Category Archives: Incidental Take

Waterfowl Hybrid Limits?

Pintail drake (USFWS photo)

Pintail drake (USFWS photo)

Question: When hunting waterfowl in California, how do hybrid ducks and geese count toward species limits? For example, the first duck of the day someone shoots looks like a cross between a pintail and a mallard. Would that hunter be within his/her limit to shoot another two pintail? Another example would be if a hunter was within the Special White Fronted Goose Zone and shot a goose with both Canada goose and White Front features. I’ve heard other hunters claim everything from you can consider it the more restricted species, to it’s an “other” duck on a refuge kill card/entry permit, to it’s the species with fewer restrictions. (Andy D.)

Answer: The bird will count towards your daily bag limit, and if it looks like a pintail, it will count towards your pintail limit. Always consider the most conservative approach to your limit even if you think you might have a hybrid. Your best bet would be to consider it the more restricted species.


Halibut fishing out of Tomales Bay during a groundfish closure?
Question: I want to fish for California halibut from a boat out of Tomales Bay near Bird Rock or Elephant Rock or go out of the Gate. I used to fish for them whenever herring, squid or anchovy would come in to spawn during the winter or spring. The halibut would lay in wait as the forage fish came through, usually from January through April or May.

I haven’t done this kind of fishing for a long time (years in fact) because no one wants to go out there in the wintertime when no one else is fishing and we are absolutely alone at sea. My fishing buddy wants to go but is worried that we would be cited for targeting lingcod or rockfish. I told him that as long as we were not keeping anything except the halibut, we would not be cited. We wouldn’t be doing anything wrong. But he repeated that he was worried that we would have no protection against being cited because we were out there during the closed groundfish season.

Can we be cited for targeting groundfish as long we do not keep any incidentally caught groundfish? Or, how about steelhead or Pacific halibut or canary cod or anything else that you are not allowed to keep? (Jerry Z.)

Answer: Warmer ocean water temperatures have made some interesting adjustments to the ocean and fish distribution in recent years. During the summer months when the water warms, more halibut move into Tomales Bay. You know that the sandy bottoms are where the halibut hang out. You indicated fishing the Bird and Elephant Rock areas, so keep in mind there are a lot of underwater rock croppings there. That’s where the rockfish and lingcod hang out.

According to local California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Lt. Jim Jones, incidental catch is not a violation. However, once you do catch a species that is prohibited, it’s recommended that you leave that area. If you continue to fish and catch fish you are not targeting, you could be cited.

If you are fishing during a closure (such as now) and start catching lingcod and rockfish, even if you are fishing catch and release, you could receive a citation for targeting those fish, depending on the situation.


Van Duzen River pikeminnow fishing regs?
Question: After a short 35-year hiatus, I have decided to return to sport fishing. I live within walking distance of the Van Duzen River and my friends tell me it is “infested” with pikeminnow, a non-native and destructive predator of salmonid eggs in this watershed. I have tried to read the regulations online but am confused as to the restrictions on this fish in my area. (Tony W.)

Answer: Welcome back! Sacramento pike are a California native species, and although they are natural predators of salmonids, they have coexisted in streams for many years.

For regulations on the Sacramento pikeminnow, please check section “5.95. OTHER SPECIES” on page 27 of the 2016-2017 Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations handbook. Here it states that other species of fish not included in the species-specific regulations may be taken “in any number and at any time of the year by angling,” except for in the closures and restrictions listed under district special regulations. Specific regulations for the Van Duzen River can be found on page 42 of this regulations booklet (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 7.50(b)(63)(B)). Sacramento pikeminnow (Ptychocheilus grandis) are also referred to by some as Sacramento squawfish.


Selling skulls?
Question: Is it legal to sell skulls and bones from small mammals such as fox, skunk, raccoon, opossum, coyote, badger and bobcats? (Kayla M.)

Answer: No, it is “unlawful to sell or purchase a bird or mammal found in the wild in California” (Fish and Game Code, section 3039). However, “products or handicraft items made from furbearing mammals and nongame mammals lawfully taken under the authority of a trapping license may be purchased or sold at any time.”

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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.

Clamming at Pismo Beach after 40 years

Pismo clams (Tivela stultorum) in Ventura (CDFW file photo)

Pismo clams (Tivela stultorum) in Ventura (CDFW file photo)

Question: I made a promise to my son 40 years ago to take him clamming at Pismo Beach, and I want to keep that promise. How are the conditions there now and when is the best time to plan a visit? (Jim S, Big Arm, Montana)

Answer: Recent surveys at Pismo Beach indicate there are no legal sized clams there, although there has been some limited legal take of razor clams. I would really like to see you and your son have a successful trip, so there are some other locations further south where you should have luck. Rincon Beach in Santa Barbara County and La Conchita Beach in Ventura County have been producing good numbers of legal sized Pismo clams recently.

