Tag Archives: baiting

Fish Carcasses for Bait?

Generally in ocean waters, if a fish can be legally possessed, it can be used for bait. However, there are some situations you need to watch out for.

Question: I recently went deep sea fishing and was wondering if the carcass and/or leftovers of fish caught could be used as bait? I cleaned the fillets today and thought that the skin left attached for identification purposes could be frozen and taken back on a future trip to use as an additional attraction attached to my jigs. The head and body after being filleted might also make for good bait. Are either or both of these ideas legal? I know that crab fishermen often use fish carcasses for baiting their traps, but then I also know of others who have been cited for baiting with fish carcasses. What do the regulations say? (Mark B.)

Answer: Generally in ocean waters, if a fish can be legally possessed, it can be used for bait. You may use rockfish carcasses for crab bait, but there are some situations you need to watch out for.

To eliminate any questions or confusion when you go out crabbing and fishing for rockfish, set your crab traps baited with rockfish carcasses first. Then, at the end of the day when you are returning with limits of rockfish, you can pull your crab traps and discard the used rockfish carcasses before returning to port. Otherwise it may look as though you went out and caught a limit of rockfish to use as crab bait and then continued to catch another limit of rockfish to take home. People have been caught and cited for doing this.

Also, make sure that any fish carcasses you use are from fish that are legal to possess. Many crab fishermen get cited because the carcasses they are using are from undersized salmon, lingcod, cabezon, greenling or other fish with size limits, or from cowcod, canary, yelloweye or bronze-spotted rockfish or other restricted species. They may tell their friends they got cited by the warden for using a fish carcass as crab bait, but the real story is that they got cited for the illegal take and possession of restricted fish.


Following the trout planting schedule?
Question: When the trout planting page on your website says plants will occur the week of any Sunday, does that mean the plant occurred in the week before or will occur the week following that Sunday date? Thanks for all of the help for sportsmen in California. (Robert G.)

Answer: When you see this message, it means that those waters are scheduled to be planted some time in that upcoming week (meaning following that Sunday). To learn more about the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) fish hatchery program and to view the upcoming trout planting schedule in waters throughout the state, please visit our website.


How to lose big game preference points?
Question: I have accrued several preference drawing points over the past years for various species. If I don’t put in for the preference points every year, do I lose all of those that I currently have accrued? (Dick D.)

Answer: No, accumulated preference points are zeroed out if you do not participate in the drawing for that species for five consecutive years. A missed application deadline is considered as not applying. In addition, you can also lose accumulated preference points for each of the species in the following manner:

Deer – when you are drawn for a premium deer tag as your first choice
Elk, Pronghorn Antelope and Bighorn Sheep – when you are drawn for and pay for the tag.


Rockfish size and possession limits?
Question: Is there a size limit for rockfish in California? Also, are lingcod counted in the 10 RCG Complex bag limit? (John S.)

Answer: No, there are no size limits or fillet limits for any rockfish species. Lingcod are counted OUTSIDE of the RCG Complex bag limit of 10 Rockfish, Cabezon and Greenlings in combination. The bag limit for lingcod is two fish per day/in possession. You can find this information in the current Ocean Sport Fishing regulations booklet, in groundfish tables toward the front of the booklet, and online.


Crab pot line length suggestion?
Question: Is there a regulation or suggestion regarding length of line for a second buoy for crab pots? Many individuals add a second buoy that is attached to the main buoy to make it easier to grab the line to hoist the pot. My impression is that this line should be about four to six feet long. I have seen the second buoy line very long such that it could be caught in the boat’s prop very easily. (Ken H., Santa Rosa)

Answer: There are no regulations regarding trailer buoy length at this point in time. My best advice would be to check out this “Best Practices Guide” website.

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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 Can Be Collected from Ocean Beaches?

