Tag Archives: fishing

Freezing Fish Onboard My Second Home?

Private boat

Even if your boat is your second home, the law allows the take and possession of only one daily bag limit, unless otherwise authorized (Photo by Carrie Wilson).

Question: I do a lot of offshore fishing between Catalina and the Mexico border. After fishing and catching we spend a couple of days in Avalon or San Diego. Since my boat is my second home, is it legal to then filet my fish and freeze it on board my boat? Also, does the same rule apply to yellow fin tuna as to bluefin tuna? (Mike K.)

Answer: It doesn’t matter that your boat is your second home. The law says, “No more than one daily bag limit of each kind of fish … may be taken or possessed by any one person unless otherwise authorized” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.17).

For all of the rules on filleting fish on a vessel and a list of which fish may and may not be filleted aboard a vessel, please view section 27.65 on pages 34-35 in the 2016-2017 Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet.

Regarding your questions on filleting and freezing yellow fin and bluefin tunas, CCR Title 14, section 27.65(b)(11) states, “For all species of tuna filleted on any boat or brought ashore as fillets south of a line running due west true from Point Conception, Santa Barbara County (34o27’ N. lat.) each fish must be individually bagged as follows:

A. The bag must be marked with the species’ common name.
B. The fish must be cut into six pieces with all skin attached. These pieces are the four loins, the collar removed as one piece with both pectoral fins attached and intact, and the belly fillet cut to include the vent and with both pelvic fins attached and intact.”

Tunas may be kept whole or in a manner that retains these identifying characteristics.


Pet shop fish for bait?
Question: Is it legal to use rosy red minnows from the pet shop for fishing? I have heard of bait shops selling them mainly out of California. I have also heard they are a mutation and don’t breed so they shouldn’t pose a problem. (Kev H.)

Answer: It is not legal to use aquarium or pet store fish for bait purposes, and they may not be planted in any waters of the state (CCR Title 14, section 227). However, rosy red minnows (a color variant of the fathead minnow) sold by a business with a live freshwater bait fish license issued by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) are legal to use in some parts of the state. Baitfish regulations vary by district. To see if you can use fathead minnows in the place you intend to fish, you should review sections 4.10 to 4.30 on page 17 of the 2016-2017 Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations booklet.


Hammerless muzzleloader?
Question: I am interested in getting into muzzleloading and recently I came across a hammerless muzzleloader that is being offered by Vortex. My question is whether a hammerless muzzleloader is legal to use for hunting in California? (Chris A.)

Answer: Legal muzzleloaders are defined in CCR Title 14, section 353(c) and are described as “wheellock, matchlock, flintlock or percussion type, including in-line” muzzleloading rifles using black powder or equivalent black powder substitute, including pellets, with a single projectile loaded from the muzzle and at least .40 caliber in designation. With a muzzleloader tag, only open or peep sights are legal 353(h). Whether the muzzleloader has a hammer is irrelevant as long as it falls within the definition above. The Vortex rifle is an “in line” muzzleloading rifle.


Finding info on ocean bottom characteristics and habitats?
Question: Please provide me with a list of central and Southern California beaches that have the sandiest ocean bottoms and the least amount of rock formations. Additionally, if you are able, can you also include a list that has both the sandiest ocean bottoms and least amount of sea kelp? (Kevin R., California Sport Fisherman)

Answer: Yes. There are two resources available that you may want to check for this information.

  • CDFW Fishing Guide. The guide is available in mobile and desktop versions. Both have the same data included. You will find common areas for shore fishing with descriptions of target species and some habitats.
  • CDFW MarineBIOS application. This site includes habitat maps that will be helpful in exploring the sites with the most sand and the least amount of kelp. Start by zooming into your area of interest. Then, in the “layers” section under the “Habitats” group, you will find map layers for shore types, predicted substrate and kelp canopy. Turn on those layers by checking the box next to the descriptions. You can view a legend for each layer by expanding the description using the plus or arrow symbol. Detailed directions for interacting with the map can be found in the “help” section at the top right of the page.
  • Google Earth. This amazing resource also offers bathymetry seafloor mapping data of nearshore bottom substrate for most areas.

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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.

Crabbing from Shore with a Launcher?

