Tag Archives: big game hunting

Hunting with Drones

(Photo from Creative Commons)

The use of drones to hunt or pursue wildlife is prohibited in California. (Photo from Creative Commons)

Question: What laws apply to big game hunting with camera equipped, radio controlled, drone aircraft? (Terry B.)

Answer: The use of drones to hunt or pursue wildlife is prohibited in California.

“No person shall pursue, drive, herd, or take any bird or mammal from any type of motor-driven air or land vehicles, motorboat, airboat, sailboat, or snowmobile. Additionally, no person shall use any motorized, hot-air, or unpowered aircraft or other device capable of flight or any earth orbiting imaging device to locate or assist in locating big game mammals beginning 48 hours before and continuing until 48 hours after any big game hunting season in the same area” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 251(a)).

The pursuit of birds and mammals by the use of any “motorized water, land or air vehicle” to “pursue, drive or herd any bird or mammal” is also prohibited, with limited exceptions that do not include hunting (Fish and Game Code, section 3003.5). (159)

Transporting legal black bass to my home?
Question: Is it permissible to catch a legal black bass, keep it alive while fishing, and then transport it alive to one’s home? (Jim E.)

Answer: While on the water, you can keep the black bass alive either in your live well on the boat or on a stringer in the water from where it was taken. However, you cannot then transport a live fish away from the waters where taken. Once you leave the water, all fish that you are taking with you must be dead (CCR Title 14, section 1.63).

Replacing abalone back to same rock?
Question: If an abalone diver takes a legal-sized abalone, is it legal for him to return it to the same rock if he does not remove more than three abalone during the day? I know some divers that will dive for several hours and may “pop” one to three abalones without damaging them, and keep none of them, returning all of them to the rocks where they were removed. I don’t think there is anything, technically, in the laws that prevents this, but maybe there should be. (Anonymous)

Answer: There is a law prohibiting this both for the health of the abalone and to prevent high-grading. All legal-sized abalone detached must be retained by the person who detaches it. In addition, no undersize abalone may be retained in any person’s possession or under his control. Undersize abalone must be replaced immediately to the same surface of the rock from which detached. (FGC section 29.15[d]).

No person shall take more than 18 abalone during a calendar year (FGC section 29.15[c]). If the diver takes three legal-sized abalone and puts them back, those abalone still count toward both the diver’s daily and yearly limit. This means that divers must still record those abalone on their report card so as to not exceed their yearly limit.

If a wildlife officer sees someone take a large abalone that is obviously larger than seven inches and the person puts the abalone back, this person has just violated section 29.15(d). If that person then doesn’t record the abalone, he is guilty of failing to complete the Abalone Report Card as required. Wildlife officers on the north coast have written several citations for this, usually to trophy hunters looking for that elusive 10-inch abalone. Wildlife officers try to convince people hunting for trophy abalone to measure them before removing them from rocks.

Turtles from pet stores
Question: I know it’s against the law for pet stores to sell baby turtles, as they can carry salmonella and other dangerous bacteria, plus children can swallow and choke on them. The other day I saw something in my local pet store that confused me. The store was offering a free baby turtle with the purchase of their turtle habitat setup – aquarium, gravel, filter, etc. Technically, they weren’t selling baby turtles, but doesn’t this circumvent the intent of the law, which is to protect public health? (Ed R.)

Answer: What you describe wouldn’t violate any California Fish and Game Code or its implementing regulations but would most likely violate federal and state laws designed to protect public health. Turtles are required to have a carapace (shell) length of at least 4 inches to be imported, sold or distributed (CCR Title 17, section 2612.1). This restriction was brought into effect under the Public Health Services Act by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1975 to address the problem of Salmonella infections in children. I have heard this size was determined to help prevent children from putting these small reptiles into their mouths. Prior to the ban there were an estimated 250,000 cases of turtle Salmonellosis in children and infants that were associated with pet turtles in the United States (Source: http://exoticpets.about.com/od/reptilesturtles/a/turtlesales.htm.)

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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.

Do Lost Crippled Birds Count Toward Bag Limit?

Ethical hunters will make every attempt to find a downed bird and count it to their bag whether they find it or not. (USFWS photo)

Ethical hunters will make every attempt to find a downed bird and count it to their bag whether they find it or not. (USFWS photo)

Question: I was informed that a downed crippled bird that was not recovered, even though a true effort was made to find the downed bird, still counts toward your bag limit. Where is this stated in the regulations? (Aaron W.)

