Tag Archives: crustaceans

How to Fish the Lobster Opener?

California Spiny Lobster (CDFW photo by Derek Stein)

Question: I have some questions about how to best fish the lobster opener. I know that lobster season has a new start time and opens at 6 a.m. on Sept. 30, 2017. If the hoop wet time is a maximum two hours, can I drop my hoops at 4:15 a.m. Sept. 30, 2017 and pull them after the start time of 6 a.m.? (George G.)

Answer: No. Attempting to take lobsters is considered “fishing,” so if you drop your hoop nets before the season officially opens, you will be fishing out of season. The recreational lobster season officially opens at 6 a.m. on the first day of the season. The two hour wet time just means that the net must be checked every two hours once it is legally in the water. So if you legally drop your hoop nets in the water at 6 a.m., they must be serviced by 8 a.m.!

There are also three other new regulations that will go into effect for the 2017-2018 recreational lobster fishing season:

  • Hoop net buoys south of Point Arguello (Santa Barbara County) must now be legibly marked with the operator’s GO ID number for identification and enforcement purposes. Your GO ID number can be found on your sport fishing license and your lobster report card.
  • While diving for crustaceans (including lobsters), divers may be in possession of spearfishing equipment as long as possession of this equipment is otherwise lawful and is not being used to aid in the take of crustaceans (including lobsters).
  • Measuring requirements have been clarified in order to allow for measuring lobster aboard a boat when hoop netting. The change will allow hoop netters to bring spiny lobsters aboard a vessel where they can be measured safely. All lobsters shall be measured immediately and any undersize lobster shall be released immediately into the water. Divers shall measure lobsters while in the water and shall not remove undersized lobsters from the water. Hoop netters may measure lobsters out of the water, but no undersize lobster may be placed in any type of receiver, kept on a person or retained in any person’s possession or under his or her direct control.

These new regulations can be found on pages 36-38 in the 2017-2018 California Saltwater Sport Fishing Regulations booklet available online, at CDFW offices and most tackle shops where fishing licenses are sold.

For more information on the new recreational lobster fishing regulations, please visit our website.


Mouth calls for deer
Question: I am going deer hunting with some friends next week and one of my buddies swears by using deer mouth calls to get their attention. He says they sound like the grunts of bucks during the rut. He says he also sometimes uses predator calls to pique their curiosity. Is it okay to use mouth calls for hunting deer here in California? (Richard T.)

Answer: Yes, as long as the sounds are not generated electronically or amplified.


Record fish caught from private waters
Question: How does the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) handle or verify potential record-sized fish when caught from a private lake requiring catch and release (unharmed) of that species? (Jim Stevens)

Answer: CDFW does not keep records of record fish caught from private waters. For consideration for a State Inland Waters Record, the fish must be taken from a water open to the general public for fishing, and certain verifying procedures must be followed. For more information on how to certify a possible state record fish taken by diving or fishing, please check out our Fishing and Diving Records webpage.


Carrying an additional handgun for protection
Question: I am a California police officer. I was drawn for a G1-C4 Late Season Buck tag. I also have a bear tag. I am planning on hunting with my group. As a sworn law enforcement officer, I am allowed to carry a handgun while off-duty as per my department policy and state law. Can I carry my firearm for defense while hunting? Not to be used for hunting, but in case of a bear or other animal attack. We will be hunting with rifles, but the more I read about hunting, the more I hear about the occasional bear attack. (Brian B.)

Answer: Yes, hunters can carry a handgun in addition to their rifle while hunting during a general season. That said, bear attacks are very uncommon.

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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.

Possessing Steel and Lead while Hunting Chukar and Quail?

Chukar (CDFW photo)

Question: The ban on hunting with lead ammunition is being phased in. It now includes chukar, while the use of lead will continue to be allowed for quail until the 2019 season. My question is can hunters carry both types of shells (lead and steel) in the field if they are hunting areas where they might reasonably expect to find both species, switching between one and the other depending on what birds they bump? Or must they only possess steel (or bismuth or tungsten or other certified nonlead ammunition) while hunting chukar, and then have to use that ammunition if they run into quail? (Jim M.)

Answer: No. When hunting and targeting two different species, and the possession of lead ammunition is prohibited for one of those regulated species but not the other, you are held to the confines of the most restrictive regulation. In this case, chukar fall under the regulation that says, it is “unlawful to use, or possess with any shotgun capable of firing, any projectile(s) not certified as nonlead…” (California Code of Regulations, section 250.1(d)(2)).