California crab fishermen who is fishing with a crab snare. (Creative Commons photo)

California crab fishermen who is fishing with a crab snare. Crab loop traps (crab snares) may have up to six loops. (Creative Commons photo)

Question: While crabbing from shore with a rod/reel/crab snare, I was not having any luck. I noticed a guy on a paddle board with a crab trap just past my maximum casting distance, and he was catching crabs no problem. Would it be legal to launch a crab snare, attached to the line of a rod and reel, with a catapult, trebuchet, water balloon launcher or similar device? If only I could get it out 10 more feet or so I feel I would have better success. (Ivan M., San Francisco)

Crab loop trap or crab snare (Creative Commons photo)

Crab loop trap or crab snare (Creative Commons photo)

Answer: There are no Fish and Game regulations that prohibit the use of a device to send your terminal gear out to locations beyond where you can cast. However, you might want to check local (city, county, state beach, etc.) ordinances for the beaches where you will be crabbing prior to using one of these devices. Some people use kites or remote controlled boats for this purpose.


Can retired peace officers countersign a deer tag?
Question: I was reviewing the persons authorized to countersign a deer tag recently and was wondering if you could clarify whether peace officers (salaried and non-salaried) are authorized? If so, can retired peace officers also sign off another person’s deer tag? I have been told yes and no by two different wardens. (Mike D., Salinas)

Answer: Retired officers are not authorized to countersign deer tags. The only people authorized to countersign deer tags are those people listed under California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 708.6., which include:

(A) State:
1. Fish and Game Commissioners
2. Employees of the Department of Fish and Game, including Certified
Hunter Education Instructors
3. Employees of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection
4. Supervising Plant Quarantine Inspectors
5. Junior, Intermediate and Senior Plant Quarantine Inspectors

(B) Federal:
1. Employees of the Bureau of Land Management
2. Employees of the United States Forest Service
3. Employees of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service
4. All Uniformed Personnel of the National Park Service
5. Commanding Officers of any United States military installation or their
designated personnel for deer taken on their reservation
6. Postmasters and Post Office Station or Branch Manager for deer brought
to their post office

(C) Miscellaneous:
1. County firemen at and above the class of foreman for deer brought into
their station
2. Judges or Justices of all state and United States courts
3. Notaries Public
4. Peace Officers (salaried and non-salaried)
5. Officers authorized to administer oaths
6. Owners, corporate officers, managers or operators of lockers or cold
storage plants for deer brought to their place of business


Question on abalone start time
Question: I know that the start time for abalone diving is now 8 a.m. If it takes me 15 minutes to swim out to the spot I want to start diving for abs, can I enter the water at 7:45 a.m. and not make my first dive until 8 a.m., or does the law mean that there is no entry into the water at all until 8 a.m.? Thanks, (Don C.)

Answer: Abalone may be taken only from 8 a.m. to one-half hour after sunset (CCR Title 14, section 29.15(b)(2)). Although “take” includes the pursuit of abalone, as long as you are just swimming on the surface out to your dive spot and don’t begin your actual searching or diving down for these mollusks until 8 a.m., you would not violate the start time.


What determines wanton waste of fish?
Question: What would be considered deterioration or waste of fish? I understand that leaving them on the shoreline or in a garbage can would be waste, but would it also apply to using the whole fish as fertilizer or something like that? (Zach T.)

Answer: Anglers are expected to make reasonable efforts to retrieve and utilize any fish taken. It is unlawful to cause or permit any deterioration or waste of any fish taken in the waters of this state (CCR Title 14, section 1.87). Although most fish taken under the authority of sport fishing licenses are utilized for human consumption, the regulation does not prescribe how fish are to be used.

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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.

DIY Personal Domoic Acid Testing of Crabs?

Dungeness crabs from San Francisco (photo by Carrie Wilson)

Dungeness crabs from the San Francisco Bay Area (photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: Is there any kind of domoic acid test kit available that a consumer can use to test his/her own crabs? I would think there would be a lot of interest in this. I love to catch and eat crabs but also hate risking getting sick! (Bob W.)