Answer: It is not in regulation. It is an ethical hunter issue. Ethical hunters will make every attempt to find a downed bird. Even if that bird is never located but the hunter knows it was hit, the ethical hunter will still count it towards their bag limit. Ethical hunters do what is right even when they think no one’s looking.

Fishing and retrieving lobster hoop nets
Question: I understand that each person that drops a hoop net must be the same person that retrieves it. How do you monitor this? If we have four people in the boat and 10 nets, are we supposed to somehow mark each net to distinguish whose is whose? (Bill J.)

Answer: The law states that the owner of the hoop net or the person who placed the hoop net into the water shall raise the hoop net to the surface and inspect the contents of the hoop net at intervals not to exceed two hours.

The intent of this law is to require a minimum checking interval of every two hours at least by whoever placed the net in the water and not to cite somebody for pulling up their buddy’s net. Wildlife officers understand if you are working together as a team, but any net placed into the water is your responsibility to raise and inspect every two hours. Depending on someone else to do that for you may result in you receiving a citation if they fail to comply with this requirement.

Yo-yo fishing
Question: I know jug fishing, yo-yo fishing and the use of trotlines with 20+ hooks per line are the norm in the South. I am interested in yo-yo fishing in California for catfish and possibly trying a two-jug trotline with 10 to 12 hooks on the line to catch catfish. My question is: In California, are private (non-commercial) fishermen limited to fish with just one line with three hooks max? In reading the regs, it seems that an extra pole endorsement is just that, for an extra pole, not an extra line. (Mark H., San Bruno)

In regard to yo-yo fishing and trotline fishing, here is an article from 2007 Outdoor Life: http://www.outdoorlife.com/articles/fishing/2007/09/tackle-free-fishing

Answer: You must closely attend your lines at all times and you are limited to two lines with a maximum of three hooks on each line with a two-pole stamp. Otherwise, you must use a single line with three hooks maximum when fishing bait, or three lures per line which could each have three hooks. It is illegal to allow lines to simply fish themselves while attached to a float. For a similar previous question and answer, please go to: https://californiaoutdoors.wordpress.com/2008/11/.

Hunting around Lake Shasta
Question: I have a few questions about hunting in northern California by Lake Shasta. I want to go there to hunt for pig and turkey at the same time when the season reopens. Am I allowed to carry ammo for pig and turkey on me at the same time as long as it is all lead-free? Also, I heard something about a limit on how much ammo may be carried on you at one time? I’m not looking to carry hundreds of rounds but did want to have a spare box plus my clips on me. (Kevin F.)

Answer: Yes, it would be legal to hunt pigs and turkeys simultaneously as long as any shotgun shells for pigs are slugs and not shot. A hunter who possesses shot size larger than No. 2 could be cited while turkey hunting, but the regulation limiting shot size that may be possessed when taking turkey does not address slugs.

Methods authorized for taking big game (wild pig) include shotgun slugs, rifle bullets, pistol and revolver bullets, bow and arrow and crossbow (2015-2016 Mammal Hunting Regulation booklet, page 27, section 353).

Methods of take for resident small game (wild turkey) are shotguns 10 gauge or smaller. Shotgun shells may not be used or possessed that contain shot size larger than No. BB, except that shot size larger than No. 2 may not be used or possessed when taking wild turkey (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 311(b)).

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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.

Laser Sights for Bowfishing?

Bowfishing (Creative Commons photo)

Bowfishing (Creative Commons photo)

Question: When bowfishing for game fish, like carp, is it legal to have a green 5mW visible laser on your bowfishing bow or crossbow? I know that visible lasers on a bow or crossbow are prohibited for the use of hunting animals on land, but I’m just not sure about for fish in freshwater. Having a laser helps compensate for light refraction in the water because aiming at a fish that is not where it looks like it is can be quite tricky.

Also, besides the regulations in section 1.23 and section 2.25, are there any special seasons or rules that I have to follow for using a crossbow? I ask because I heard that crossbows in California can only be used during rifle season for land game.

Using a crossbow to bowfish is only mentioned one time in the freshwater regulation booklet, most of the text says “bow and arrow fishing.” I want to be prepared to explain to a park ranger or wildlife officer (given I am in an area designated for bowfishing) that I can use a crossbow. What code sections should I cite or what should I say? (Alexander A.)

Answer: Yes, it legal to have a green 5mW visible laser on your bowfishing bow or crossbow. When bowfishing in freshwater, you need only follow the regulations in sections 1.23 and 2.25. What you say about crossbows for hunting being legal only during rifle season is correct, but as long as you’re fishing and not hunting, this should not be an issue. The main difference between fishing and hunting is that a crossbow is not considered archery equipment for hunting purposes but is considered legal bow and arrow equipment for those fish species that may be taken by bow and arrow. In order to avoid unwanted attention from law enforcement, I discourage you from shining your laser on land.

