Category Archives: Decoys

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

Antibiotics in Hatchery Fish?

Trout planting_CDFWQuestion: I would like to fish at a local stocked pond. Do the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) fish that are stocked there have antibiotics in their systems? Are they fed antibiotics on a routine basis or even on an occasional basis? I just want to be sure any fish I’m catching will be safe to eat. (Connie S., Big Pine)

Answer: CDFW hatchery fish are treated with antibiotics when it is necessary to save their lives. According to Dr. William Cox, CDFW Program Manager of Fish Production and Distribution, this is done on an as-needed basis and using only antibiotics that are approved and registered by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for diseases listed on the label and in fish species approved. This is all done under veterinary prescriptions by CDFW veterinarians. To be approved by the FDA, there are many hurdles to prove human food safety, animal safety and environmental safety. These are all met in the process of becoming registered. So to answer your basic question, none of CDFW’s stocked fish have antibiotics when they are stocked for anglers. They are perfectly safe to eat.

Steel shot for chukars
Question: A friend told me that we are now required to use steel shot when hunting chukars (Red-legged Partridge). Is this a new regulation? Since these are introduced non-native birds, why shouldn’t they be treated similar to the Eurasian doves? Please let me know because I would not want to get a ticket. (Chris J.)

Answer: As you may know, we are in the middle of a transition to nonlead ammunition for all hunting in California. As of July 1, 2016, nonlead ammunition is now required for all hunting on CDFW wildlife areas and ecological reserves and when taking upland game birds with a shotgun, except for dove, quail, snipe and any game birds taken on licensed game bird clubs. In addition, nonlead shot is required when using a shotgun to take resident small game mammals, furbearing mammals, nongame mammals, nongame birds and any wildlife under the authority of a CDFW depredation permit.

In regards specifically to chukar (which are related to Red-legged Partridge but a different species), you are required to use nonlead shot when hunting them with a shotgun from this season on unless you are hunting at a licensed game bird club.

According to CDFW Upland Game Bird Senior Environmental Scientist Karen Fothergill, there is no species-related or ecological reason for the manner in which we are phasing-out lead ammunition. Rather, in order to implement the nonlead legislation in a way that is least disruptive to hunters, we coordinated question and answer sessions at sportsmen’s shows, held meetings with hunting organizations, hosted a series of public workshops throughout the state and sent letters to major ammunition manufacturers before we finalized the implementation plan.

For more information on the laws and phase-out of lead ammunition in California, please visit our website.

Filleting sheephead at sea
Question: I was recently told that I could not fillet a sheephead aboard my vessel since they do not have a minimum fillet length but do have a size limit of 12 inches (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 27.65).

My question is whether it still applies for a large sheephead if the fillet was longer than the 12-inch size limit? I am assuming the reason for not allowing sheephead to be filleted aboard a vessel is because it is difficult to determine the overall size of the fish from the fillet. However, if the fillet is greater than the minimum size limit for the species, it would seem like there should be some type of exception to the no fillet rule, or perhaps there is another reason I’m not considering?

Answer: Only those species listed as allowed to be filleted may be filleted on a vessel. Since California sheephead have a minimum size limit of 12 inches total length but no fillet length specified in the regulations, they may not be filleted while on any boat or brought ashore as fillets, steaks or chunks (CCR Title 14, section 27.65).

If you think this regulation for California sheephead should be revised to allow for a minimum fillet length allowance, you are welcome to bring a proposal before the California Fish and Game Commission for consideration.

Use of blue tarp with decoys
Question: Can I use a blue tarp and place dove decoys around it? I’m hoping the doves will think the blue tarp is water and will be attracted to fly over or land near the decoys. (Anonymous)

Answer: Sure, you can give it a try!

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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

Electronic Decoys, Sunrise/Sunset and Bowfishing for Tuna

Gray Lodge Wildlife Area (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Gray Lodge Wildlife Area (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: I need some clarification regarding electronic waterfowl decoys. My duck blind partner and I are contemplating buying one of the new electronic decoys. These brand new electronic decoys have wings that flap up and down like a real bird. They can either be motorized tug lines that move the decoys, or electronic feet that cause rotation or flapping of the feet, or they may spray water or swim. The wings on these decoys do not spin or rotate in any way but they are electronically powered. Due to how these are operated, our understanding is that these are legal decoys that can be used throughout the entire season. Please clarify so that we know we’ll be on the right side of the law. (Anonymous)

Answer: Some electronic waterfowl decoys are legal to use throughout the season and some may not be used between the start of the waterfowl season and November 30. Here are the differences:

Electronic decoys NOT legal to use between the start of the waterfowl season and Nov. 30: Electronically powered rotating or spinning wing decoys are prohibited during this period. Instead, all rotating or spinning wing decoys must be powered exclusively by the wind. Regulations (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 507) only prohibit wings and wing-simulated devices that spin or rotate on an axis, if the movement is caused by anything other than natural wind (e.g. decoys with wings that spin by mechanical device and wings that flap and “rotate on a bi-lateral axis”) and they are used before Dec. 1.