Answer: If you do a google search you will find some kits that state they will detect domoic acid toxins in shellfish, marine algae and water samples. However, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) cannot comment on the suitability of these products to address your concerns. You can minimize your risk though by following California Department of Public Health (CDPH) advisories. In their recent news release, CDPH advised that meat from Dungeness crabs caught in areas where the advisory has been lifted is safe to consume. However, consumers are advised to not eat the viscera (internal organs, also known as “butter” or “guts”) of crabs.

Crab viscera usually contain much higher levels of domoic acid than crab body meat. When whole crabs are cooked in liquid, domoic acid may leach from the viscera into the cooking liquid. Water or broth used to cook whole crabs should be discarded and not used to prepare dishes such as sauces, broths, soups or stews (i.e. cioppino or gumbo), stocks, roux, dressings or dips.

To check for current health warnings on the consumption of crabs and other shellfish, I suggest you call CDPH’s shellfish hotline at (800) 553-4133 or visit CDPH’s Domoic Acid health information Web page. This information is always up to date and available via a recorded message 24/7.


If I see a mountain lion, who do I call?
Question: What do I do when I see a mountain lion come on my property? Who do I call? (Darren M.)

Answer: If you see a mountain lion come onto your property, you don’t need to call anyone unless the animal is acting aggressively toward you or your family, or if it appears to be sick or diseased. If you feel it is an immediate threat to you, call 911. But mountain lions are usually just looking for deer or other prey animals.

If you do know you have a mountain lion around your home, I suggest you keep small children, pets and other animals in a protective area, especially from early evening through mornings when mountain lions are most active. If the animal is just passing through, as they typically do, you might just watch it and enjoy the unique opportunity you’re being given to actually see one. Most people will never have the chance to see one in their lifetimes.

For more information, please check out our living with mountain lions webpage.


Do blue catfish reproduce in California?
Question: Do blue catfish reproduce in California lakes? If not, why? (Mike M., Anaheim)

Answer: Blue catfish can reproduce if they are mature (which can take 4-7 years) and the right temperatures and other environmental conditions exist. In the wild, they typically prefer a cave habitat where they can construct a nest (eg: under rock ledges, logs, or undercut banks) and it is the male that guards and protects the eggs and young fry. Catfish farmers often place into their ponds containers like old milk cans to help the spawning catfish establish nests so that the eggs are easily retrieved and further nurtured in the hatchery. In California, spawning season is late spring/early summer, as temperatures are warming.


Lifetime license still valid if I move out of state?
Question: I was looking into the Lifetime Hunting/Fishing license. This may be a stupid question but if I leave the state of California and change my residency, do I forfeit the whole lifetime license? I assume I must live in California in order to qualify. (Bill)

Answer: No, you won’t forfeit it. Under the provisions of a Lifetime Hunting or Fishing License, your license is valid for hunting/fishing when you return to visit even if you move out of state. You would be required to buy non-resident tags for big game species but the license is still valid. For more on the benefits and privileges of hunting and fishing lifetime licenses, please visit the department website.


Can you harvest abalone for a handicapped individual?
Question: Just curious if there are any provisions in the abalone regulations to allow someone to assist a handicapped person. For example, if the person is unable to dive for abalone, can someone else harvest the catch for them? (Todd J., Milbrae)

Answer: No, an individual may only take or possess one daily limit of abalone (which is three). A diver could take three abalone one day, record and tag them with their abalone report punch card and tags, and then give them to a disabled person who is not able to dive. Then the following day, the diver may go out to get three more abalone for themselves, and again, report them on the punch card and tag them in accordance with the regulations.

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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.

How Many Feet in the Water to Enter a Legal Hunt Zone?

California mule deer (photo by Carrie Wilson)

California mule deer (photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: While hunting during archery season in August, I ran into a situation that I could use your guidance on. While at my campsite, a hunting partner of mine observed a buck feeding near the creek that we were camped near. I was hunting in D7. Unfortunately for me, the buck was on the north side of Deer Creek, and therefore in X9A. I quickly got my bow while my hunting partner sat quietly at camp and watched. I quietly moved into position and waited for the deer to cross the creek. He never did, so therefore I had to let him go, of course.

When a zone’s boundary is defined by a creek, river or other body of water, when is the animal considered to be within your zone and therefore legal to take? Can you take him when he’s drinking and touching the water? Does he need to have two or four feet in the creek? Does he need to completely cross and be across the creek and completely in your zone? Or does he need to be clear of the creek bed all together? What is the law? (Kevin K.)

