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.