Electronic decoys legal to use throughout the season: Decoys that simulate flapping, swimming, quivering, moving or squirting, but do not have rotating or spinning wings, are legal all season long. Examples include: decoys with mechanical feet or heads, wings that ONLY flap, wings that spin only by wind, etc..

The exact language of CCR Title 14, section 507 reads as follows:
Provisions Related to the Taking of Migratory Game Birds.
(c) Prohibition on Electronically or Mechanically-operated Devices.
Electronic or mechanically-operated calling or sound-reproducing devices are prohibited when attempting to take migratory game birds. It is unlawful to use devices that are either electronically-powered, or activated by anything other than natural wind, to directly or indirectly cause rotation of decoy wings or blades that simulate wings, when attempting to take waterfowl between the start of the season and Nov. 30.

In addition, decoys that use flashing lights on the wing are also illegal as lights are illegal to use to assist in taking any game (Fish and Game Code, section 2005).

Sunrise and sunset times
Question: Can you clarify how to determine the correct shooting hours for big game? The California Mammal Hunting Regulations booklet reads, “Hunting and shooting hours for big game, including but not limited to deer, antelope, elk, bear, and wild pig shall be from one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset.” Are sunrise and sunset published times for a specific location, or are they when the sun actually rises above the horizon or sinks below the horizon for the exact position where the hunter is standing? I ask because I’ve noticed published times can be quite different from what I am seeing in the sky when I am standing in a mountainous area. If the times are published, where may I find the correct sunrise/sunset tables for a specific location? (Al B.)

Answer: The sunrise and sunset times you should use are either those times printed in the local newspaper for the area where you are hunting, or if you look in the 2014-2015 hunting regulations booklet for waterfowl and upland game, go by the shooting hours times listed on pages 8-9 for the location closest to where you are. Although times will vary slightly, there are many other sources including a GPS which will give the time for your exact location, and many cellular telephones have information available for the closest town or your exact location.

Safety should always be your first priority though. For example, if you’re hunting in a deep canyon with high walls that partially block out the sunlight normally visible at sunrise or sunset, you should adjust your shoot times accordingly to be sure you are not shooting in the darkness.

Bowfishing for tuna?
Question: With all of the tuna hanging around outside Dana Harbor right now, would it be legal to fish for them using bow and arrow fishing gear? (Ryan T.)

Answer: Bow and arrow fishing tackle may be used to take fin fish other than giant (black) sea bass, garibaldi, gulf grouper, broomtail grouper, trout, salmon, broadbill and white shark. Yes, tuna would be an “other finfish,” but to be legal, the gear must meet the definition of bow and arrow fishing tackle in CCR, Title 14 section 1.23.

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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

Dropping Dungeness Crab Traps Before the Opener?

Dungeness crabs (CDFW photo by Christy Juhasz)

Dungeness crabs (CDFW photo by Christy Juhasz)

Question: Is it legal to drop Dungeness crab gear prior to opening day? I’ve heard it’s legal to drop gear the day or night before opening day to let it soak overnight. I looked in the Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet but couldn’t find anything indicating whether this is legal or not. If it is legal, how long before opening day can it be dropped? And how early can it be retrieved? (Fred S.)

Answer: Dungeness crab gear may not be set prior to the recreational fishing season opening date, which this year is Saturday, Nov. 1 at 12:01 a.m. (see California Code of Regulations, Title 14, section 29.85(a) and the definition of take in Fish and Game Code section 86.) Anyone setting gear prior to this date and time may be cited for attempting to take crab out of season.

Electronic spinning decoys for doves
Question: I have contacted you before and you have always been very helpful on hunting and fishing questions. This time I have one regarding dove hunting as a friend of mine wants to purchase a battery-powered spinning decoy for dove hunting for the next dove opener. Is it legal to use that type of a powered decoy for doves? They don’t seem to be the smartest of birds and may be too easily attracted to that decoy. Thanks for your help. (Joe A., Antioch)

Answer: There are NO prohibitions on electronic spinning decoys for dove hunting. The prohibitions for electronic vs wind-driven decoys are only for waterfowl from the beginning of the waterfowl season through Nov. 30.