Answer: The deer would have had to be at least halfway across the creek to be into the correct zone. Keep in mind that animals shot with bow and arrow or a rifle can travel a substantial distance, so it is wise not to hunt right on the border of a zone. A non-lethal shot could easily take you immediately into the closed zone where your tag is not valid.


Ocean sunfish – you can take them, but what then?
Question: I saw some ocean sunfish laying around on the surface in waters off Sonoma County. Are they legal to take? Is there a website or a listing of which fish are illegal to catch? (Anonymous)

Answer: Yes, ocean sunfish (Mola mola) may be taken by licensed recreational fishermen. While some ocean species have fishing regulations that pertain only to them (e.g. rockfish and salmon), other species do not. Species for which there are no specific regulations, such as ocean sunfish, are covered under section 27.60 on page 34 in the current Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet. The daily bag limit for species covered under section 27.60(a) is: 10 fish of any one species, with a total daily bag limit of 20 fish. This means you can take up to 10 ocean sunfish plus 10 other fish per day, for a total of 20 fish. Fish that fall under this section do not have seasons (open year-round) or size limits.

Please be aware that ocean sunfish are not a species targeted by most recreational fishermen. This species is generally not considered to be good eating. Keep in mind that it’s a violation to waste a fish after you have taken it (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.87), so you might want to research that a little more before finding yourself in possession of a large fish you don’t care to eat.


Carrying shotguns for ducks and doves at the same time
Question: You recently answered a question about having two shotguns in a duck blind. That made me wonder whether the two shotguns can be loaded with different ammo. For example, if it’s dove season, can I have a 12 gauge shotgun for ducks and keep a 20 gauge loaded with lead shot for doves? (Allen S.)

Answer: Yes, you can carry more than one gun, but while waterfowl hunting, you are required to possess only non-toxic shot regardless of the shot size. Both shotguns must be loaded with non-toxic shot.

In addition to non-toxic shot requirements for waterfowl hunting, nonlead ammunition is now required when hunting on all state wildlife areas and ecological reserves regardless of the species pursued. And when hunting during waterfowl season, hunters may only have 25 shells in the field, regardless of the difference of shot size. This means hunters on state wildlife areas are limited to non-lead and only 25 shells total for doves and ducks, combined.

For more information on the phase-out of lead ammunition for hunting in California, please visit http://www.wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/nonlead-ammunition.


Corn for carp bait?
Question: Can you point me in the right direction to see the regulation regarding the use of whole corn kernels as bait, specifically for carp, but in general as well? Numerous people have told me corn is illegal to use in California, but I’ve looked through the regulations book at least four times and can’t find anything saying it’s illegal. (Tony)

Answer: The general bait regulation for inland waters says that treated and processed foods may be used as bait, and there is no prohibition on the use of corn kernels (CCR Title 14, section 4.00). This question comes up quite a bit because some states do not allow corn to be used as bait, but California does.

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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 With Glitter May Bring More Than Big Fish

CDFW photo by marine biologist Derek Stein

(CDFW Photo by Marine Scientist Derek Stein)

Question: I have been studying up on different methods of spear fishing while free diving and have read about the use of “glitter” as an attractant for bait fish. I have an idea to sprinkle glitter in the water so that when the bait fish come to investigate, the large game fish will follow and be caught as they attack the bait fish!

What are your views and the legal ramifications of this method? I understand chumming is not legal for taking game animals in our state, but the use of artificial lures is. With my idea the game fish would not be chummed by this method but instead just attracted by the collection of bait fish. If this method actually works, would it be legal? (Theodore G., Stockton)

Answer: You have an innovative idea there. Unfortunately, even if your plan to lure unsuspecting fish to you by sprinkling shiny, sparkling glitter in the water were to work, you could be cited for doing so. Placing glitter in the water is littering and is prohibited under Fish and Game Code, section 5652.

The activity you describe would be considered chumming and chumming is defined as “placing any material in the water, other than on a hook while angling, for the purpose of attracting fish to a particular area in order that they may be taken” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.32). Chumming in the ocean is allowed (as long as the chum is not considered to be litter), but chumming in freshwater is typically not permissible except in specific areas and for certain fish species (see CCR Title14, section 2.40).