Thus, if you are using your trusty shotgun to hunt both quail and chukar at the same time, steel/nonlead ammo is required.


Shrimp fishing legal?
Question: I have been trying to research whether it is permissible for a recreational license holder to trap for shrimp in the ocean. Can you please help me understand if this is allowed and if there are any restrictions on type of traps, limits, etc. or any other restrictions that I should be aware of? (Kevin B., Santa Barbara)

Answer: Yes, it is legal to take any type of ocean shrimp in California waters, but spot prawns are the most desirable and sought after for eating purposes. However, because California’s spot prawns are found so deep – usually 100 fathoms (600 feet) or more – and the bag limit is only 35, most people are not interested in trapping these shrimp recreationally.

Another option is the lesser known coonstripe shrimp, also referred to as dock shrimp for their habit of sometimes living around pilings. Unlike spot prawns, coonstripe shrimp inhabit relatively shallow water and can be fished close to shore with lightweight traps. They may occur out to depths of 600 feet, but fishermen often set their traps between 70-150 feet. The sport limit is 20 pounds per day (the first 20 pounds taken, regardless of size or condition), and there is no closed season or size limit for the sport fishery. While they range from Sitka, Alaska to (at least) Point Loma in San Diego County, the highest concentrations of coonstripe are found in far northern California, near Crescent City.

Shrimp and prawn traps may be used to take shrimp and prawns only. South of Point Conception, trap openings may not exceed one half-inch in any dimension, effectively prohibiting shrimp and prawn trapping in the region. This requirement is intended to protect juvenile lobster. For For traps fished north of Point Conception, trap openings may not exceed five inches in any dimension.

To learn more about fishing for these interesting shellfish, please check out the crustaceans section of the current Ocean Sport Fishing regulations for the regulations, legal gear, limits and other information you will need to know (CCR Title 14, sections 29.80 through 29.88).


Is lead shot legal or illegal for doves this season?
Question: I keep hearing from tons of folks who are saying that lead shot is illegal for doves this season. I can’t find anything in the regs that say that, except for when hunting on California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) lands or in the condor zone. The way I read it, lead shot is OK for doves until July 2, 2019. Am I correct or wrong? (Bill K.)

Answer: You are correct. Effective July 1, 2016, nonlead shot is required when taking upland game birds with a shotgun. Exceptions include when hunting dove, quail, snipe; or any game birds taken on licensed game bird clubs. In addition, nonlead shot is now required when using a shotgun to take resident small game mammals, nongame birds, and any wildlife for depredation purposes. For more on the nonlead ammunition implementation, please check our Nonlead Ammunition in California website.


Do smoked fish stored in a freezer count as in possession?
Question: For the regulation of five fish bag limit and ten in possession, do fish that are smoked and retained in freezer count for the latter? (Bob M., Anderson)

Answer: “No more than one daily bag limit of each kind of fish, amphibian, reptile, mollusk or crustacean named in these regulations may be taken or possessed by any one person unless otherwise authorized; regardless of whether they are fresh, frozen, or otherwise preserved” (CCR Title 14, section 1.17). Trout regulations generally allow possession of double the daily bag limit and is covered in the “unless otherwise authorized” exemption described above. To specifically answer your question, smoked or retained fish in a freezer are part of your possession limit.

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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.

Targeting Stripers and Sturgeon together in San Francisco Bay

(CDFW photo)

Question: When fishing from a boat in San Francisco Bay, can some anglers target striped bass with barbed hooks while others target sturgeon using barbless hooks? If one angler who is fishing from a boat with a barbless hook legally lands and retains a sturgeon, can all anglers on the boat switch over to target striped bass and continue to use barbed hooks? (Craig. H.)

Answer: There is no regulation that requires all persons fishing aboard a vessel with a sturgeon on board to use barbless hooks. However, the definition of “take” may get anglers in trouble if they are observed fishing in a manner consistent with those methods used to “take” sturgeon. “Take” is defined as “to hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill, or attempt to hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill” (Fish and Game Code, section 86). Game wardens are watching out for people who may be attempting to take sturgeon with barbed hooks, or are trying to circumvent the requirement to purchase a sturgeon report card by saying they are “just striper fishing.” So, be sure that there is no ambiguity over what you are targeting to avoid any questions of intent.