So, tell your buddy he has the thumbs-up to go out and buy a battery-powered spinning decoy to use for dove hunting. Eurasian collared-doves are now open all year with no limits. The season for mourning, white-winged, spotted and ringed turtle doves reopens Nov. 8 and runs through Dec. 22.

Kite fishing?
Question: I live in the San Francisco Bay/Delta region and was wondering if there are any Fish and Game restrictions regarding “kite fishing.” We would like to use these specially modified kites to help us get our lines out farther than the distance we could normally cast them. Outside of local ordinances regarding powerlines and second rod licensing, is there anything that would prevent me from using a kite to get my line further away from the shore into deeper water? (Neil N.)

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 to get your line out to where the fish are.

Littering is a concern, however. Anglers have been cited for using a balloon and then releasing the balloon when a fish is hooked, or when the line reaches the desired distance from shore.

As long as you are not releasing (or losing) your kite in the process, there is nothing in Fish and Game regulations that would prevent you from using a kite in this manner. There may be local (city or county) ordinances that pertain to this, however, so please check with local authorities.”

Shotgun hunting for upland game during archery-only deer season?
Question: I have located a number of good band-tailed pigeon roosts in a remote area where I hunt with my A31 late season archery tag. It’s so remote that this year I plan to backpack in and camp in the area. If a friend wants to come with me who does not bow hunt but wants to take their shotgun to take a band-tailed pigeon, would I be allowed to use their shotgun to take band-tail if I left my A31 tag and bow back at camp for a morning? I feel confident this would be legal if we were “car camping” but I am not sure how this would be viewed legally as I will still technically be “in the field” on an archery hunt. (Stephen M.)

Answer: This would be fine once the season for band-tailed pigeons reopens unless you in an area of Los Angeles County where firearms might be prohibited.

Collecting sea palm that’s washed up on the beach?
Question: If I find some sea palm washed up on shore, can I keep it? I know you can’t pick sea palm recreationally, but since this was already dead, I see no harm in gathering. But is it legal? I know you can keep bull kelp when it washes up, so I was wondering if this was similar. (Hank S.)

Answer: The law prohibits cutting or disturbing sea palm (CCR Title 14 section 30.10). While possession of dead sea palm is technically not prohibited, removing live sea palm from the water would likely result in a citation.

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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

Moving Wing Waterfowl Decoys

Mallard drake (Photo ODFW)

Mallard drake (Photo ODFW)

Question: With waterfowl season approaching, I was wondering if you could clarify Regulation 507 regarding duck decoys that move? That regulation specifies moving wings or blades are prohibited until after Nov. 30, but I cannot find a prohibition regarding motor powered decoys that simulate swimming (clamp on propeller), or water movement to simulate feeding (magnate type), or battery powered jerk string. In short, are ONLY moving wing decoys prohibited during the first six weeks of the season? (James Scott, Oakley)

Answer: The prohibition is only for electronically powered spinning wing, or spinning wing simulated devices. There are no prohibitions to any other electronic devices which flap wings, allow the decoy to swim, feed, or cause movement other than the spinning of a wing or wing simulated device.

How to pay an old ticket?
Question: One of my friends received a ticket about five years ago for abalone taken from the Fort Ross area. Afterwards he moved out of state. He recently moved back to California though and would now like to pay his ticket but he does not have any information. How should he go about paying it? How can he find out the amount owed and where should he send payment? Thanks for any help. (James Y.)

Answer: If your friend left the state without paying the fine for the ticket he received, then the court probably issued an arrest warrant for him. Fort Ross is in Sonoma County, so he should contact Sonoma County Superior Court as soon as possible. If contacted by law enforcement prior to doing this and it is determined there is an active warrant, your friend will be cited or arrested for not taking care of his ticket.

Game wardens also lead-free in Condor Zone?
Question: Does a Fish and Wildlife officer’s pistol that he carries in the field contain lead-free ammunition? I ask because if I’m in the woods in the lead-free zone under a carry concealed weapon permit (CCW) and just camping, I must run lead-free, correct? The law should be consistent for everyone. (Dale G.)

Answer: No, the lead ban pertains to hunters. It is illegal to use, or possess with a firearm capable of firing, any projectile containing more than one percent lead by weight while taking or attempting to take big game or nongame within the condor range. This includes centerfire as well as black powder/muzzleloader and rimfire projectiles. Since wildlife officers are not hunting while on duty, their firearms may contain lead ammunition in the condor range. Any people who are not taking or attempting to take wildlife, including CCW holders, may use or possess lead ammunition.

