip for abalone.

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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.

Slingshot Hunting for Grouse and Quail?

Greater Sage Grouse (ODFW photo)

Greater Sage Grouse (ODFW photo)

Question: Is it legal to use a slingshot to hunt grouse and quail during the archery season? I have never seen slingshot listed as legal “archery” equipment nor have I seen anything indicating it is illegal. (David W.)

Answer: No. Slingshots do not fall under the definition of archery equipment as defined in the California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 354 and so would not be legal to use during the archery season.


Shipping trout and venison out of state?
Question: What are the laws on mailing fish to family or friends? A friend of mine took me to Lake Shasta a few years ago, and to return the favor I always bring him some fish on the way home. He is going to be moving to Kansas and I want to send him some of the prized fish. Is it legal to ship them through the mail? I know I can get live lobsters from Maine, but they are a commercial product. My friend also wants to try to send me some venison but we’re not sure of the laws there either. Thank you for your help. (Steve)

Answer: Unfortunately, it is not legal to ship trout outside of California (Fish and Game Code, section 2356.) You also cannot personally transport them to another state, unless you have a nonresident angling license or are on active military duty (in which case you may personally transport no more than one limit of trout across state lines).

Regarding venison mailed across state lines, as long as the animal was taken legally in the state of origin, it can be shipped to a recipient in California for their personal use provided the shipper complies with the following procedures:

Both California (FGC, section 2348) and United States (Lacey Act) laws require that packages containing wildlife and being shipped by common carrier “…shall clearly and conspicuously indicate the following:

(1) The name and address of the shipper.
(2) The name and address of the consignee.
(3) The number and kind of bird, mammal, fish, reptile, and amphibian contained in the package.”

In addition, a Declaration for Entry Form must be filed when importing fish, game, etc. (FGC, section 2353.)

Though it’s not a requirement, it would be a good idea for your friend to include with his venison shipment a copy of his valid hunting license and tags for the deer, along with all information regarding where and when the animal was taken.


Spear fishing options when close to stream outlets?
Question: I know there is a law prohibiting spear fishing in the ocean within 100 yards of a stream outlet. But would it be ok to enter the water from the beach and swim out past 100 yards with our equipment before we start fishing or would we have to find a beach with no outlet at all? (MJH)

Answer: The requirement for divers and spear fishermen to stay away from stream mouths was designed to protect salmon and steelhead that may be entering or exiting a stream. “No person may possess or use a spear within 100 yards of the mouth of any stream in any ocean waters north of Ventura County,” (FGC, section 28.90).

Because the regulation says “no person may possess … within 100 yards,” it would be unlawful to even stand on the beach with a spear in hand if you are within 100 yards of the mouth of a stream. This means that you will need to find an entry point more than 100 yards away from the mouth of the stream to enter the water to go spear fishing.


How many rods on piers and from shore with two-rod stamp?
Question: I’ve gotten conflicting information about the number of rods that can be used on public piers and from shore. I thought only one rod could be used from a public pier and two rods with a license and stamp from shore. However, some friends say two rods from public piers and any number of rods from shore. What’s the correct answer? I’m new to fishing in the ocean in California and I don’t want to get a ticket for something I may have misunderstood. If you could clarify this for me I would deeply appreciate it. Thank you for your time. (Jeanine Q.)

Answer: This is a common point of confusion. To clarify, the two-rod stamp (or second rod validation) applies only to freshwater fishing gear. In saltwater, only two rods (or any two fishing “appliances”, for example one rod and one crab trap, or one rod and one hoop net, etc.) may be used from public piers, and any number of rods may be used when fishing from shore. However, when fishing for groundfish or salmon in the ocean, only one rod with two hooks may be used.

Keep in mind that the law also says that “… lines must be closely attended” (CCR Title 14, section 1.05), so you can use as many lines as they can closely attend. Thus, if you have ten lines spread out over a couple hundred yards, you’d have a tough time convincing a game warden that they are all being closely attended. Make sure all lines can be quickly attended to if you catch a fish.

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

When Prohibited from Retrieving Deer from Private Property?

Mule deer on scenic hillside (USFWS photo)

Mule deer on scenic hillside (USFWS photo)

Question: Last year I shot a doe with my A31 tag in Los Angeles County (Archery Only-Either Sex). It appeared to be a lethal shot from 22 yards with decent shot placement. I tracked the blood to a privately owned ranch 100 yards away. I stopped tracking it when it appeared she went onto the ranch property. I then approached the ranch manager to get permission to continue tracking my deer. The owner initially agreed but after one of her coworkers talked to her, she retracted her permission (approximately 10 minutes from the time we spoke in her office). She requested that we leave her property at once as she didn’t want people to think they approved of hunting. I didn’t have enough time to locate my deer and left broken-hearted.

I don’t like seeing animals die or suffer for no reason. I would never have shot if I would have known I couldn’t recover her. I believe I did everything legal and correct but it shouldn’t be right that a deer goes to waste because of the bias of a property manager.

Is there anything I could have done to recover my deer? Do I have any rights or is there anyone I could have contacted? I’m still sick over the situation. (Luke G., Loma Linda)

Answer: It’s unfortunate that this happened. Although the law prevents one from wasting the deer, the law does not permit the trespass to retrieve it. Perhaps, if you’d contacted the local game warden, they may have been able to contact the ranch manager or owner for some possible assistance to prevent the deer from going to waste.