Mouth calls for deer?
Question: My question is regarding deer season. I am wondering if it is ok to use mouth calls for deer hunting here in California. I have found this legal to do in other states but have not heard it mentioned one way or the other here in this state. (Richard T.)

Answer: Yes, you can use mouth calls for deer as long as the sounds are not electronically generated or electronically amplified (Fish and Game Code, section 3012).


Where to fish loop crab snares?
Question: Are there restrictions on where loop crab snares (used with fishing poles) in California can be used? I fish in the southern and central management areas. (Ted B., Oxnard)

Answer: “Crab traps, including crab loop traps, may be used north of Point Arguello, Santa Barbara County, to take all species of crabs….” (CCR Title 14, section 29.80(e)). Make sure the area you’d like to fish is not a Marine Protected Area where take is not allowed.


Marine invertebrates for personal collections
Question: I am a marine biology student who wants to have a simple native “tide pool” type of aquarium for my own personal delight. I have had a tropical salt water reef ecosystem in my home for years but I am also interested in a local cold water reef system. I live in the Orange County area of Southern California and am wondering if it is possible to collect for a non-scientific reason, and if so, what do I need to do? What are the explicit regulations concerning the collection of live marine organisms for use in a personal marine aquarium? From what I understand, live fish are not to be taken under any circumstances. But I am interested in collecting octopus, and it seems that some organisms are allowed as long as they do not come from a protected area. I do have a California sport fishing license. (Cristiana A.)

Answer: Octopus may be collected for a home aquarium and transported live under the authority of a sport fishing license as long as they are exclusively for that person’s personal aquarium display. Maintaining live sport-taken octopus in a home aquarium is not considered public “display” and thus does not fall under the provisions of the marine aquaria pet trade (FGC, sections 8596-8597). Transporting live “finfish” (as opposed to mollusks and crustaceans) is prohibited (CCR Title 14, section 1.62).

Invertebrates collected under the authority of a sport fishing license may not be used to establish breeding colonies for sale or trade with other people. Any trading, selling or possession for sale or trade of these animals constitutes commercial marine aquaria pet trade activity and requires all parties to hold “marine aquaria collectors permits” authorizing this practice. A marine collector’s permit is also required for any animals on display for the public.

People collecting live marine invertebrates for a home aquarium may do so only under the authority of a sport fishing license, and only those species allowed under a sport fishing license may be taken. In addition, any species with sport fishing restrictions (bag, size, possession or season limits, methods of take, etc.) are still covered under those regulations, so collectors must also abide by these laws.

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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.

Czech Nymphing and Weight Placement when Fly Fishing?

(Photo by Ken Oda)

Question: I have a fly fishing question on rigging flies for nymphing. There is a very popular technique called “Bounce Nymphing,” which involves using three nymphs on short droppers off of a long leader with a weight attached to the bottom of the leader. The idea is to bounce the shot off of the stream bottom in order to keep the nymphs in the bottom of the water column. After the cast, a mend is thrown downstream to create a belly and loop in the fly line so that the current catches the line, and drags the rig along in the current. My interpretation of this technique (under California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 2.10 (b)(4)) is that it is an illegal setup, although it is one that’s widely used by guides in the Eastern Sierra. Can you clarify this, please? (Craig B., Oroville)

Answer: There is often confusion regarding this set-up as it is very popular in other states given the presentation, not to mention when the split-shot snag is on the bottom, the angler usually only loses the weights. Unfortunately, in California if the weight is oriented below the flies, it would be illegal (CCR Title 14, section 2.10 (b)(4)).

If an angler is uncertain, an easy way to test the set-up would be to hold the leader in the air, grasping the section above the flies. If the weight hangs below the lowest fly, its illegal. One option that fly anglers use in California to emulate this technique is to use a heavily weighted nymph to replace the spilt-shot, but that runs the risk of losing that terminal fly to snags. The origins of the previously mentioned regulation stem from an unethical technique that uses weights below hooks to snag salmon, but the regulation is also applicable for protecting inland fisheries as well.


Crab fishing with both traps and snares simultaneously?
Question: Is it legal (and ethical) to drop a crab trap, and then use my fishing pole to cast out a crab snare? In other words, can I use them simultaneously? I am hoping to get the most out of my gear. (An avid fisher)

Answer: Yes. On a public pier, this would be the maximum amount of gear you could use at one time (CCR Title 14, section 28.65(b)).


