Tag Archives: crab fishing

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.

Properly Catching and Releasing Fish while Taking Photos?

(CDFW file photo by Roger Bloom, Heritage and Wild Trout Program)

Question: My friends and I are all fly fishermen who promote catch and release fishing rather than taking fish for consumption. Many other fishermen, fishing guides and lodges, as well as most fly fishing magazines also claim to share this philosophy but then publish untold numbers of photos of people holding the fish they’ve caught. Typically these photos reveal the fish being held for quite a few seconds out of water, and clearly their slime barrier is being broken by the clutching hands. I wonder how many fish handled in this way ultimately die from the stress of being caught, held out of water and having their protective coating compromised. While growing up, I was taught if you break the slime barrier, the fish will likely die. Is this true? Moreover, most anglers I know count successful days of fishing as catching (and releasing) as many fish as possible. If you consider the increased probability of a fish dying from being caught and held, multiplied by the number of fish caught, there could be a lot of mortality which goes directly against the point of catch and release. Can you please provide some information on this issue? (David W.)

Answer: While many photo layouts suggest prolonged time out of water, it can obviously vary greatly. According to Senior Environmental Scientist Jeff Weaver, a good rule of thumb is to hold your breath when you lift the fish and get it back into the water before you run out of breath. Wetting hands before handling fish is probably the most effective method to minimize damage to the slime coating. Handling fish with dry hands generally removes at least some areas of this protective barrier, subjecting the fish to increased risk of fungal or other infection (though not necessarily mortality). If extra time is needed to set up the photo or make adjustments to correct for lighting problems, etc. the fish should be retained under water in a net for as much time as possible.

Steelhead (Photo by Ken Oda)

There are four important practices that will help reduce mortality: 1) keep most of the body of the fish in the water while photographing it, particularly the opercula and gills so they remain oxygenated, 2) always hold the fish with wet hands underneath the pectoral fins (near the head) and at the caudal peduncle (narrow part just forward of the caudal or tail fin) to avoid injury to the vital organs in the belly, and 3) assuming you have a fishing partner that will serve as photographer, have them get the camera settings ready and set up the frame of the picture while the fish is retained underwater in a net. Quickly remove the fish from the water for a picture and return it to the net to rest and respirate for some time, then lift it again for another shot (only if necessary to get a good photo), and 4) always recover the fish before releasing it to the point that it can swim of its own accord and remain upright. If necessary, hold the fish with the mouth facing upstream in an area with adequate flow to ensure thorough oxygenation of the gills.

When transporting turkeys home, which parts are required for ID?
Question: What portions of a turkey is a hunter required to retain for identification purposes? I’m not sure that “plucking a turkey in the field but leaving the beard attached” is sufficient to stay legal when transporting. While keeping the beard would certainly help identify, I believe a fully feathered head or wing is the actual requirement. In fact, if a hunter chooses to pluck both wings and leave the “fully feathered head” attached, would that be enough proof for identification purposes? Please advise. (Blake D.)

Answer: Hunters are not required to retain the turkey’s beard. However, “all birds, including migratory game birds, possessed or transported within California must have a fully feathered wing or head attached until placed into a personal abode or commercial preservation facility or when being prepared for immediate consumption” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 251.7).

Since the law only authorizes the take of bearded turkeys during the spring season, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recommends leaving the beard attached during the spring season (CCR Title 14, section 300).

How to properly preserve and transport Pacific halibut?
Question: I’m planning some trips this year to fish for Pacific Halibut. If we should happen to catch one of any size, what is the legal way to transport a fish if it won’t fit in a cooler? Could it be filleted, and if so, when could that be done? I’m very particular about preserving fresh fish properly as soon as it’s caught. (Ross B.)

Answer: You may not fillet your Pacific Halibut when on your boat or before you land the fish (Fish and Game Code sections 5508-5509). Once ashore, there are no restrictions on filleting your fish into the size and conformity you want.

Video recording crab traps?
Question: Are there any regulations or restrictions regarding using video cameras (GoPros) on crab traps or lobster hoop nets? (Josh F.)

Answer: No, there are no fishing regulations that prohibit use of a video camera while fishing.

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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.

Turkey Hunting with Lead or Nonlead Shot?

Nonlead shot is now required when turkey hunting in California (Photo courtesy of the National Shooting Sports Foundation)

Question: Do I have to use nonlead shot when turkey hunting with a shotgun this spring? (Joe N., Sacramento)

Answer: Yes. Nonlead ammunition is now required statewide when hunting wild turkeys with a shotgun. This applies to both public and private lands (except for licensed game bird clubs), including all national forests, Bureau of Land Management properties and California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) lands. Private landowners or anyone authorized to hunt on private land must also comply with these regulations.

