Tag Archives: bowfishing

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.

Bowfishing for Carp – Hunting or Fishing?

Bowfishing (photo courtesy of Indian Head Ranch www.indianheadranch.com)

Bowfishing requires a fishing license and the arrow must be attached by a line to the bow or to a fishing reel (photo courtesy of Indian Head Ranch http://www.indianheadranch.com)

Question: If I want to shoot carp with a bow, do I need a hunting license or a fishing license? Are there any regulations regarding seasons, bodies of water, or specific tackle or gear that I should plan to use? (Vern D., Stockton)

Answer: While the practice of bowfishing for carp may seem like a combination of hunting and fishing, it is considered fishing and thus you are required to have a fishing license to do so. Sport fishing regulations permit bow and arrow fishing for the following nongame species only: carp, goldfish, western sucker, Sacramento blackfish, hardhead, Sacramento pikeminnow and lamprey (for specific areas and exceptions, see California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 2.25 on page 15 of the sport fishing regulations booklet).

Even though California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) law might allow for bow and arrow fishing in your local area, some lakes and waterways prohibit the possession of bow and arrow equipment. You will need to check with the jurisdiction that runs the body of water (e.g. State Parks, Regional Parks, local county parks, etc.)

When bow and arrow fishing, make sure the tackle has the arrow shaft, the point or both attached by a line to the bow or to a fishing reel. This rule also applies to crossbows (CCR Title 14, section 1.23).


Shooting at varmints from a car roof top?
Question: I know it’s illegal to shoot from your car, but is it legal to park and shoot from the roof of your car for varmints? Thanks. (Harry N.)

Answer: It is always illegal to shoot at a bird or mammal from a car, including from the roof top. The law prohibits possessing a loaded rifle or shotgun in any vehicle which is standing on or along or is being driven on or along any public highway or other way open to the public (Fish and Game Code, section 2006). Loaded guns may be possessed in or on a car only while on private property; however, the law does not allow you to take any bird or mammal from a motor vehicle (CCR Title14, section 251). Remember, the definition of “take” includes any attempt to take, such as shooting at the bird or mammal. Therefore, the only shooting allowed would be target shooting


Fishing for halibut with grunion?
Question: I know that under current regulations grunion can only be caught by hand, I also know that when the grunion come inshore to spawn, the halibut frequently follow along for a feast, and it is a good time to target the flatties. So I am wondering, is it legal for me to take grunion by the legal method (by hand) and then retain them live in a bait bucket to use as live bait for fishing for halibut? Or even more directly, may I take the grunion in legal fashion and hook one up to fish the surf for halibut and other species with rod and reel while the grunion run is in progress? (Martin F.)

Answer: Yes. Grunion may be taken June 1 through March 31 and there is no bag limit. Grunion may be taken by hook and line or by hands. No appliances of any kind may be used on the beach to take them, and no holes may be dug in the sand to entrap them (CCR Title 14, section 29.00). When catching grunion on the beach, we recommend that you wait until after they have spawned and are returning to the ocean to take them.


Can my son carry a BB gun when he comes hunting with me?
Question: When go out hunting I normally take my nine-year-old son. Can my son carry a BB gun legally with him? He will not be using the BB gun to shoot at any wildlife. It mainly gives him that feeling that he is part of the hunting party. Any information you can provide is greatly appreciated. (Jose R. via e-mail)

Answer: I applaud you for introducing your son to the outdoors and including him in your hunting excursions at such a young age! Unless there is a county ordinance prohibiting the discharge of a BB gun or air rifle in the area where you’re hunting, and as long as he is not shooting at wildlife, it should be fine for your son to legally carry his BB gun with you and the rest of your hunting party. Enjoy your time together!

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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.

Abalone Pearls – Can They Be Legally Bought and Sold?

An unusually large red abalone pearl taken by Peter Truong of Elk Grove, CA from Mendocino County in 2010. This pearl was certified by the Guinness Book of World Records earlier this year as the largest natural abalone pearl ever recorded! (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: I saw an abalone pearl for sale on Craig’s List. Is this legal? I always thought no part of the abalone may be bought, sold, traded or bartered when taken under a California sportfishing license. What does the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) and California law say regarding abalone pearls? My understanding is the pearl is not part of the mollusk but instead a foreign object that got stuck in the gonad or between the shell and the meat. Any help would be much appreciated. (Matt M.)

Answer: You are correct. Unless the abalone was taken by licensed California commercial divers prior to the 1997 commercial abalone fishing ban, or purchased from a commercial abalone aquaculture operation, then it is a violation to sell the shell or any other part of the abalone. It is legal to import the pearls for sale if they comply with the commercial fish laws regarding importation. Therefore, it would be incumbent for the jeweler/individual offering the pearl for sale to have documentation that they obtained the pearl legally.


Bowfishing winding reels required?
Question: I would like to try bowfishing but don’t have any equipment yet. My father heard bowfishing equipment has to have a winding reel on the bow. Is this true or can any reel work on the bow? (Sean)

Answer: Any reel will work for bowfishers. According to DFG Lt. Scott Melvin, to help ensure speared fish are retrieved, the arrow shaft or the point, or both, must be attached by a line to the bow, but the line can be attached either directly to the bow or to a fishing reel mounted on the bow (including crossbow) (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.23). While the bow is not required to have a winding reel, these two options for attaching the line may have led to your father’s confusion.

Before engaging in bowfishing, be sure you know what species you can legally bowfish for. In inland waters, only nongame fish may be taken. In saltwater, most sharks and rays and other finfish may be taken. However, no take is allowed for the following: giant (black) sea bass, garibaldi, gulf grouper, broomtail grouper, trout, salmon, striped bass, broadbill swordfish and white sharks (CCR Title 14, section 28.95). In addition, some areas do not allow for bowfishing at all because some city jurisdictions view the equipment as a deadly weapon.