Selling elk antlers from Idaho?
Question: I work at Moscow Hide and Fur in Moscow, Idaho (not Russia). We received an email recently referring us to your Q and A web site. It’s a great resource and we appreciate the time you put into it and all the other things you do. We think we may be one of the companies referred to in this previous question about elk antlers.

I remember that CDFW used to publish a brochure about selling wildlife. It parsed out the language of 3039(c) in a way that is more readable, the same way your answers do. I’ve asked people much smarter than me to read 3039(c) and they don’t seem to be able to agree exactly how to interpret it either. So since we are not sure, we strictly follow the information from the old brochure we have from CDFW. In one part of the brochure it states that no part of an elk or various other animals can be sold.

We assume the status of elk antlers has changed at some point since that brochure was printed, but not by statute. Can you please point me to someone who could clarify this to satisfy our lawyers? (Barrett S., Moscow, ID)

Answer: Statutes regulating trade in wildlife parts have changed over the years, so CDFW doesn’t recommend relying on a brochure that is out of print. As you mentioned, Fish and Game Code, section 3039 is the key statutory provision regarding elk to be aware of. Within this code section, subdivision (a) provides that:

(a) Except as otherwise provided in this section, Section 3087 [relating to unclaimed taxidermy mounts], Section 4303 [allowing sale of lawfully taken deer hide], another provision of this code, or a regulation adopted pursuant to this code, it is unlawful to sell or purchase a bird or mammal found in the wild in California.

It doesn’t matter whether a species is indigenous. This language would also apply to wild pigs that are not native, but “found in the wild.”

Subdivision (c) makes an exception for shed antlers and some other antlers, but complete antlers or mounts may not be sold. Here’s the statutory language:

(c) Shed antlers, or antlers taken from domestically reared animals that have been manufactured into products or handicraft items, or that have been cut into blocks or units which are to be handcrafted or manufactured into those articles may be purchased or sold at any time. However, complete antlers, whole heads with antlers, antlers that are mounted for display, or antlers in velvet may not be sold or purchased at any time, except as authorized by Section 3087.

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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.

Fishing Pacific Halibut with a Buoy from a Kayak?

Landing Pacific halibut from a kayak can be very challenging, especially if not prepared with the right equipment. To ensure success, be sure to plan ahead! (Photo by Eric McDonald)

Question: I wish to target large Pacific halibut from my kayak. I’ve researched several different methods for safely landing a large Pacific halibut from a kayak and have settled on a wireman’s gaff. A wireman’s gaff is a large 18/0 shark hook at the end of a 15-20 foot section of rope. The fish is gaffed with the shark hook and the other end of the rope is normally tied to a cleat – much like a flying gaff. From a kayak, this would be dangerous. Instead, I would tie the other end of the rope to an A1 buoy and throw the buoy overboard. The fish then fights the buoy, tires itself out, and then once tired it can be hauled in and dispatched safely.

My concern is that a hook on a rope attached to a buoy fits the description of “mousetrap gear” in the California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 28.65(f).

“Mousetrap gear prohibited: It is unlawful to use, assist in using, or to possess aboard any vessel, hook-and-line gear commonly termed ‘mouse traps’ constructed of a hook(s) or lure(s), attached to one end of a line that is attached to a float, or floats at the other end, and that when fished, is not attached directly to a person or vessel. Possession of such gear aboard a vessel shall be prima facie evidence that the gear is being used in violation of this regulation.”

Clearly, my intended use is not to fish with the wireman’s gaff as the line is too short to catch anything. The hook is never baited and it is never deployed without first being used to gaff a legally hook-and-line caught fish. Is the use of a wireman’s gaff in this way legal under the regulations? Do you think I would get a ticket if a wireman’s gaff attached to a buoy were in my possession? If it is not legal, is there a way to rig it to make it legal without tying a large agitated fish off to my kayak? (Doug K., Eureka)

Answer: Good question! I think the easiest way for you to make it clear that your device is a gaff and not mousetrap gear would be to rig it so that it couldn’t be used as mousetrap gear. For example, if the hook is tied to a floating rope (e.g. polypropylene) with no weights, it would look like a gaff, whereas if it were tied with clear fishing line it would look like mousetrap gear. If you do this, game wardens will know that your device is a gaff.