Moving crab pots that have become navigational hazards?
Question: Can I pick up and remove a crab pot that is a navigational hazard and/or has significant line floating on the surface? (Daniel)

Answer: No, it is unlawful to “disturb, move or damage any trap that belongs to another person that is marked with a buoy identification number or unless the person has written permission in possession from the owner of the trap” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.80(a)(3) and Fish and Game Code, section 9002).

Instead, you are encouraged to report any crab pot creating a hazard to CDFW or the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard has the authority to remove traps that are in violation of rule 9, which prohibits fishing that impedes the passage of a vessel that can only operate safely in a narrow channel or fairway. These are specifically designated by the sector of the coast guard that operates in that area.

Shooting too close to neighbors’ houses with permission?
Question: My neighbors and I each live on five-acre lots in Calaveras County that back up to open land with no buildings or dwellings. We all like to hunt and have dove and quail on the back sides of our properties that run in conjunction with each other. I noticed that our houses are between 100-140 yards from the area where we like to shoot which is facing away from our homes. We all allow each other to shoot with no problems, but based on of the language of Fish and Game Code, section 3004 it says we should be at least 150 yards away from our homes. Since we are all in agreement regarding shooting from this area, does this regulation make it illegal? (Brendon G.)

Answer: This regulation reads, “It is unlawful for a person, other than the owner, person in possession of the premises, or a person having the express permission of the owner or person in possession of the premises, while within 150 yards of an occupied dwelling house, residence or other building, or within 150 yards of a barn or other outbuilding used in connection with an occupied dwelling house, residence or other building, to either hunt or discharge a firearm or other deadly weapon while hunting” (FGC, section 3004). It appears you would not violate these provisions but you should also contact your local Sheriff’s Department to see if there are any local laws that may apply to your location.

Ocean finfish landing net size requirement?
Question: I understand that the following regulation applies to ocean-going kayaks. It says, “No person shall take finfish from any boat or other floating device in ocean waters without having a landing net in possession or available for immediate use to assist in landing undersize fish of species having minimum size limits; the opening of any such landing net shall be not less than eighteen inches in diameter” (CCR Title 14, section 28.65(d)).

My question has to do with how the diameter is measured on a net that isn’t round. Many nets that are aimed at small craft use are not round and meet the opening size in one direction, for example, 18 inches x 14 inches. Is that legally sufficient or must the minimum diameter at any point be no less than 18 inches? That would push the net size up considerably, and given the limited utility of a net (or a gaff for that matter) from a near-water craft like a kayak or float tube, I’d prefer to carry as little as possible. (Ariel C.)

Answer: The net need not feature a circular opening despite its reference to “diameter,” but the net must be a minimum of 18 inches at its narrowest part. Good luck and tight lines!

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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.

California Camp Meat Act?

(Photo from Creative Commons)

Question: I wonder if you could settle the subject of a discussion. Recently, I mentioned in camp that it was legal in California to kill “camp meat” under certain prescribed rules. For instance, if there were 10 men in camp for 11 days or more (perhaps 11 men, 10 days), then they could kill any one deer for “camp meat.” Such meat must be prepared and consumed in camp and no meat could be removed from the camp’s vicinity. All of my friends flatly stated no such law existed, or ever had.

I am almost certain that such a law was in effect up until at least the 1970s, dating back to the late 1800s. Could you tell me the current standing of said act, correct wording, whether or not it is still in effect, or when rescinded, if it ever was? (Tom W., SoCal)

Answer: We checked Fish and Game Code books from the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, and they all require a tag when taking deer in California. We couldn’t find any reference to “camp meat” or the ability to kill deer strictly for camp meat purposes. In California, at least, we believe this law never existed.

Lobster limits with a multi-day permit?
Question: What’s the total number of lobsters a recreational fisherman is allowed to possess? A friend contends that with a three-day multi-day permit purchased from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) that the limit is 21 lobsters (three days times seven lobsters). My understanding from reading the regs is that it is never to exceed seven legal-sized lobsters. If so, why do they sell a multi-day permit? (Bill P.)