Getting a resident fishing license?
Question: I have homes in both California and Arizona. My primary residence is in Arizona but I have a boat and slip in California. Can I get a resident fishing license since I have a mailing address in California and I pay utilities and property taxes in California? I only fish a couple of days a year, but those days wouldn’t be consecutive so a temporary license doesn’t make sense. (Dwain L.)

Answer: California law is clear on the definition of a “resident.” A resident is defined as any person who has resided continuously in California for six months or more immediately before the date of application for a license, or persons on active military duty with the armed forces of the United States or an auxiliary branch or Job Corps enrollees.

If you cannot count yourself a California resident by this definition, you cannot purchase a California resident license. However, holders of a resident Arizona fishing license that has a California Colorado River Use Stamp affixed to it may take fish from a boat or other floating device on the Colorado River or adjacent waters that form the California-Arizona border.


Are there three shell shotgun limits when nongame hunting?
Question: While hunting coyotes in California with a shotgun, am I limited to only three shells in my shotgun like when hunting waterfowl? (Mick M.)

Answer: No, you may take coyotes and other nongame species with a shotgun capable of holding no more than six shells total – five in the magazine and one in the chamber.

No person may possess a shotgun capable of holding more than six shells total while hunting (Fish and Game Code, section 2010). In the case of coyotes, you would be restricted to non-lead shot or slugs within the condor range. When taking any game animals, you are restricted to a three shot capacity. But for nongame species, like coyote, the three shot capacity does not apply.

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

Pucker Up for Duck Calling!

duck calling_USFWS

(Photo courtesy of USFWS)

Question: This is my first year waterfowl hunting and while I am a pretty decent shot when I can get the birds to come in, I am a terrible caller! I can’t seem to get them to respond. I’ve found some electronic callers online that look pretty good and don’t cost too much money. I’d like to try them, but since everyone I’ve hunted with this year uses only the traditional calls, I wonder if these electronic calls are just new or if they might not be legal to use. What’s the answer? (Jake P.)

Answer: I’m afraid you’re going to have to just pucker up and keep practicing with the regular old duck calls found in most sporting goods stores. Electronic or mechanically operated calling or sound reproducing devices are prohibited when taking migratory game birds (CCR, Title 14, Section 507[c]).

To improve your technique, you might want to check out the many demo videos or “how to” techniques published online. The Ducks Unlimited Web site, for example, is loaded with lots of tips, videos and suggestions. Also, watch for duck calling seminars coming up in your area, such as through Wilderness Unlimited, California Waterfowl or other hunt clubs and sporting goods stores.


Best time for photographing big bucks?
Question: I would like to photograph big bucks and know the best times would be during the rut periods. Can you tell me when the rut starts and stops in zones D-3 through D-5? (Bob W.)

Answer: According to deer program manager Craig Stowers, in that area, rut (peak breeding period) will begin the first part of November, peak in late November/early December and finish at the end of December. The best time to photograph big bucks will probably be sometime around Thanksgiving.


Legal to bowfish for Humboldt squid?
Question: Is it legal to go bowfishing for Humboldt squid? (Brent D.)

Answer: No. Aside from the fact that Humboldt squid are rarely seen swimming around on the surface (they occur as deep as 1,500 feet), ocean fishing regulations only allow for spears, harpoons and bow and arrow fishing tackle to be used for the take of some species of fin fish (CCR Title 14 Section 28.95). The regulations do not allow for the take of invertebrates by bowfishing.


Disposing of large game carcasses?
Question: What is the legal or proper way to dispose of a large game animal such as bear, deer or elk after the harvest? I have heard it is illegal to dump the remains out in the woods and even illegal to bury the remains in your backyard because of the water table. Throwing the bones in the regular trash can be a smelly problem if sitting in there for a week. I recently took a large carcass to the county rendering plant at a cost of $75 for disposal. Please help clarify any legal concerns about the proper way to dispose of an animal carcass. (Ben N.)

Answer: When it comes to any game animal or game bird, only the inedible parts not normally consumed by humans may be left in the woods (FGC Section 4304). During open season and the 15 days following, deer hunters must also retain the portion of the head that in adult males normally bears the antlers (FGC Section 4302).

The portions of the carcass that are packed out become the responsibility of the hunter to dispose of appropriately. Trash disposal restrictions and related costs are determined by individual municipalities and are not regulated by DFG. The unused portions of the carcass may not be brought back to the woods at a later date, as this could constitute illegal dumping.

Carcasses can be buried unless prohibited by local, state or federal ordinance. State Wildlife Areas prohibit depositing or burying hides on those properties (CCR, T-14 section 550[b][9][B]). There is also a law prohibiting disposals within 150 feet above the high water mark of any state water (FGC section 5652[a]). This law is also applicable on private property.


Why early season spinning blade ban?
Question: Why is there a Dec. 1 restriction on the use of spinning wing decoys for waterfowl? (Jack S.)

Answer: Studies have shown the spinning wing decoys are highly effective for attracting waterfowl (especially the young, inexperienced birds) into gun range. Early duck seasons most heavily impact locally produced ducks, and the Dec. 1 “start date” gives the migrant ducks from the north time to arrive and mingle with the local ducks before the decoys go into use. When more ducks are clustered together in the area, the hunting pressure on the locally produced ducks is reduced.

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Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game. She cannot personally answer everyones questions but will select a few to answer in this column each week. Contact her at CalOutdoors@dfg.ca.gov.