Clams that have a size limit and are not retained must be immediately reburied in the area from which dug (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.20 (d)). Clammers must do their share to help to maintain healthy populations of clams for future generations.

Clamming is generally done from November to April during minus tide events. Starting the month of May, potentially harmful plankton blooms can become an issue. The annual mussel shellfish quarantine is from May 1 to Oct. 31, and is in place to protect the public against Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning and domoic acid poisoning, also known as Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning. The May through October quarantine period encompasses more than 99 percent of all Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning illnesses and deaths reported in California since 1927. Even though mussels are a different species, I recommend taking similar precautions and would not recommend harvesting Pismo clams during the annual mussel quarantine.

Please remember that any person 16 years of age or older who is participating in clamming is required to have a valid California sport fishing license. An Ocean Enhancement Stamp is also required for ocean fishing (including clamming) south of Point Arguello (northern Santa Barbara County) except when fishing with a one-day or two-day sport fishing license. The stamp is not required if you purchase a one- or two-day sport fishing license.

For regulations specific to Pismo clams, please go to section 29.40 in the current Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet available online or wherever fishing licenses and sold. Good luck!


Abandoned lobster traps and hoop nets
Question: I am a freediver who dives for lobsters along the Southern California coast. I have concerns about abandoned hoop nets and lobster traps. I can tell that they are abandoned and have been there for a while because some are rusted and old, the rope is frayed, and they are just floating underwater with no buoys attached. Numerous times I have seen these abandoned traps with lobsters and fish that have been trapped inside for days, some alive some dead. Am I allowed to open and free those trapped animals and clean up my dive spots of these abandoned traps? What can I do about those hoop nets that have been cut off/frayed and left under water? I am planning to round up a bunch of freedivers to do an underwater clean up. (Chester L.)

Answer: As long as the trap is clearly abandoned and there is no surface gear associated with it, you can legally both release the animals and remove the traps (you may not keep any lobsters found in the traps). The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recommends and prefers that citizens and fishermen instead report the type and location of lost or abandoned fishing gear to the appropriate CDFW field office so that trained department personnel can retrieve the gear. For a list of CDFW Marine Region offices, please go to: http://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Regions/Marine/Contact.


If duck hasn’t built a nest yet, can I catch and eat it?
Question: Can I catch a mallard duck in my housing community, and eat it, if the duck hasn’t built a nest yet? I live in Huntington Beach. (E.J. Fudd)

Answer: No. Regardless of whether the duck is nesting, you must comply with the Fish and Game Code and all applicable local laws or ordinances. For example, you will need to have a valid hunting license, waterfowl season doesn’t open until October and to take a duck you would need to use a lawful method of take. Since you live in a housing community, firearms are likely not allowed and catching the duck by hand is not a legal method of take.


Fishing and trapping crayfish at the same time
Question: I am just wondering if while I am fishing, I can run my crayfish trap at the same time to catch crayfish. I only have one fishing permit and I don’t have a second rod stamp. I just want to make sure I don’t break any laws. (Eric L.)

Answer: Yes, there are no prohibitions against doing this as long as you can closely monitor your fishing rod the entire time.

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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 Information Can Be Collected from Banded Birds?

USFWS Bird Bands (Credit: Matt Ewalt, Creative Commons)

USFWS Bird Bands (Credit: Matt Ewalt, Creative Commons)

Question: While hunting ducks a few months ago at my hunt club, my son shot a double banded wood duck. It had the normal metal band on one leg and on the other leg it had a pink plastic band with the number 9 on it. The club next to us raises wood ducks and we were wondering if it may have come from there? How can I best describe to my kids why some ducks are banded? (Mike O.)

Answer: Bird banding is one of the most useful tools in the modern study of wild birds. Banding birds with uniquely numbered leg rings is meant to reference where and when each bird is banded, its age, sex, and any other information the bander thinks crucial to report to scientists. Information from bands subsequently found and reported provides data on the range, distribution and migration habits, their relative numbers, annual production, life span, and causes of death of countless species of birds. Having this information increases scientists’ ability to understand bird habitat and behavior and assists them in their management and conservation efforts (source: USFWS website).