According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Lt. Todd Tognazzini, when archery hunting it is recommended to hunt farther from private property boundaries to avoid this type of problem as deer taken with archery usually travel farther after a lethal wound than those shot with a rifle. Tognazzini says he has never been refused when a fresh and legitimate blood trail is found leaving public land onto private property.


Spear fishing along a jetty without a license?
Question: I know that fishing from a public pier or first seaward public jetty/seawall doesn’t require a state fishing license. Does this also apply if a diver is spearfishing or collecting shellfish along such a jetty? (Jonathan)

Answer: No, the person must physically be on the pier to legally fish without a license. Once the person is off of the pier or most seaward protective boundary (jetty) placed to form a harbor, a fishing license is required. When diving from shore, he or she must be within 500 yards of their license (Fish and Game Code, section 1054.2).


Does a beginner taxidermist need a license?
Question: I am a beginner taxidermist and have done a few pheasants and ducks for myself only but would like to now do some free taxidermy for other people. Will I need a taxidermist license and/or migratory bird permit to mount ducks even if I don’t charge for my services? (Christian T.)

Answer: California does not require a taxidermist license, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service does require a license for migratory waterfowl. A Federal Taxidermy Permit is required to possess migratory birds for taxidermy purposes if you do not otherwise have authorization to possess. For example, a taxidermy permit is required if you would like to taxidermy a friend’s (or customer’s) duck harvested during hunting season. A taxidermy permit is not required if you would like to taxidermy a duck you harvested during hunting season. Further information regarding this federal permit is available on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife website.

I am glad you said you would not keep any of the fish that are not legal to catch or possess. Catching and killing some rockfish does no good.

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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 Find Legal Target Shooting Areas?

Target shooting improves one’s shooting skills and accuracy. It is also a great way to introduce someone new to safe gun handling practices and the shooting sports. In this photo, Harry Morse practices his skills at the “Birds Landing Hunting Preserve and Sporting Clays Course” near Fairfield. (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Target shooting improves one’s shooting skills and accuracy. It is also a great way to introduce someone new to safe gun handling practices and the shooting sports. In this photo, Harry Morse practices his skills at the “Birds Landing Hunting Preserve and Sporting Clays Course” near Fairfield. (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: A friend used to own property just outside the city limits and we were able to legally shoot our rifles on his property. Times have changed though and we now need a new place where we can we still legally shoot our rifles and shotguns for sport. We’re not hunters; we just practice target shooting. How do we go about finding places where we can legally shoot? (Gracie R., Carlsbad)

Answer: Your best bet is to contact the closest Sheriff’s Office that patrols the area where you want to target shoot. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) does not regulate target shooting nor keep track of all the potential target shooting areas available to the public. This issue basically comes down to county shooting ordinances and landowner permission. I think you will find most cities do not allow discharge of firearms within their city limits, so contact the local Sheriff’s Office to see what county areas may be open.

For public areas like U.S. Forest Service (USFS) or Bureau of Land Management (BLM) property, contact the applicable regional station or headquarters that oversees the area. Some USFS or BLM lands may have designated target shooting or plinking areas. They may also have other areas on their properties where target shooting is allowed, but it’s always a good idea to check ahead of time to be sure it is legal with the applicable county as well.

Otherwise, for public and private gun clubs or shooting ranges in your area, you might try http://www.wheretoshoot.org from the National Shooting Sports Foundation website. I’ve used this site often and they make it easy to find a safe and licensed range in your local area to target shoot or to introduce someone new to the shooting sports.


How to prove the sex of a turkey?
Question: Since only tom turkeys are legal to take during the spring season, how do I prove the sex to an inquiring game warden? Must a wing be left on? A beard left on? Both left on? One or the other left on? (G.B.G.)

Answer: The regulations are intended to require that only tom turkeys may be taken during the spring season, but the law specifically states that the turkey must be “bearded” (a bearded turkey is one having a beard visible through the breast feathers). In most cases a beard will distinguish the animal as male, but in some rare incidents hens may also have them.

Keep the beard attached to the carcass until you return to your residence. You may pluck the bird in the field, but remember to keep the beard connected to the body.

Toms and hens can be easily determined by their significant head and wing color differences. If by chance you run across a rare bearded hen, even though the provisions of the law may allow you to take it, we strongly discourage it. Spring is the turkeys’ primary mating and nesting period so hens may not be harvested in order to protect their production


Catching fish with baited fish traps?
Question: Is it legal to use baited fish traps in Southern California? I see in the regulations where it refers to the use of baited traps to catch a variety of fish species in the San Francisco area (California Code of Regulations, section 28.75). Is this the only place where this method of take is allowed? (Corey)

Answer: Baited traps may not be used to take fish in ocean waters off Southern California. This is legal only in San Francisco and San Pablo bays, their tributaries, etc., and in the ocean and bays off of Marin, Sonoma and Mendocino counties for a few specified species of ocean fish. Only hook-and-line or hand may be used to take finfish (per Section 28.65) unless other, specific permissions are provided in regulations listed in the Gear Restrictions section (which begins on pg. 45 of the current California Ocean Sport Fishing regulations booklet).


Spearfishing without a license?
Question: I know it’s legal to fish without a license off public piers, but is there anywhere to go spearfishing without a license? (Keith H., Santa Barbara)

Answer: No, there is usually no place you can spearfish without a license, but there are two free fishing days per year, usually around the Independence Day and Labor Day holidays. On those two days, spearfishing without a license is allowed (bag limits and other regulations still 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.