Answer: Multi-day permits may be issued to fishermen who will be away from the mainland continuously for three or more consecutive days, including a minimum period of 12 hours or more at sea on the first and last days of the trip (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 27.15). In addition, the permit prohibits berthing or docking within five miles of the mainland shore. The usual lobster bag limit is seven lobsters per person unless the person has secured a multi-day permit prior to their trip. Daily bag limits always apply for these trips. With this permit, if the person is away from the mainland at sea for at least three days, they can take and keep up to three days of lobster bag limits (3 x 7 = 21) like your friend said. The person may then retain those 21 lobsters in their possession but should keep the approved permit with those lobsters until at least two of the bag limits (14) are consumed or gifted.

Why fish Dungeness crabs at 200 feet?
Question: Why in Monterey Bay must we set pots at 200 feet or deeper to catch crab? (Rick B.)

Answer: There are no regulations requiring you to fish your pots at a certain depth, you’ll just need to figure out what that best depth is. Adult, legal-size Dungeness crabs are often found in deeper water. You should check with other crabbers to see what depths they are finding success in. It changes all the time. I just spoke to a commercial crabber this weekend and he’s fishing his traps from 150 to 500 feet.

Live marine rocks for home aquarium?
Question: Is it legal to take any marine life or rocks from the California coastline for use in an in-home aquarium? (James H.)

Answer: Finfish may not be transported alive from the water where taken, except under the authority of a scientific collecting permit or a marine aquaria collector’s permit. The removal of “live rocks” (rocks with living marine organisms attached) is also prohibited in many areas, including federal marine sanctuaries, state marine protected areas and state parks. Also, only the following tidal invertebrates may be taken in any tidepool, where not otherwise prohibited: red abalone, limpets, moon snails, turban snails, chiones, clams, cockles, mussels, rock scallops, native oysters, octopuses, squid, crabs, lobsters, shrimp, sand dollars, sea urchins and worms (except that no worms may be taken in any mussel bed). All legal size limits and possession limits must be followed and a fishing license must be in possession in order to take. All other tidal invertebrates may only be taken outside 1,000 feet seaward from the high tide mark.

Please note that most of the smaller rocks exposed and surrounded by water above mean high tide are within the California Coastal National Monument – where all objects, including rocks, are protected and it is prohibited to collect or remove them or organisms on 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.

Cow Decoy for Big Game and Turkey Hunting?


(Photo courtesy of Ultimate Predator Gear)

Question: There is a manufacturer of decoys that attach to the front of a bow gun for hunting big game and turkeys. They are similar to the Montana style decoys but with a frontal profile blocking the hunter’s profile wcow-decoy2hile he aims and shoots through the large center hole. The decoys come in the frontal shape of a bovine cow, a turkey, a cow elk, a mule deer and others. Can I use the bovine cow decoy while bow hunting big game such as deer and wild pigs in California? I have heard of great success with this decoy in other states. Also, can the same decoy be used for turkeys? The cow decoy seems to be a much safer alternative for the hunter to avoid being mistaken for game. (Leo H.)

Answer: There are no regulations regarding the use of decoys for big game hunting. However, it is “unlawful to use any mammal (except a dog) or an imitation of a mammal as a blind in approaching or taking game birds” (Fish and Game Code, section 3502).

Stopping crab trap raiders and thieves?
Question: What, if anything, can a recreational crabber do to detect, prevent and/or suppress others from raiding and stealing their crabs during crab season? Not only have I had crabs and crab nets stolen (Bodega Bay area), but thieves have gone so far as to replace a catch with things like rocks and beer bottles? Realizing some of my traps may be unintentionally (some possibly intentionally) cut by vessels traveling at sea, is there anything else one can do? Even with my GO ID number properly marked, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) wardens are hard-pressed to enforce applicable laws. I’m thinking of developing an alarm of some sort via microchip to detect changes in depth after they’re set. Do you have any other ideas? (Derek B.)

Answer: Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot we can do in this situation. If you are using hoop nets, they must be checked every two hours or less. So crabbing should be a closely monitored activity, which should help alleviate this problem. You may also want to talk with other crabbers and make arrangements to keep an eye on each other’s traps while out on the water. Otherwise, set your traps when you are planning to be on the water and then fish for other species while your traps are soaking.

Is shooting biodegradable clays still littering?
Question: In a recent column you addressed a question of shooting clay birds being thrown into the ocean. Not sure I like that idea, but that isn’t the issue I have. ALL clay birds today are made of non-toxic, biodegradable material. I love shooting clays and get tired of people who don’t shoot assuming I am “littering” the landscape. Can you please let the public know there is nothing to worry about when it comes to clay birds sold in the stores today? (Linda K.)