Sea Stars of the California Coast (CDFW photo)

Question: I am an artist and my medium is to work with natural items I find in nature. I was wondering if I am allowed to take items from the beaches near my home. I see people collecting many things but I know that the beaches are protected and I don’t want to take anything that is forbidden. I am particularly interested in the seaweed and colorful algae that washes up after storms. There are also items such as sponges, tree fans, dead crabs, even little animal skulls, and of course drift wood. I would really love to know if I am allowed to collect anything so as not to disrupt the natural process of things. Any information you could offer would really be great. (Aggie M.)

Answer: Aside from state parks and marine protected areas that prohibit take/collecting of marine life within their boundaries, some collecting of beach wrack for personal use is allowed under certain conditions. If any of the algae/kelp you collect will be used for products that will be sold, a commercial Kelp Harvesters License will be required. Please check our website for all of the details regarding kelp and marine algae collection.

Shells that have been discarded by their occupants may be taken as long as you’re doing so in an area where collecting is not prohibited by the governing agency. Wherever you go, you should contact the governing agency to find out what collecting activities are legal for that area. As long as the shells are legally obtained and not sport-taken, they can be used to make art and or jewelry that is sold.

Marine protected area information is available online. Notice that some areas do not allow any “take.” You will find information on this page regarding the areas you may want to avoid.

As far as animal skulls, sea otters and all other marine mammal skulls may not be collected or possessed unless specifically authorized through the federal government (NOAA). If you are selling your artwork, Fish and Game Code, section 3039 generally prohibits selling any parts of a bird or mammal found in the wild in California.


Go ID required on buoys when crab fishing from a pier/dock?
Question: The 2016-2017 Dungeness crab fishing regulations say you have to have a buoy on your crab pot with your GO ID number. Does this requirement apply when you are crabbing off a pier or dock, too? (Judy and John F.)

Answer: Yes, if you already have a fishing license when fishing off a pier or jetty (even where no license is required), then you must fish with buoys marked with your GO ID. It’s OK to use a small net float/buoy instead of a full size buoy if you’d prefer. According to the California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.80(c)(3), every recreational “crab trap” except those used by a Commercial Passenger Fishing Vessel (CPFV) “shall be marked with a buoy” with the operator’s GO ID on it. One exception to the GO ID requirement in this scenario would be if the person fishing from a public pier or jetty was not required to have a fishing license and therefore has no GO ID. The trap would still need a buoy attached, but would not need to be marked. Anyone can get a GO ID, even if they have no fishing license or are under age 16. Instructions for getting a GO ID are available on our website.

Baiting turkeys with water?
Question: I have a friend who bow hunts for turkeys and puts a tub of water near his turkey blind. He also places small water tanks in brush areas during deer season and says it’s ok. Is this true? Is it legal to use water as bait? (Dennis B., Palmdale)

Answer: Your friend should be informed that CCR Title 14, section 251.1 prohibits intentional acts that “disrupts an animal’s normal behavior patterns.” This activity is also specifically prohibited on some public lands (CCR Title 14, section 730). This section prohibits hunting for more than 30 minutes within 200 yards of wildlife watering places on public land within the boundary of the California Desert Conservation Area or within ¼ mile of six specified wildlife watering places in Lassen and Modoc Counties. The definition of “watering place” includes man-made watering devices for wildlife.

Lost fishing license
Question: I purchased a fishing license a couple of months ago but now cannot find it. I do have a picture of it. How can I get a copy of my original? (Dee D.)

Answer: Go to any License Agent or CDFW License Sales Office to buy a duplicate sport fishing license. A small fee is charged for each duplicate validation. If you lose your Abalone Report Card or Sturgeon Fishing Report Card, you can obtain a duplicate from CDFW license sales offices only. You must complete an Abalone Report Card Affidavit (PDF Form) and pay the duplicate fee to replace an Abalone Report Card. You must complete a Sturgeon Fishing Report Card Affidavit (PDF Form) and pay the duplicate fee to replace a Sturgeon Fishing Report Card. Duplicate fees are listed on the license description page.