Using rockfish for bait?
Question: In a recent column you stated that “Any finfish that is legal to take or possess in California may be used as bait in your lobster hoop net.” I assume this rule applies equally to using rockfish as hook and line bait for lingcod, but on my last party boat trip I was prohibited from using a small gopher rockfish for bait by a crewman who insisted that this would be illegal. Is it legal to use a whole rockfish (or a slab cut from a whole rockfish) for hook and line bait? I understand that the bait fish would count toward my limit. (Randy Pauly)

Answer: Yes, as long as the fish you’re using is legal to catch and keep, and as long as you count it toward your daily bag limit, you can legally use it as bait to attract larger predator fish, such as lingcod, to your hook. If the fish you’ll be using for bait has a size limit, you would need to be sure it was of legal size.

How to find a legitimate hunting guide?
Question: Can you direct me to a legitimate site to book a hunting trip? How can we hunt on government land? What are the costs? (Cheri W.)

Answer: You can find a list of guides licensed through the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) at http://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Licensing/Guide (click on “Look up licensed hunting and fishing guides) but no recommendations in support of any particular guide or hunting service. Hence, your best bet is to contact other hunters to ask about their experiences in order to help you decide which guide service to go with.

You can hunt on certain government-owned (public) lands in California. Public lands in California are primarily owned, operated and maintained by CDFW, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the Department of Defense or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Each of these agencies has developed rules and regulations for the lands they administer. They provide details of which lands are open to public access for outdoor recreational activities (including hunting), and the time of year they are open. Some of these lands are open year-round with no access fees, but some lands are open only certain times of the year with an access fee. Moreover, some public lands are entirely closed to all public use, mostly for protection of certain plant and animal species.

Generally speaking, most big game mammal hunting occurs on CDFW, BLM, Military or Forest Service lands. Small mammal and varmint hunting occurs on BLM and Forest Service lands. Waterfowl and upland game bird hunting occurs on CDFW and USFWS lands.

For the regulations governing the use of CDFW lands, please go to http://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Lands. For other land management agencies, please contact them directly for rules or regulations concerning their lands.

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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 Many Feet in the Water to Enter a Legal Hunt Zone?

California mule deer (photo by Carrie Wilson)

California mule deer (photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: While hunting during archery season in August, I ran into a situation that I could use your guidance on. While at my campsite, a hunting partner of mine observed a buck feeding near the creek that we were camped near. I was hunting in D7. Unfortunately for me, the buck was on the north side of Deer Creek, and therefore in X9A. I quickly got my bow while my hunting partner sat quietly at camp and watched. I quietly moved into position and waited for the deer to cross the creek. He never did, so therefore I had to let him go, of course.

When a zone’s boundary is defined by a creek, river or other body of water, when is the animal considered to be within your zone and therefore legal to take? Can you take him when he’s drinking and touching the water? Does he need to have two or four feet in the creek? Does he need to completely cross and be across the creek and completely in your zone? Or does he need to be clear of the creek bed all together? What is the law? (Kevin K.)

Answer: The deer would have had to be at least halfway across the creek to be into the correct zone. Keep in mind that animals shot with bow and arrow or a rifle can travel a substantial distance, so it is wise not to hunt right on the border of a zone. A non-lethal shot could easily take you immediately into the closed zone where your tag is not valid.

Ocean sunfish – you can take them, but what then?
Question: I saw some ocean sunfish laying around on the surface in waters off Sonoma County. Are they legal to take? Is there a website or a listing of which fish are illegal to catch? (Anonymous)

Answer: Yes, ocean sunfish (Mola mola) may be taken by licensed recreational fishermen. While some ocean species have fishing regulations that pertain only to them (e.g. rockfish and salmon), other species do not. Species for which there are no specific regulations, such as ocean sunfish, are covered under section 27.60 on page 34 in the current Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet. The daily bag limit for species covered under section 27.60(a) is: 10 fish of any one species, with a total daily bag limit of 20 fish. This means you can take up to 10 ocean sunfish plus 10 other fish per day, for a total of 20 fish. Fish that fall under this section do not have seasons (open year-round) or size limits.

Please be aware that ocean sunfish are not a species targeted by most recreational fishermen. This species is generally not considered to be good eating. Keep in mind that it’s a violation to waste a fish after you have taken it (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.87), so you might want to research that a little more before finding yourself in possession of a large fish you don’t care to eat.