As far as the bands you found, it depends on what kind of metal band the bird had. If the band was issued from the USFWS, then you can go to their website www.pwrc.usgs.gov/bbl and easily find out where it came from. If it is not a USFWS issued band, that likely means an organization may be providing nesting habitat via wood duck nest boxes, and then banding them as part of a federally-permitted study. Between the two bands, hopefully you can track some information down.


Animal cruelty
Question: My daughter and I were going to the store on Saturday when we noticed a possum that had just crossed the road and was near the gutter on the other side of the road. The car in front of us veered to the other side of the road and ran over the possum on purpose!! I have been told that possums are a protected animal. Who do I contact to report this? I was shocked and very angry that someone would do this on purpose! I have pictures of the car, the license plate and of the possum. I would appreciate any help in this matter. There is no excuse for this kind of cruelty. (Kathi V., Orange County)

Answer: Although opossums are not native to California, they are classified as nongame animals pursuant to Fish and Game Code section 4150, and they may not be taken in the manner you have described (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 472). However, these kinds of violations can be difficult to prove and prosecute because the drivers will likely claim it was unintentional and that they were distracted and swerving because of other issues inside the car such as a coffee spill, dropped cell phone, etc. The driver might also claim he was attempting to avoid the animal but the animal got confused and ran back in the direction the car was veering, which does happen sometimes. Despite these possible scenarios however, what you described could be investigated as an illegal method of take. Hopefully, this was something you will not come across again. But if you do, you can call the 24-hour CalTIP hotline at (888) 334-2258 or report by text message via “tip411 (numerically, 847411).


What are the rules for mounting trail cameras?
Question: What are the rules or requirements regarding putting a trail camera in a public park? We’re trying to find a friend’s lost dog and have gotten tips that she’s in a local public park. No one can ever find her during the day though so we want to put up a trail camera at night to try to confirm if she is there. If it makes any difference, one of the parks where we think she might be is next to an elementary school. I just want to know if it’s legal, and if so, if there’s anything special that needs to be done to put up the trail camera. (Kevin H.)

Answer: This is not under the jurisdiction of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). This decision will need to be made by the manager or the agency that manages the park as to whether they have any policies that permit or disallow this practice.


Fishing access to the California Aqueduct?
Question: I see many videos on YouTube regarding fishing along the California Aqueduct. As a main water supply line for California, I would think most areas would restrict access. Is there any information I can look up to find where the access areas are? I think most areas on the videos are in Southern California. I am looking for access to the California aqueduct around Central California. (Daniel S.)

Answer: There are many fishing access points along the aqueduct, and many have signs posted as well. To find some of these places, please check out our online fishing guide at www.wildlife.ca.gov/fishing/guide or our mobile fishing guide at www.dfg.ca.gov/mobile.

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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 Fish the Lobster Opener?

California Spiny Lobster (CDFW photo by Derek Stein)

California Spiny Lobster (CDFW photo by Derek Stein)

Question: I know that lobster season opens at 12:00:01 Sept. 27, 2014. If the hoop wet time is a maximum two hours, can I drop my hoops at 10:15 p.m. Sept. 26, 2014 and pull them after midnight? (George G.)

Answer: No, attempting to take lobsters is “fishing” and so if you drop your hoop nets before the season officially opens, you will be fishing out of season. Lobster season officially opens during the first minute of the first day of the season (12:00:01 a.m., Saturday, Sept. 27). The two hour wet time requirement is designed to require the net to be checked every two hours once it is legally in the water. So this means that even if you legally drop your hoop nets in the water a second after midnight, they must be serviced by 2:00:01 a.m.!


Protocols for packing deer out?
Question: I am preparing for my deer hunt and planning to hike 2½ miles one way into a place to try to harvest my deer. If I am successful I will need to pack the animal back out by myself, and this may be an all-day sucker. If this animal is large enough, I am probably going to have to quarter it and hump it out. If this is the case, do I take the head and antlers out with the tag on them, then make successive trips back in, or how do people normally do this? I don’t want to take the head out and put it in the back of my truck, risking someone might take it, and then bring another load out and find I have no evidence. Do you have a suggested protocol I should follow? Thanks. (Rick L.)

Answer: Most hunters in your situation like to bring a small saw to cut the antlers and skull cap from the head as you are not required to keep the whole head of a deer you legally harvest. The law requires that upon taking a deer, you must immediately fill out the tag completely and attach it to the antlers (or ear if an antlerless hunt) and then keep it for 15 days after the close of the season. In your case, the antlers and skull cap could be placed in your locked car in a box or plastic bag until all your meat is hauled out. Depending upon the type of terrain and the size of the deer, many hunters either take out quarters of their deer, or elect to bone it out in the field.