Do licensed fishing guides also need a fishing license?
Question: Is a California licensed fishing guide required to also have an individual sport fishing license? (Tom H.)

Answer: If the guide is just driving the boat and only verbally guiding clients while they fish, then no. However, if the guide does any fishing themselves, then a sport fishing license is also required.

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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.

“Butterflying” a Legal Alternative to Traditional Filleting?

Only certain ocean fish are allowed to be filleted at sea. Check section 27.65 (c) in the Ocean Fishing Regulations booklet

Only certain ocean fish are allowed to be filleted at sea. Check section 27.65 (c) in the Ocean Fishing Regulations booklet

Question: As an alternative to traditional filleting, some people will do what they call “butterflying.” This is where fish are filleted but the cut is not completed leaving the fillet connected to the skin and the skin attached to the carcass. Is that technique legal for striped bass and sharks? I believe it’s not permissible to fillet greenlings and cabezon at sea. That is where I have seen this done in the past by deckhands that want to be able to make a buck filleting onboard without violating the regs. The patron just pulls the pieces apart when dockside to separate the fillet from the remainder. I just want to see if perhaps further clarification directly to the individual might help them, should they be a deckhand checking to see if there is some means of cutting fish at sea. This might be worth running by a warden to be sure that the butterfly trick is legit. (John B.)

Answer: It is illegal to possess fish on a boat in such condition that the size and species cannot be determined (Fish and Game Code, sections 5508 and 5509). Fillet laws allow for the fillet of certain species as sea (under California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 27.65) consistent with identification requirements specified in the rule (such as retention of attached skin patches or the entire skin of a rockfish). Other than the provisions allowing for the fillet of certain species, no one should jeopardize the ability to identify the species and size of ocean fish. Striped bass, sharks, greenlings and cabezon may not be filleted at sea. So, if the person filleting your fish at sea, while rolling back and forth, makes a mistake and removes the whole piece of skin, you would be in violation. To be safe, the butterflying can occur once the fish are landed.


Determining when and where a gun is considered “loaded”?
Question: Please clarify the definition of “loaded” that you gave in your column: “Live round in the chamber.” Is it okay to have the clip or magazine loaded if there’s no round in the chamber? (Will B., Palmdale)

Answer: This is a classic example of the answer depending on where you are and what activity you are engaged in. Loaded gun laws applying to vehicles on roads open to the public have changed over the years, and there are differences in the definitions of loaded between the Fish and Game Code and the Penal Code. Long guns are considered to be loaded “when there is an unexpended cartridge or shell in the firing chamber but not when the only cartridges or shells are in the magazine” (FGC, section 2006). Under the Penal Code, a firearm is also considered to be loaded if there is a round in the magazine that can be loaded into the firing chamber with the firearm’s action.

So if you are in a vehicle along a public roadway while hunting, the Fish and Game Code does not prohibit rounds in the magazine of the rifle or shotgun, but rounds in the firing chamber would violate Fish and Game Code section 2006. The situation is different when you’re not hunting though. The Penal Code treats a firearm as loaded when a round is in the magazine, and Penal Code section 25850 provides that “a person is guilty of carrying a loaded firearm when the person carries a loaded firearm on the person or in a vehicle while in any public place or on any public street in an incorporated city or in any public place or on any public street in a prohibited area of unincorporated territory.”


Fishing with live minnows purchased at a bait shop?
Question: I know it’s illegal to move live finfish, so how can it be legal to use live minnows purchased from a bait shop for sport fishing in inland waters? (Mike R.)

Answer: It depends upon what area of the state the minnows are purchased in and where they are used. The term “minnow” often refers to many different species of small baitfish, some of which belong to the minnow family. Some lakes no longer allow the use of live bait due to possible water contamination (quagga or zebra mussels) in the water containing the bait fish. Depending upon where in the state you plan to use the minnows and, more specifically, which species of minnow (e.g. longjaw mudsucker, fathead minnow, Mississippi silverside, etc.), you will need to check the appropriate baitfish regulations that apply to the specific waters where you intend to fish. Please check sections 4.00 – 4.30 on pages 16-18 in the 2016-2017 Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations handbook for these regulations.