Prohibited from retrieving deer from private property
Question: I recently shot a doe with my A31 tag in Los Angeles County (Archery Only-Either Sex). It appeared to be a lethal shot from 22 yards with decent shot placement. I tracked the blood to a privately owned ranch 100 yards away. I stopped tracking it when it appeared she went onto the ranch property. I then approached the ranch manager to get permission to continue tracking my deer. The owner initially agreed but after one of her coworkers talked to her, she retracted her permission (approximately 10 minutes from the time we spoke in her office). She requested that we leave her property at once as she didn’t want people to think they approved of hunting. I didn’t have enough time to locate my deer and left broken-hearted.

I don’t like seeing animals die or suffer for no reason. I would never have shot if I would have known I couldn’t recover her. I believe I did everything legal and correct but it shouldn’t be right that a deer goes to waste because of the bias of a property manager.

Is there anything I could have done to recover my deer? Do I have any rights or is there anyone I could have contacted? I’m still sick over the situation. (Luke G., Loma Linda)

Answer: It’s unfortunate that this happened. Although the law prevents one from wasting the deer, the law does not permit the trespass to retrieve it. Perhaps, if you’d contacted the local game warden, they may have been able to contact the ranch manager or owner for some possible assistance to prevent the deer from going to waste.

According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Lt. Todd Tognazzini, when archery hunting it is recommended to hunt farther from private property boundaries to avoid this type of problem as deer taken with archery usually travel farther after a lethal wound than those shot with a rifle. Tognazzini says he has never been refused when a fresh and legitimate blood trail is found leaving public land onto private property.


Where does inland end and ocean begin?
Question: I would like to fish with two rods in the Delta but don’t know whether the regulations are in the freshwater books or in the ocean books. Is the Delta part of the ocean regulations or is it considered inland waters? Where does it change from ocean to inland if considered inland? (Brian S., Felton)

Answer: You can legally fish in the waters of the Delta with a second rod stamp. Inland regulations apply from upstream of the Delta to Carquinez Bridge. The definition of inland waters vs ocean waters is, “Inland waters are all the fresh, brackish and inland saline waters of the state, including lagoons and tidewaters upstream from the mouths of coastal rivers and streams. Inland waters exclude the waters of San Francisco and San Pablo bays downstream from the Carquinez Bridge, the tidal portions of rivers and streams flowing into San Francisco and San Pablo bays, and the waters of Elkhorn Slough …” (CCR Title 14, section 1.53).

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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.

Which Fish Species Can Be Filleted at Sea?

Only certain ocean fish are allowed to be filleted at sea. Check section 27.65 (c) in the Ocean Fishing Regulations booklet

Only certain ocean fish species are allowed to be filleted at sea. Please check the 2015 Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet (section 27.65[c] on pages 33-34) for an outline of which species may be filleted at sea while on a boat, and which may not.

Question: I need to get the straight answer regarding filleting game fish while on a boat. In the ocean/bay waters, do I need to keep stripers and leopard sharks intact until I get home or can I keep the fillets in one piece with a one inch or more square of skin left on each fillet? Also, are the rules different for inland waters regarding the filleting of fish? (Howard A.)

Answer: You can find an outline of which species may be filleted at sea while on a boat and which may not under section 27.65(b) and (c) on pages 33-34 in the Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet. Only those listed as allowed to be filleted can be filleted. Striped bass and leopard sharks are not on this list and so may not be filleted at sea.

  • Section 27.65(c): Fish That May Not be Filleted, Steaked or Chunked: No person shall fillet, steak or cut into chunks on any boat or bring ashore as fillets, steaks or chunks the following: any species with a size limit unless a fillet size is otherwise specified in these regulations. California halibut may be filleted or brought ashore as fillets south of Point Arena (Mendocino County).

Since the regulations specify minimum lengths for stripers (18 inches total) and leopard sharks (36 inches total), but no fillet lengths, neither species can be filleted while on a boat or brought ashore as fillets, steaks or chunks.


Hunting with a .22 caliber rimfire in a lead free zone?
Question: I was wondering if you could still hunt with lead .22 caliber rimfire in a lead free zone. I’ve been looking for lead free .22 caliber rimfire rounds and its very slim pickins out there. (Cory S.)