You might also consider using a game-carrier with wheels so that you can keep your game with you at all times while packing it out. Any wildlife officer that contacts you during this process will likely want to check your tagged antlers, but wildlife officers understand that it isn’t always possible to carry the whole deer to your car in one trip.


Ocean salmon loophole?
Question: There has been a lot of discrepancy recently due to a bit of a loophole in the ocean salmon regulations. I have been given different answers by a number of people and would like to have it clarified. I live in Santa Cruz, and in the past few weeks there have been a lot of incidental salmon catches in shallow water while targeting rockfish or lingcod. Because it is entirely incidental catch, I don’t see a problem keeping it even though it was caught on a barbed hook. As long as it was of legal size and landed with a net, it should be ok. Of course, if you choose to keep it you would have to switch to salmon-legal gear, but until you did keep one, you can’t prevent one from slamming an iron as you’re reeling up. So basically, if I am targeting rockfish using the appropriate gear, and I catch a salmon while doing so, could I land it using the required net, and if it was 24 inches, keep it and then resume fishing with salmon legal gear? (Azure C., Santa Cruz)

Answer: You are incorrect about a loophole. It is unlawful to take salmon (north of Point Conception) with a barbed hook, period. No more than two single-point, single-shank barbless hooks shall be used and no more than one rod per angler when fishing for salmon or fishing from a boat with salmon on board. If an angler hooks a salmon while fishing for rockfish using barbed hooks, the fish must be immediately released.


Auto hook setter legal?
Question: I do a lot of fishing in lakes and the Delta. Can an auto hook-setter be used on local lakes and rivers? Please help! (Anonymous)

Answer: Yes.

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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.

Casting with a Potato Gun-Style Launcher

(CDFW photo by Sabrina Bell)

(CDFW photo by Sabrina Bell)

Question: Is it legal to use the “Sandblaster Baitcaster” in California? This device is supposed to be great for surf fishing from the beach. It uses compressed air to cast your bait up to 300 yards from shore. See it at their website, www.bunkerupfishin.com/. (Victor H.)

Answer: This line launching device is really just another form of the old “potato guns” that were popular for a while until they were outlawed in public areas. According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Lt. Dennis McKiver, potato guns are legal under federal law. Under state law, potato guns that use combustion (instead of compressed air) to launch the projectile are “firearms,” and one with a bore of over 0.5 inches is a destructive device.

Pneumatic potato guns like this one use compressed air and are legal as long as they are not used like a weapon (e.g. shot at a person, etc.), so this line launching device would be legal under state and federal laws. However, you should check for local city and county ordinances because some local governments prohibit use of any devices that propel projectiles, and if you intend to use this line launching device on any state beach, you may also want to consult State Parks.

As far as using it to cast a fishing line, nothing in the Fish and Game Code or its implementing regulations prohibit using this compressed air launcher as long as the fishing line is attached to a rod and reel, or a person is brave enough to hold the other end of line in their hands!


What to do when catching invasive fish species?
Question: What should we do when we catch invasive fish in local lakes? Specifically, Balboa Lake in the San Fernando Valley remains warm enough in winter to support some tropical fish. Certain aquarium fishes breed as well as survive in these waters. The problem now are Plecostomus (commonly found in home fish tanks to eat the algae) that have taken over the lake and the Los Angeles River.

A couple of us have caught over 200 since February in one little cove while fishing for carp. We were told by park personnel to kill them (seemed reasonable) but I wanted to make sure they are inedible so that we won’t get into trouble for wasting fish. Please advise. Thanks. (Bill S.)

Answer: From a biological standpoint, CDFW would like to see these invasive fish disposed of (killed) rather then placed back in the system. The law prohibits the waste of any fish taken in waters of the state (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.87). This regulation is intended to encourage people to eat any fish they kill, and to avoid needlessly killing fish. But, any lawful use of fish that are legal for sale by an aquarium or pet store would satisfy the requirements of this regulation, including their use as fertilizer for your garden.

Here’s something that might surprise you … Plecostomus are consumed by humans in some of their native Central and South American waters. Jackson Landers, author of “Eating Aliens: One Man’s Adventures Hunting Invasive Animal Species” includes a recipe for Plecostomus in this book.


Scuba diving for Dungeness crabs?
Question: In a recent column you said that you could not take Dungeness crabs on SCUBA. Did I read that correctly or were you referring to seasons? (Duanne S.)