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

Bird Feeders May Lure Other Unwanted Wildlife Visitors

than you’d

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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


Mouth calls for deer
Question: My question goes back to deer season. I am wondering if it is ok to use mouth calls for deer hunting here in California. I have found this legal to do in other states. (Richard T.)

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

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

Human-Powered Boats?

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

Baiting or Habitat Enhancement?

Mule deer on scenic hillside (USFWS photo)

Mule deer on scenic hillside (USFWS photo)

Question: I am an avid outdoorsman here in Southern California. I noticed on a recent scouting trip that someone left a bucket in one of my upland game hunting locations. It had some water in it and it looked like it was placed there to act as a person’s DIY waterhole. I’m not sure if they left it by accident or if they placed it there in the hopes of attracting deer and game birds. Does this count as feeding? I’m fully aware there are prohibitions on feeding and baiting big game, and I am aware there are restrictions on baiting small game like quail, but does leaving your own water count as feeding or baiting? I looked at the regs and I didn’t find a definition of what feeding is, at least in regard to this situation. NGOs build these types of devices all the time as habitat enhancement in areas where big game need access to water. I’d imagine it is done with proper permission and permits, yet I did not want to leave a CalTIP report about a poacher if this was not illegal. (Robert T.)

Answer: As long as the person placing the watering device has permission from the land owner or controlling agency to place it on the property, there should be no issue. However, regulations may prohibit hunting near the watering device if it is on public land (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 730). This code section prohibits hunting for more than 30 minutes within 200 yards of wildlife watering places on public land within the boundary of the California Desert Conservation Area, or within ¼ mile of six specified wildlife watering places in Lassen and Modoc Counties. The definition of “watering place” includes man-made watering devices for wildlife.


Fishing outside restricted depths?
Question: A while back I read some fishing reports from some partyboats out of Sonoma County who were reporting they had picked up limits of rockfish and lings and were then running out to 220 feet of water to fish trolling gear for salmon. Isn’t this illegal? How do these commercial sportfishing boats get away with it? (Dan F.)

Answer: Yes, that practice would be illegal. Partyboats must abide by the depth restrictions for the groundfish management area where they are fishing. For the area you describe it would be 180 feet, and if groundfish are on the boat, no fishing may occur in deeper water. A partyboat could have gone salmon fishing in 220 feet and then moved to legal depths to catch rockfish inside 180 feet, but not in the manner you describe. If groundfish were caught while fishing the deeper water for salmon, they would have had to be released.


Fishing by Delta farmer’s pumps
Question: I was fishing in a boat on the California Delta yesterday. A farmer’s pump was pumping and the farmer stopped his truck on the levee to tell me that it’s against the law to fish within 100 yards of a running pump. I’ve never heard of that, and I was wondering if the farmer was just blowing smoke. What do you think? (Ken A.)

Answer: The farmer was mistaken, but CCR Title 14, section 2.35 does prohibit taking fish within 250 feet of any fishway; egg-taking station; dam, weir or rack that has a fishway or an egg-taking station; and the upstream side of any fish screen.


Sport fishing on a commercial crab boat?
Question: Can commercial boats sport fish for Dungeness crab during the sport season when the commercial season is closed?

Answer: Yes, if the commercial vessel is not engaged in any commercial activity (Fish and Game Code, section 7856(f)), the commercial vessel does not hold a Dungeness crab vessel permit (CCR Title 14, section 132.1(a)), and everyone taking crab or fishing onboard has a sport fishing license and is following sport fishing regulations.


Bear spray for personal protection?
Question: Is bear spray legal for personal protection while deer or pig hunting in California? (Tony B.)

Answer: Yes. And not only is it legal, many people also recommend it!

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

Kite Fishing

(CDFW photo by Sabrina Bell)

(CDFW photo by Sabrina Bell)

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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