“‘Snag’ or ‘gaff’ hooks are hooks with or without handles used to take fish in such manner that the fish does not take the hook voluntarily in its mouth” (Fish and Game Code, section 48).

There is no law that would prohibit your described method of gaffing a Pacific halibut. Many divers use similar devices with floats that detach from their spear guns while spearing large game fish.


Muzzleloaders in a wildlife area?
Question: The wildlife area I hunt states that rifles and pistols are prohibited, so most everyone hunts with shotguns loaded with slugs, or with a bow. Could I legally use a muzzleloader in this area? (Kyle B.)

Answer: Muzzle loading shotguns are legal where shotguns are allowed. When rifles and pistols are prohibited, it’s often due to concerns that bullets may travel too far beyond the targeted game. In these areas, pistols and long guns with rifling in the barrel (including muzzle loading rifles) are prohibited.


Dungeness crab and other health advisories?
Question: What’s the best way to find out when there are health advisories in place to prevent fishing for crabs and other shellfish? (Anonymous)

Answer: Health advisories are usually issued by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and can be found several different ways. You can always check our health advisories website. This is updated whenever a new advisory is issued, though unfortunately we do not know much ahead of time when they will be issued. Links to more information about crab and domoic acid is available toward the bottom, in the Additional Information section. You can also call the CDPH shellfish hotline at (800) 553-4133, available 24/7.

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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 Over Alfalfa?

Successful pig hunter at Tejon Ranch (CDFW photo)

Question: I know it’s illegal to bait animals to get them to come to you in order to hunt them. However, what about hunting over an alfalfa or corn field? I know some other states allow this and I am wondering if California does, too. (Dakota C.)

Answer: Although feeding big game and hunting over bait is illegal in California, it is legal to hunt over a standing or harvested alfalfa or cornfield. While it is generally prohibited to take resident game birds and mammals from “any area where shelled, shucked or unshucked corn, wheat or other grains, salt, or other feed whatsoever capable of luring, attracting, or enticing such birds or mammals is directly or indirectly placed, exposed, deposited, distributed, or scattered…” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 257.5), this regulation includes several exceptions. One exception allows the “taking of resident game birds and mammals on or over standing crops, flooded standing crops (including aquatics), flooded harvested croplands, grain crops properly shocked on the field where grown, or grains found scattered solely as the result of normal agricultural planting or harvesting.”


Catch and release in MPA
Question: Is it legal to fish catch and release in a no-take State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA) Marine Protected Area (MPA) such as Big River SMCA? Nothing is mentioned in the California Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet. (Robert J.)

Answer: No, it would not be legal to catch and release inside a no-take SMCA or MPA because “take” means to “hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill, or attempt to hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill” (Fish and Game Code, section 86).


Why not able to purchase license and harvest report cards together?
Question: I purchase a California fishing license every December for the following year. Then in May I purchase an abalone report card. And then in September I purchase a lobster report card. I purchase all of these online, which is convenient. Still, it’s three transactions I have to remember and three postage charges. Why can’t I purchase my fishing license and harvest report cards in one transaction? (Ben W.)

Answer: Sport fishing licenses and all sport fishing license items become available for purchase on Nov. 15 each year, except for abalone and lobster report cards. While abalone and lobster report cards are not available for sale at the beginning of the year, you do not have to pay for postage on items purchased through the Online License Sales and Service, unless you select expedited shipping.

Abalone Report Cards become available for purchase on March 15. Abalone regulation changes, based on data gathered from the previous year, frequently require changes to the Abalone Report Card. The March 15 date for the start of sales for Abalone Report Cards allows time for changes to be made to the report card and still allows the report card to be available for purchase 45 days prior to the first day of abalone season. For example, the seasonal limit for abalone recently changed from 18 to 12. Therefore, changes were made within the Automated License Data System to reduce the number of lines printed on the report card and the number of abalone tags included with the report card to 12.

Spiny lobster season spans a part of two calendar years and the report card is valid for the entire lobster season. The upcoming lobster season opens Sept. 30, 2017 and closes March 21, 2018. If Spiny Lobster Report Cards for the 2017/18 season were available at the time 2017 sport fishing licenses first became available for sale (Nov.15, 2016), they would have been available for purchase during the 2016/17 lobster season. It is likely that many people would accidently purchase a spiny lobster report card for the wrong year.