Answer: I saidwhen Dungeness crab season is open, they may be taken by hand via SCUBA but divers may not possess any hooked device while diving or attempting to dive for them (CCR Title 14, section 29.80(g)).


Sale of pig mount … Is it legal?
Question: My brother harvested a pig about 20 years ago on a private ranch in California and had the head mounted. He wants to sell the mount, but doesn’t want to break the law and can’t get a definitive answer from anyone. Could you help? Thank you as always for your help! (Dave)

Answer: Your brother can give it away but cannot sell or trade it to anyone. With a few exceptions (that don’t apply to your brother), the law prohibits the sale or purchase of any part of a bird or mammal found in the wild in California. (Fish and Game Code, section 3039)


Is there a limit on sand crabs?
Question: Is it legal to catch sand crabs with a fishing license, and if legal, what is the limit? Can sand crabs be taken on all beaches of the state? (Gina N.)

Answer: Yes, it is legal to catch sand crabs with a fishing license statewide wherever fishing is authorized. The limit is 50 crabs per day and in possession (CCR Title 14, section 29.85(d)).

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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.

Collecting Roadkill Raptors

American Kestrel (USFWS photo)

American Kestrel (USFWS photo)

Question: What are the rules concerning the use of birds of prey, such as owls, which have been killed by vehicles? I have found several in the local area which seemed to be dead along the side of the road but without evidence of damage to the body. My guess based on where they fell is they are “indirect roadkills.” If I wanted to save these animals for taxidermy or another use, would I need some kind of documentation? If so, what sort of permit would I need? It would be simple to document the finds I have made photographically at the site, but preserving them for inspection later by California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) would be harder. Thanks for your help with this. (Ken Z., Visalia)

Answer: Under both state and federal law, it is not legal to collect or possess any species of bird that is protected under the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act. This would include all raptors that have been killed by vehicles. There are permits available, under very specific circumstances that allow scientific or educational facilities to salvage these birds. Organizations that believe they may qualify for these permits would be required to obtain both a federal Salvage Permit and state Scientific Collecting Permit. More information on these permits can be found at www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/nongame/research_permit/ and www.fws.gov/forms/3-200-10a.pdf.

Another very valuable thing the average citizen can do when they see a potential road kill is to “document the find” in one of the databases such as www.wildlifecrossing.net/california/. If it is near a State Highway, the Department of Transportation keeps records specifically for planning and coordination purposes.


Fishing license and second rod stamp
Question: I have a California sport fishing license but did not pay for the second rod stamp. When I am out ocean fishing on my boat, am I only allowed one rod? I thought since it was the ocean I can have two rods out, even if I did not pay for a second rod stamp. (Anonymous)

Answer: The second rod stamp is only required when fishing in freshwater with two poles. In the ocean, any number of poles and lines generally can be used, with some exceptions. For example, fishing for lingcod, rockfish, greenlings or cabezon is limited to one line with no more than two hooks. Also, when fishing in San Francisco Bay or when fishing for salmon north of Pt. Conception, only one rod/line may be used per person.

Other exceptions exist, such as when pier fishing – only two methods may be used. There are only a few exceptions like these, but I’d recommend reviewing the Gear Restrictions section of the Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet and any regulations for the species you’re pursuing to ensure you’re following the law.


Legal to collect moon jellyfish for personal use?
Question: I am interested in collecting some moon jellyfish just for my personal use but want to be sure it’s legal. They would not be sold or traded. If legal, can I collect them under a basic fishing license or would I be required to have a marine collector’s permit? (Tucker M.)

Answer: Moon jellyfish occurring outside the tide pool zone (1,000 ft. seaward from mean high tide) may be legally taken with a fishing license and the bag limit is 35 (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.05 & 29.05(a)).


Crab pot dimensions?
Question: My son wants to build his own crab pot. I think it’s a great project but I can’t find any official size regulations. He already has line, buoys and bait containers. I found a web page that described a circular pot as measuring 42 inches in diameter, 14 inches deep and weighing 90 pounds. Are those the required dimensions? Can they be bigger/smaller? Any help is appreciated. (Anonymous)

Answer: As long as the trap has “at least two rigid circular openings of not less than four and one-quarter inches inside diameter so constructed that the lowest portion of each opening is no lower than five inches from the top of the trap” (CCR, Title 14, section 29.80 (c)), your son is free to construct a pot using any dimensions!

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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 Cal.Outdoors@wildlife.ca.gov.