Woodpeckers are driving me crazy!
Question: I’ve got a bunch of woodpeckers that keep pecking at my house and they are driving me crazy! Can I use a pellet gun to haze them and chase them off? Thanks. (Alan H., Ukiah)

Answer: No, woodpeckers are a nongame species so you will have to find a non-lethal method to haze them away from your house. You could try hanging shiny mylar tape like they use in orchards to scare the birds away from the fruit or try posting an owl decoy. You might also try covering the wood with metal mesh hardware cloth.

This is a USFWS question and they do have a permit process for a number of species under federal depredation provisions unless designated a fully protected bird.

For additional tips and information, please check with the University of California Integrated Pest Management Program online at

Deployed gear through MPAs
Question: Is it legal to travel through a State Marine Reserve (SMR) on a kayak with fish and non-deployed fishing gear on board? Does “fishing gear deployed” mean having a hook and line in the water? Or does it go so far as to require fishing hooks be removed from any fishing line on board a kayak? The term “deployed” is not defined in the regulations and I am wondering how it is enforced by the officers. (Brian M.)

Answer: Yes, you may travel through a state marine reserve with catch on board as long as no fishing gear is deployed in the water (per Section 632(a)(8) on pg. 52 of the current Ocean Sport Fishing regulations booklet). Deployed means that the gear (hook and line) is in the water. If you wish to remove all doubt, you could remove the hooks, but that is not required by law. Just make sure your gear is out of the water and secured before transiting a state marine reserve, and you will be abiding by the law.

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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

Raccoon House Pets?

Raccoons are illegal to keep as house pets (USFWS photo)

Question: Is it legal to have a raccoon living in the house? I have seen a raccoon in my friend’s tree during the daytime (which is unusual) and they told me it belongs to their neighbor. My friend has a lot of grandchildren running around outside and so I worry this is a health issue. I am not sure if they have a special permit for this little creature. Should a game warden come out to check on the situation? (Debra M.)

Answer: It is not only illegal to keep raccoons (or any wildlife) as pets or in captivity, but it also may be dangerous. Wild animals such as raccoons can become very aggressive and dangerous to both humans and pets as they mature. In addition, they can carry diseases and parasites that can present health risks to humans. Wildlife need to be kept wild for their safety and well-being, as well as ours. Only people who are permitted by DFG (for example, licensed wildlife rehabilitators or exhibitors) may keep wildlife in captivity. To report this situation, please contact our CalTIP line at 1-888-334-2258.

Can full Alabama rigs be legally fished in ocean waters?
Question: Can full Alabama rigs be legally fished in ocean waters? (Zack P., Santa Barbara)

Answer: Alabama rigs have been all the rage, as well as very controversial, in the bass fishing circuits this year. While in freshwater lakes and Delta waters the Alabama rig must be modified (only three hooks total allowed rather than the standard five), in ocean waters no modifications are required. However, if fishing for salmon or rockfish or if salmon or rockfish are in possession, the angler would be limited to only two hooks.

Shooting from side-by-side carts on private property?
Question: What are the rules for shooting from or off side-by-side carts on private property? Legal or not legal? (Ric)

Answer: California Fish and Game laws prohibit shooting from a vehicle when you are shooting at wildlife and you cannot shoot from any vehicle that is on a way open to the public. In addition, there are restrictions in the Penal Code against discharging firearms in certain incorporated or unincorporated areas, even if you are on private property. Information regarding these Penal Code provisions are available online in the “Firearms Laws” (Booklet by California Department of Justice) (PDF) on the DFG Enforcement homepage (

The one exception here would be for mobility impaired disabled hunters who qualify for a special hunting license allowing the person to use a motor vehicle to pursue game. The vehicle would still have to be stopped before the hunter could shoot from the vehicle. For more information on this special license, please visit

Selling bottle openers made from antlers
Question: I have a very small hobby/business of making (and at some point hopefully selling) bottle openers. I currently make them out of wood but I would like to make some of them out of deer or elk antlers or bone. There are companies on the Internet who sell antlers, but they say they cannot ship to California. What are the regulations concerning using antlers for hobby items such as this? What antlers are permissible for importing for use in a hobby/business of making bottle openers? Why are elk antlers not allowed to be imported into California? Can elk antlers be legally gathered or purchased from within California? (Jeff M., South Lake Tahoe)

Answer:  In general, it is not legal to buy or sell the parts of any game bird or mammal found in the wild in the state of California (Fish and Game Code, section 3039(a)). However, FGC section 3039(c) allows the purchase and sale of shed antlers or antlers taken from domestically reared animals that have been manufactured into products as long as the antlers are not complete, attached to a head, mounted for display, or in velvet. As far as your question, if the antlers are from sheds and are made into bottle openers, they would be allowed to be sold in California. Another option would be to purchase antlers from animals such as caribou or moose, since they are not found in the wild in California.