Abalone shell pieces for jewelry?
Question: I realize it is illegal to sell abalone shells as jewelry or other artwork if obtained while sport diving under California regulations, but what if the abalone shells or pieces of them are found while beach combing and the shell had already been vacated by natural means? Can these shells be made into jewelry since there is no limit on taking these shells or pieces? (Scott E., Walnut Creek)

Answer: You can generally pick up abalone shells and shell parts for your personal use. However, Marine Reserves, Marine Protected Areas and other prohibited areas do not allow for any shell collecting. Wherever you go, you should contact the controlling agency to find out what collecting activities are legal for that area. As long as the shells are legally obtained and not sport-taken, they can be used to make jewelry that is sold.

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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.

Backyard Dove Hunting with Judo Point Arrows?

Eurasian Collared Dove (Creative Commons photo)

Question: I am a recently minted homeowner and my neighborhood is overrun by Eurasian doves. For fun, I would like to do some recurve bow hunting for them with judo point arrows when the season opens later this year. I know that the statute states, “No discharge of firearms or any deadly weapon within 150 yards of a residence.” However, can you please tell me if using judo point arrows with flu-flu fletching would be considered deadly? My plan is to hunt from an elevated position such that the arrows strike within my own backyard. (Anonymous)

Answer: Because you would be hunting, the statute would apply to you even if your bow and arrows were not deadly weapons. “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…, to either hunt or discharge a firearm or other deadly weapon while hunting” (Fish and Game Code, section 3004(a)). To lawfully hunt in your back yard, you would need to get permission from every owner or occupant of dwellings within 150 yards, and then make sure there are no local ordinances or rules that prohibit hunting in your neighborhood, and then make sure your archery equipment complies with California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 354. You will find this section if you go to page 28 in the current California Mammal Hunting Regulations booklet.


Obtaining gaper clams?
Question: I have a question regarding digging for and obtaining gaper clams. I know the daily bag limit is 10 clams per person. Now, I’m pretty sure you know how hard it is to dig for these clams, so if I’m clamming with my friends, can we assist each other to reach our limits? I’m confused because last year while with friends digging for clams, we were checked by a Fish and Wildlife officer. He just checked our licenses, counted the total quantity that my friends and I had acquired and then sent us on our way. However, this year I heard you can’t help each other. Did they change the regulation or was it always that way? I would hate to get a ticket due to ignorance. (Nam T.)

Answer: As long as all of you were in possession of valid fishing licenses, it would be permissible to help each other as long as each person is retrieving their own clams and each person is involved in the entire process of digging for their own clams. Where you could run into a problem is if one person digs up and retrieves more than 10 clams and “shares” his additional catch among the group. Once a person has dug up and possesses a daily bag limit, he or she must stop assisting other members of the group. This is important because if the individual possesses a limit, he or she is no longer able to attempt to take any more.

Before setting out to harvest gaper clams or any other species of shellfish, please first check the California Department of Public Heath shellfish hotline at (800) 553-4133. This recording is available 24/7, is updated frequently and will tell you about any health concerns or health-related harvest closures in effect for shellfish and finfish in California ocean waters.


Fishing with live bait in Lake Mendocino?
Question: Can I buy minnows in Lake County (Clearlake Outdoors) and then use them as bait in Lake Mendocino? I have tried to read the regs but they are soooo confusing. (William W.)

Answer: Remember, the term “minnows” is used for a number of baitfish species. Golden shiner, fathead minnow, red shiner, mosquitofish, longjaw mudsucker and staghorn sculpin are authorized live bait for Lake Mendocino. The regulations you are asking about can be found in the 2017 Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations booklet under CCR Title 14, section 4.25.


Kelp collecting for a science class?
Question: I am a science teacher planning a unit on photosynthesis, and I’d like to include a few pieces of kelp in the kids’ exploratory activities. They’ll be looking at leaves and at other aquatic algae, too. Before I go collecting, is it even legal to go get some kelp fronds from the beach wrack? If so, where it is legal to collect? (Kelly T., Pacific Grove)

Answer: Take of kelp is legal, as long as you’re not in a Marine Protected Area (MPA) that prohibits the take of kelp. The daily bag limit for recreational harvesters of marine algae is 10 pounds wet weight in the aggregate. Recreational harvesters are prohibited from harvesting or disturbing eelgrass (Zostera species), surfgrass (Phyllospadix species) and sea palm (Postelsia palmaeformis).

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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.