Answer: Target shooting and shooting clay pigeons are some of my favorite pastimes. While the clays are supposed to be biodegradable, they break down at different rates depending on the brand. I think the issue is more one of people leaving all of the discards in the fields or areas where they have been used. I think the real issue is even though they may break down eventually, they will still litter the landscape and be viewed as litter when left in public areas. If you’re shooting these on your own property or at a designated shooting range, it’s your choice to leave them where they fall. However, for me, we do much of our shooting on my brother’s property, and although the land is not open to the public, we still pick up everything that we can easily find afterward as a common courtesy, especially since they are all easily seen due to their bright white, orange and lime green colors. Same thing goes for spent shotgun shells. Those don’t break down and will be visible for a long time if left behind.

Maximum lobster hoops?
Question: I know the maximum number of hoop nets that can be fished from a boat is 10. We take a couple of multi-day trips every year and invariably lose one or two during the trip. Can we carry a couple of spares on the boat to replace any we lose? (Larry H.)

Answer: No, unfortunately, you may not. No more than five hoop nets may be possessed or used by a person, not to exceed a total of 10 hoop nets possessed per vessel (CCR Title14, section 29.80(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.

Catching Crabs with a Chicken Leg?

Dungeness crabs (ODFW photo)

Dungeness crabs (ODFW photo)

Question: California regulations stipulate that taking crustaceans by “hook and line” is not a legal method of take. So what about a baited line with no hook (e.g. a chicken leg) with a hand line tied to it? As long as I use my hands to take the crab and not a net, is a baited line allowed to lure the crab within reach? (Patrick M.)

Answer: Ocean sport fishing regulations specify what gear may be used to take saltwater crustaceans, and any “nets, traps or other appliances” not specified in the following section are prohibited methods of take (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.80(a)(2)). A baited line without a hook is not a legal method of take, but here’s an idea … you could tie a chicken leg to a loop trap, or make the chicken leg into a loop trap by attaching up to six loops (slip knots) to the bait, and snare a crab this way. This method of a line attached to a chicken leg would be legal to use! Loop traps may not be used south of Point Arguello (CCR Title 14, section 29.80(e)).

Looking for sustainable and ethical wild game for restaurant
Question: I am a chef and we will open a new, very small, specialized Japanese restaurant in Los Angeles. I am looking for sustainable and ethical wild game. Could you please help me find a hunter that deals with restaurants like ours? (Ni L.)

Answer: It is illegal for anyone to buy, sell or trade any sport-taken wild game meat in California. There are businesses that import “exotic” meats, and they are inspected and regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). According to the USDA, “Game meats that do not have a mark of inspection cannot be sold. This is the case for game meat harvested by a recreational hunter. The inspection and processing requirements will not be met and thus the meat cannot be sold.”

Lifetime licenses for a 3-year-old
Question: I just purchased a lifetime fishing license for my 3-year-old son and would like to purchase his lifetime hunting license as well. Do I have to wait until he is old enough to take and pass his hunters safety class first? (Anxious dad)

Answer: Great question! You will be able to purchase the lifetime hunting license now to lock in the price but he will not be able to use it until he completes his hunter safety class. Once you buy the license, our License and Revenue Branch will send you confirmation of your purchase. After your son takes the class (usually at nine years or older) and gives us the certificate showing that he has passed his test, like magic, his profile will show that he has an active lifetime hunting license and he will be able to use it.

Likewise, his lifetime fishing license may not show up in his profile until he turns 16 (when he will need to have a fishing license to fish). If you bought one of the add-on packages that include fishing report cards, he will have access to those before his 16th birthday because the report cards are necessary for anglers of all ages.

Good luck and I hope you have many happy years of hunting and fishing with your son!

Catching bait from the piers and bays
Question: What are the legal methods allowed for catching live bait? I have used sabiki type rigs when fishing for mackerels and sardines, but recently I’ve started fishing the bays. Is it legal to use homemade minnow traps in the bays (e.g. Mission Bay and San Diego Bay) to catch smelts to use for bait, or can I only use those bait nets available at local sport fishing retailers for catching bait fish? I am hoping to catch baits south of Point Conception. (Charles P.)