Turkey call
Question: I want to make a turkey call from a box turtle shell. Would these be legal to possess in California? (Jeff H.)

Answer: Yes.

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Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game. While she cannot personally answer everyone’s questions, she will select a few to answer each week. Please contact her at

When Special Fishing Regulations Differ on the Same River

Even if regulations on various stretches of the same river differ, anglers may never exceed the daily bag or possession limit for the location where they are currently fishing, regardless of where the fish was caught (U.S.F.W.S. photo).

Question: What are the bag limits for waters that have special regulations for trout? In some cases, specifically the middle fork of the Stanislaus River, the river is broken down into sections. For example, from the Beardsley Dam down to the Spring Gap Bridge there are certain restrictions and the bag limit is two fish of at least 14 inches. From the same bridge down to New Melones Lake there are no special restrictions and the bag limit is two fish.

If you fish on one side of the bridge following the special restrictions (only artificial lures and barbless hooks) and you keep two fish that are at least 14 inches, can you also be in possession of two fish from the other side of the bridge that allows any type of bait and hook? Meaning you would be in possession of four fish because they were caught essentially under the bag limit of the two different bodies of water based on the regulations. Also, how would you be able to prove to a game warden if they ask about the additional two fish that you caught up river beyond the bridge? (Larry G.)

Answer: You may not exceed the daily bag or possession limit for the location where you are currently fishing, regardless of where you caught the fish. In your example, the daily bag limit is two fish, and you cannot exceed that limit on the same day even if you fish multiple segments of the river.

For an alphabetical list of waters with special fishing regulations, see California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 7.50. In the current California Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations booklet, they can be found beginning on page 30.

Combo shotgun/rifles
Question: I was told recently by my gunsmith that it’s illegal to use a double gun – a rifle/shotgun combo, like the Savage Model 24 – when hunting birds in California. Do you have any knowledge of this or any idea of who to ask? (Dave and Jim M.)

Answer: Combination rifle/shotguns used to be fairly common and are making a bit of a comeback. According to Department of Fish and Game (DFG) Lt. Todd Tognazzini, they are legal to carry as long as the method matches the species being hunted. If the person is hunting for a species where the use of the rifle or shotgun is restricted or not permitted, they may not have ammunition for the restricted barrel. For example, if a person is hunting turkey with a 12 gauge shotgun using No. 2 shot, but they also have .22 caliber ammo in possession, this could result in a citation.

Hunting with these combo guns also restricts the hunter to one shot. For example, if shooting turkeys with the shotgun barrel, the hunter would have to reload another shotgun shell if they missed or needed a backup shot. If the other barrel is being used for anything except small game, lead restrictions would apply. And if hunting in the Condor Zone, lead restrictions would also apply!

Fishing for mussels?
Questions: What are the regulations for taking saltwater mussels? Can they be taken year-round or do they have a specific season? (Tom W.)

Answer: Saltwater mussels may only legally be taken by hand and there is no size limit, but only 10 lbs. of mussels in the shell may be taken each day. By law, mussels may be taken year-round, but the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) monitors and annually quarantines the take of mussels for human consumption to prevent cases of paralytic shellfish poisoning and domoic acid poisoning. The quarantine is usually in effect from May through October. Before you go, check with CDPH for daily updated information on quarantines and naturally occurring shellfish toxins by calling their Shellfish Biotoxin Information Line at (510) 412-4643 or toll-free at (800) 553-4133 or by checking online at

Dove decoys
Question: Which dove decoys are legal here in California? Can I use the motorized dove decoy? (Kevin T.)

Answer: California hunting regulations do not contain provisions specific to using decoys to take doves. Motorized decoys may be used to take doves so long as they don’t produce any bird calls or sounds. The use of live decoys is prohibited.  (Fish and Game Code, section 3012 and CCR Title 14 sections 311(l) and 505.)

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Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game. While she cannot personally answer everyone’s questions, she will select a few to answer each week. Please contact her at