Tag Archives: clams

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.

Learning to Hunt at any Age

Used by permission of Kalkomey Enterprises

You can learn to hunt at any age and the best place to start is with a hunter education course through CDFW (Photo courtesy of Kalkomey Enterprises)

Question: Most hunters that I know learned in their youth. I am an adult male who has never hunted but would like to learn. Are there classes or programs for adult males to learn? If so, can you please give me some information as to how an old guy like me can get started hunting? (Edward H.)

Answer: Yes, and an excellent first step is to take a hunter education course. This course is required to get a hunting license in California and provides good entry level instruction about firearms safety, first aid, wildlife management, etc. For more information and to find an upcoming class in your area, please go to: http://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Hunter-Education.

After you’ve taken the entry level hunter education class, you might consider taking some of the Advanced Hunter Education classes offered by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) throughout the state. These include wild pig seminars, waterfowl seminars, wild turkey seminars, etc. and can be found on the CDFW website at http://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Hunter-Education/Advanced.

I also encourage you to check around for local sportsmen’s clubs in your area. Most communities have them and many are associated with a gun range. This would be another location to learn a great deal about firearms and to discuss hunting with experienced people.

And finally, there are lots of books and magazines available that provide many resources about hunting, and the Internet is also full of information that may help (e.g. http://www.nssf.com/hunting/getstarted/). Just remember, you’re never too old to learn how to hunt and there are lots of resources available to help you. Good luck!


When is the best time to go clamming?
Question: When is the best season to enjoy clamming? (Julie S.)

Answer: There really is no best season for clamming. Generally, any really low tide during daytime hours with minimal surf and decent weather is a good time. There are specific seasons for taking of Pismo clams and razor clams in specific areas, so please check the regulations before venturing out for these clams.

The hours of take for clams are one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset. No instruments capable of taking clams (shovels, hoes, rakes, etc.) may be possessed on the beach during closed hours. It may be safer to go clamming from November through April, as biotoxins may be concentrated in filter-feeding bivalves (such as mussels and clams) from May through October especially. For more information about biotoxins, please visit the California Department of Public Health website at http://www.cdph.ca.gov/healthinfo/environhealth/water/pages/shellfish.aspx.


Collection of antler sheds and winter kill skulls?
Question: Is it legal to keep deer and elk antler sheds? How about deer, elk and big horn sheep skulls from winter kills? I have seen people collecting them but I wasn’t sure if it was ok to do. (Pamela Sue)

Answer: You cannot collect big horn sheep skulls or horns at any time. The other antler sheds may not be removed from wildlife refuges or from public parks and forests. You can pick up deer and elk sheds from public lands and private property you have permission to be on and deer and elk antlers may be legally collected and sold (Fish and Game Code, section 3039). You should avoid picking up anything that is fresh but it is not illegal for someone to pick up bleached antlers. In addition, you can sell sheds that you have found but cannot sell whole antlers or antlers with heads attached (FGC, section 3039(c)).


How can a mobility impaired angler obtain a fishing license?
Question: I am disabled and confined to a wheelchair and am trying to obtain a general sport fishing license. The rules seem to require someone in my position to go to a license sales office, which would be difficult as I live in San Francisco. (Blaine J.)

Answer: You can complete the Free Sport Fishing License Application (which requires a physician’s signature) found online at http://www.wildlife.ca.gov/licensing/fishing and return the form with a copy of your identification (DMV ID, passport or birth certificate) to any CDFW license sales office listed on the back of the form. The office will then enter your information into the system and mail you back a license. You also may renew your license at any CDFW license agent, CDFW license sales office or online.

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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.

No digging in the mud without a fishing license

Clamming along California's beaches is a popular sport for all ages. All it takes is a shovel, bucket, measuring gauge and valid fishing license! (Dave Ono DFG file photo)

Question:I can’t purchase a fishing license this year due to a citation I received last year while helping my friend take his abalone. The penalty was a one-year fishing prohibition, which I deeply regret.

I have now been invited to join some friends who will be clamming next weekend and I would like to know where my limit is. This may sound like I am pushing my limitation, but I would like to know before I get into more trouble. Obviously, I am not planning to take any clams that my friends catch, but I would like to join them while they are digging for clams.

Is digging mud considered fishing while only my friends who have licenses take clams that they find? I personally love nature, so I hope you can help me. As I mentioned, my goal is not taking clams, but joining with my friends in this fun event. (Jerry)

Answer: Sorry, Jerry. California Fish and Game law prohibits taking clams without a valid fishing license in your possession. Fish and Game laws also define taking clams to include any activity that can be considered to hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill or attempt to hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill any clam.

According to retired DFG Captain Phil Nelms, these laws mean that if you are digging in mud and you do not have a valid license, you may be arrested. You may also be arrested if you are in the mud and are with people who are taking clams even if you are not digging. It would be best to just watch your friends from a distance as they enjoy their clamming experience.


Buying abalone shells at a farmer’s market in Nevada
Question: While wandering through a fair in Nevada last week I found a vendor selling seafood and abalone shells, and the shells still had the sport tags attached. I know that in California there is a law that makes selling abalone shells illegal, but do California laws hold up in another state? Is it legal to sell abalone shells in another state even though they were taken by someone with a California sport fishing license? (Paul R., Carmel)

Answer: Abalone and their shells taken under the authority of a sport fishing license may never be bought, sold, bartered or traded. Although California laws only apply when in California, transporting abalone (including the shells) and any other fish taken in California under the authority of a recreational fishing license across state lines for the purpose of sale is a violation of federal law. This federal law, the Lacey Act, can be enforced by any state wildlife officer who has been deputized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and most California game wardens are deputized.

The Lacey Act (U.S. Code Title 16, Chapter 53, Sections 3371-3378), passed by Congress in 1900, was the first federal law to address wildlife protection nationwide. It is a federal wildlife protection law that makes it unlawful to import, export, transport, sell, buy, or possess fish, wildlife, or plants taken, possessed, transported, or sold in violation of any federal, state, foreign, or Native American tribal law, treaty, or regulation. This law allows the federal government to help states, tribes, and countries around the world to safeguard their wildlife resources. In its original version, the Lacey Act supported efforts by the states to protect their game animals and birds. It prohibited the interstate shipment of wildlife killed in violation of state or territorial law.

Those who knowingly violate the Lacey Act face maximum penalties of up to five years in prison and fines as high as $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for organizations. Civil penalties may run as high as $10,000. Those convicted of felony offenses under the Lacey Act may be required to forfeit vehicles, aircraft, vessels, or other equipment used to commit the crime in addition to any fish, wildlife, or plants involved.


Can I carry a pistol for protection during archery only season?
Question: If I want to hunt deer and bear in the D-6 zone during archery season in August, would it be legal to carry a pistol for self-defense protection only? I do not feel like getting killed by a mad bear with an arrow in it that’s charging me. I want to be legal but also don’t want to get killed by a bear just because the lawmakers don’t trust me or the hunters of California to use a pistol only in self-defense. (Scott S.)

Answer: Hunters are prohibited from carrying a firearm while hunting during an Archery Only season or under the authority of an Archery Only tag. Fish and Game Commission regulations are very clear on this issue.

Section 354(h): Except as provided in subsection 353(g), archers may not possess a firearm while hunting in the field during any archery season, or while hunting during a general season under the provisions of an archery only tag.

The exception in 353(g) applies to hunting under a muzzle-loading rifle/archery tag.

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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.