Carrying shotguns for ducks and doves at the same time
Question: You recently answered a question about having two shotguns in a duck blind. That made me wonder whether the two shotguns can be loaded with different ammo. For example, if it’s dove season, can I have a 12 gauge shotgun for ducks and keep a 20 gauge loaded with lead shot for doves? (Allen S.)

Answer: Yes, you can carry more than one gun, but while waterfowl hunting, you are required to possess only non-toxic shot regardless of the shot size. Both shotguns must be loaded with non-toxic shot.

In addition to non-toxic shot requirements for waterfowl hunting, nonlead ammunition is now required when hunting on all state wildlife areas and ecological reserves regardless of the species pursued. And when hunting during waterfowl season, hunters may only have 25 shells in the field, regardless of the difference of shot size. This means hunters on state wildlife areas are limited to non-lead and only 25 shells total for doves and ducks, combined.

For more information on the phase-out of lead ammunition for hunting in California, please visit http://www.wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/nonlead-ammunition.

Corn for carp bait?
Question: Can you point me in the right direction to see the regulation regarding the use of whole corn kernels as bait, specifically for carp, but in general as well? Numerous people have told me corn is illegal to use in California, but I’ve looked through the regulations book at least four times and can’t find anything saying it’s illegal. (Tony)

Answer: The general bait regulation for inland waters says that treated and processed foods may be used as bait, and there is no prohibition on the use of corn kernels (CCR Title 14, section 4.00). This question comes up quite a bit because some states do not allow corn to be used as bait, but California does.

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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.

Legal Hitchhiking?

(CDFW Photo by Athena Maguire)

Lingcod hitchhiking on a rockfish caught on a shrimp fly (CDFW Photo by Athena Maguire)

Question: If I am using a legal shrimp fly rig to fish in California waters for rockfish and a legal-sized lingcod bites and holds onto an otherwise legal-sized rockfish, can I legally gaff and possess that legal-sized hitchhiking lingcod? I am assuming the lingcod has not been hooked in the mouth on my shrimp fly rig, but has merely bitten and held on to the rockfish all the way to the surface. Would this be legal? (James O. Peterson)

Answer: Yes. The take of “hitchhiking” lingcod with a gaff is legal as long as the fish is of legal size. Gaff hooks cannot be used to take or assist in landing any finfish shorter than the minimum sizes limit. Gaffs also cannot be used to take salmon, steelhead, sturgeon or striped bass.

What does new mandatory deer hunt reporting mean for hunters?
Question: I’ve noticed the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) are now requiring all deer hunters to report their deer tags. Every person who is issued a deer tag must submit a report for the tag either online or by mail after the hunt, even if they did not hunt or did not harvest a deer. Does this new regulation mean that mandatory validation of all deer tags by an authorized individual is no longer the case? If not, why? Doesn’t mandatory reporting cover all circumstances, except for the poacher types? Given that we are required to participate in more and more validation reports, is it possible that down the line this information will be used to close a zone or severely limit tag numbers? Will more and more zones be transformed into draw only, such as what occurred with the B zone a few years ago? (Bill A.)

Answer: The reporting regulation did nothing to change validation requirements. Hunters have always been allowed to transport deer from the kill site to where it’s going to be validated and the tag must still be validated. Many folks are authorized to validate deer tags (see the current California Mammal Hunting Regulations booklet, pp. 2-13 for full list), but if one of those people are not available, the online reporting system will provide a number to at least prove that the tag has been reported.

According to CDFW Wildlife Programs Manager Craig Stowers, this is a harvest report (not a “validation report”). Successful deer hunters have always been required to report their take. However, due to hunter failure to report, tags picked up in the field and never sent in for processing, or even losses in the mail, we know darn well that we don’t get all the successful take reports.

Harvest information is an important component of population estimates, so you are partially correct in that this information is used to set tag quotas. California’s deer populations are stable, but given the high demand for tags, it is highly likely we will see more zones go to draws in the future. There is no system we could design and implement that will allow deer hunters to get any tag they want, whenever they want.

Here’s one example of how the harvest report system could help deer hunters: calculations of the hunter success ratios that so many hunters seem to use to make their hunt selections. Many hunters get tags they don’t use, but we used to include those hunters in the success calculations. This reporting system gives us a handle on that so we can provide tighter, better information than we ever have before.

Two anglers sharing one rod?
Question: If there are two guys with fishing licenses and they are fishing from shore, is it legal for them to share one fishing pole between them? If so, can both anglers continue fishing until they both get their limits of fish? (Kong C.)