Answer: Baited traps are not authorized for the take of bait fish south of Point Conception. The only authorized methods of take for bait fish are using dip nets, baited hoop nets not greater than 36 inches in diameter, by hook and line or by hand. “Dip nets of any size and baited hoop nets not greater than 36 inches in diameter may be used to take herring, Pacific staghorn sculpin, shiner surfperch, surf smelt, topsmelt, anchovies, shrimp and squid. Hawaiian-type throw nets may be used north of Point Conception to take such species” (CCR Title 14, section 28.80). When taking other species of bait fish, your hand-held dip net must be not more than six feet in greatest diameter, excluding the handle (CCR Title 14, section 1.42).

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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.

When to Use a Crossbow?

Crossbows are normally not considered legal "archery" equipment for taking game birds and game mammals during archery-only season. However, there is an exception for those who hold a Disabled Archer Permit. (Photo courtesy of Parker Bows)

Crossbows are not considered legal “archery” equipment and cannot be used during the archery-only seasons for game birds and mammals unless the hunter possesses a valid disabled archer permit. Crossbows can be used during the open seasons for wild turkey hunting (Photo courtesy of Parker Bows)

Question: With turkey season coming up soon and deer season right around the corner, can you please clarify when crossbows may be used for hunting big game and turkeys in California? As I understand it, you can use a crossbow instead of a rifle during rifle season. Is this correct? Can we use crossbows for taking wild turkeys? (Jesse J.)

Answer: It is important to understand that a crossbow is not considered archery equipment. Crossbows cannot be used during the archery seasons for game mammals or game birds unless the hunter possesses a valid disabled archer permit.

Crossbows may be used during the general seasons for deer, pig and game birds. For big game, hunters must use a broad head which will not pass through a hole seven-eighths of an inch in diameter (California Code of Regulation Title 14, section 354)). For wild turkeys, any arrow or crossbow bolt may be used except as prohibited by CCR Title 14, section 354(d) – which addresses explosive or tranquilizing arrowheads.

For additional information regarding archery equipment and crossbow regulations, please check the California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 354. Good luck!

Revamping crab traps with five inch minimum openings?
Question: I have a question on the Dungeness crab regulations. There’s a new requirement this season that crab traps must have a destruct device with an unobstructed opening that is at least five inches in diameter. The regulations also describe ways to meet the requirement using cotton twine with rubber straps. I don’t keep my crab traps more than a few hours in the water. My existing crab traps already have two circular openings that are 4.5 inches in diameter.

Can I simply add one more circular metal/plastic ring, with inside diameter more than five inches, on the top of the crab trap and NOT use the cotton twine method? Basically, I will have a five-inch opening at all times, regardless of whether I lose my gear (crab trap) or not. (Chin D.)

Answer: “Starting Aug. 1, 2016, crab traps shall contain at least one destruct device of a single strand of untreated cotton twine size No. 120 or less that creates an unobstructed escape opening in the top or upper half of the trap of at least five inches in diameter when the destruct attachment material corrodes or fails” (CCR Title 14, section 29.80(c)(2)).

An opening over five inches would satisfy this requirement as long as the permanent opening in the trap is in the upper half of the trap and it provides the same or greater escape dimensions that would be created when or if a self-destruct cotton failed. A trap set with the destruct material in the failed state (i.e. with no destruct material), would satisfy this requirement.

Shooting gophers and ground squirrels on private land?
Question: Do I need a hunting license to shoot gophers and ground squirrels on private land? (Anonymous)

Answer: Yes, if you are taking them for recreational purposes. Gophers and ground squirrels are nongame mammals and may be taken by licensed hunters. However, gophers and ground squirrels that are damaging growing crops or other property may be taken without a hunting license “by the owner or tenant of the premises or employees and agents in immediate possession of written permission from the owner or tenant thereof” (Fish and Game Code, section 4152).

Collecting natural sea water for aquarium?
Question: I have a big saltwater reef aquarium in my home and would like to collect natural sea water for it. What is allowed with regard to collecting natural sea water to use in home aquariums? I live just outside the Sacramento area and am willing to drive north or south but before setting out, I want to know what the rules are or what laws must be followed. Are there any limits on where or how much I can collect? I scuba dive around Monterey a lot and know that most areas are protected and/or are designated reserves, so figured I should ask.

I apologize for the odd question. I’m just hoping to conserve freshwater by using natural saltwater, if it’s possible and makes sense. Initially, I’d like to collect around 300 gallons. Are there are any laws or restrictions that I should be aware of? (Scott F.)

Answer: No, only that collection of seawater is not prohibited as long as you do so outside of marine protected areas. For information and maps of all of the marine protected areas in the state, please check out the CDFW 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.