Answer: This would be legal, but CDFW recommends that each angler have their own bags or stringers for the fish they catch in order to keep them separate. It is not legal for one person to catch their limit and then to continue fishing to help their friend get their limit. If each person keeps their own fish separate, there will be no confusion if asked by a warden to display the fish they’ve caught.

Eotech or red dot sights?
Question: Can I legally hunt deer in California with my Eotech Holographic sight on a rifle? Since it has a lighted dot but does not project a visible light outside of the viewfinder, I assume it would be legal but want to be sure. (Ken M., Redding)

Answer: As long as the sight does not emit a directional beam of light, then it may be used (Fish and Game Code, section 2005). The problem comes when a light is emitted out away from the rifle or bow sight to give the hunter what some would consider an unfair advantage over the game. A light might also substantially contribute to hunting before or after legal hours.

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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.

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 CalOutdoors@wildlife.ca.gov.

Hunting Big Game using Cell Phones and Radios?

Hunting while using the assistance of cell phones and radios is legal in California but many don't consider it ethical (USFWS photo)

Hunting while using the assistance of cell phones and radios is legal in California but many don’t consider it ethical (USFWS photo)

Question: Is it legal while hunting big game to have a spotter guide a hunter to the animals using cell phones or radios? (Frank H.)

Answer: While it’s illegal in some states, it’s not in California. In states where it is banned, it is because they believe using radios and/or cell phones while big game hunting is not an ethical method of stalking and hunting wildlife. Currently, California has no such law and so radios and cell phones are legal.

Black Cod – Sable
Question: We occasionally venture offshore for albacore later in the season and are wondering if it is legal to sportfish for black cod or sablefish in deep water. We are talking about 800 feet or deeper waters using deep drop gear. We see commercial fisherman out there long lining for these fish. (Peter C.)

Answer: What you describe is not legal. There are six Recreational Groundfish Management Areas along the coast of California (see page 9 of the 2015-2016 Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet). Depending on the management area, the depths range from approximately 120 feet to 300 feet. The only allowance for a recreational boat to possess groundfish, including sablefish/black cod, in areas deeper than allowed or closed to the take of groundfish, is when that boat is in transit with no fishing gear in the water (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 27.20(b)). There are a few species exceptions, like Pacific sanddabs, which is why the angler must carefully read the section pertaining to the management area where he/she will be fishing.

Slingbow modification
Question: I have a few questions regarding using slingbows in my area and possible changes to my method. I want to get into slingbow fishing since spearfishing in freshwater is illegal in my area (San Luis Obispo County). Is it legal here in this county? And if so, is it restricted to above the water’s surface or can I shoot fish underwater using snorkel and mask?

Second question … If it is legal to use a crossbow underwater, instead of using arrows, would it be legal to shoot carp with a Hawaiian sling shaft from a slingbow if it’s attached to a line or reel? If not, is it restricted to arrow use only? (Anonymous)

Answer: Using a slingbow or crossbow underwater would constitute spearfishing and would not be legal as spearfishing is defined as “the taking of fish by spear or hand by persons who are in the water and may be using underwater goggles, face plates, breathing tubes, SCUBA or other artificial underwater breathing device” (CCR Title 14, section 1.76).

A slingbow would only be legal as bow and arrow fishing tackle if the arrow is attached to the slingbow by a line or attached fishing reel (CCR Title 14, section 1.23). But, in San Luis Obispo County, all public lakes have ordinances prohibiting possession of bow and arrow fishing tackle on or along these water bodies. So a slingbow with attached line/fishing reel could only be used on private ponds or lakes and only for fish species listed under section 2.25 on page 15 of the current Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations booklet.

How to stop neighbors from leaving food and water for wildlife?
Question: What can be done legally to stop my neighbors from leaving food and water outside for animals? Raccoons and rats have invaded our homes and yards and are leaving unhealthy feces behind, tearing the fabric on our patio furniture and causing other problems. How can we get them to stop? (Sally S.)

Answer: Many people think they are helping wild animals when they provide food and water for them. However, all they are doing is luring the animals into conflicts with people living in the area. CDFW provides information about the inadvertent negative results on our website (search for “feeding wildlife”). You could start by educating your neighbor about the harm they are doing by providing them some of the information, and then hope that their heart is in the right place and they will stop. If the actions continue, some cities have passed local ordinances that make it illegal to feed wildlife, and CCR Title 14, section 251.1 makes it unlawful to harass wildlife (causing them to alter their normal behavior), which can include feeding them. Hopefully, educating your neighbors will preclude having to get law enforcement personnel involved.

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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.