Answer: Although the availability of nonlead ammunition may be improving with time, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recognizes it can still be hard to find some calibers. It will take additional planning to participate in hunts where nonlead ammunition is required. We encourage hunters who intend to participate in these hunts to plan well ahead to be sure they have legal ammunition. There are a number of lead free .22 rimfire rounds that are manufactured, and stores in the California condor range may be most likely to have them in stock. We recommend searching on the Internet and calling ahead to local retailers. Remember that .22 rimfire is only legal to use when hunting small game and nongame animals. Current law does not require use of nonlead ammunition when taking rabbits or tree squirrels, unless you are hunting on CDFW lands, but nonlead ammunition will be required statewide for all hunting beginning July 1, 2019.


About Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) web map
Question: I read a journal article recently about California’s Marine Protected Areas (MPA) but cannot locate a website showing exactly where the MPAs are. Do you have anything posted online where I can go or something you can send me? (Jamie)

Answer: Printed MPA guidebooks are available via some of the same vendors that sell fishing licenses so that you can easily obtain them (see http://www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/mpa/guidelocations.asp). If you have problems finding a guidebook, please contact your local CDFW office and ask them to send you one.

If you like the utility of Google Maps, you might appreciate MarineBIOS (see http://map.dfg.ca.gov/marine/ ) a map that you can use to zoom in close on marine protected areas to get a fix on the boundaries. MarineBIOS lets you choose your “basemap.” You can use satellite imagery, a street map or other basemaps, whatever makes the most sense for your situation. (Click on the green basemaps button in the upper left-hand corner of the screen to access these options).

If you have a smartphone or other mobile device with GPS capability, you can use the map on MPAmobile (www.dfg.ca.gov/m/MPA/) to show you where you are in relation to any MPAs, and you can look up information on individual MPAs.

All this information and more is available online at (www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/mpa/). On this web page, in the Popular Resources box to the right, you’ll find the top four big blue buttons lead you to these resources, so these should help you learn where California’s marine protected areas are.

A new Marine Management News blog post also describes resources you can use to learn about MPAs (see https://cdfwmarine.wordpress.com/2015/06/02/mpa-maps/). If all else fails, you can email your MPA questions to AskMPA@wildlife.ca.gov and we will be glad to assist you.

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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.

What’s the Level of Wildlife Officers’ Search Authority?

CDFW Wildlife Officers have broad search authority. Hunters and anglers are required by law to exhibit upon demand all licenses, tags, wildlife, fish, and any device or apparatus designed to be, and capable of being, used to take fish and/or wildlife.

CDFW Wildlife Officers have broad search authority. People are required by law to exhibit upon demand all licenses, tags, wildlife, fish, and any device or apparatus designed to be, and capable of being, used to take fish and/or wildlife (CDFW photo)

Question: Do California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) wardens have the authority to search a sportsperson’s truck, boat, cooler, etc. without a warrant or probable cause? If so, how would an abalone check point (for example) not be a blatant violation of the Fourth Amendment of the constitution? I’m all for stopping poachers, but not at the cost of violating what makes our country so special. Thanks. (John McClellan)

Answer: In the hunting and fishing context, wildlife officers are authorized to conduct compliance inspections that would likely require warrants or probable cause in other contexts. Hunting and fishing are highly regulated activities. The fish and wildlife belong to the people of the state and not to any individual. Many states, including California, recognize this and have enacted statutes to allow Wildlife Officers to conduct regulatory inspections when interacting with those who are engaged in hunting and fishing activities. Some of these include:

• Authorization to inspect boats, buildings other than dwellings, and containers that may contain fish or wildlife (Fish and Game Code, section 1006)

• Authorization to “enter and examine any…place of business where fish or other fishery products are packed, preserved, manufactured, bought or sold, or to board any fishing boat…or vehicle or receptacle containing fish…and may examine any books and records containing any account of fish caught, bought, canned, packed, stored or sold.” (Fish and Game Code, section 7702)

Also, people are required to exhibit upon the demand of a wildlife officer all licenses, tags, wildlife, and any device or apparatus designed to be, and capable of being, used to take wildlife (Fish and Game Code, section 2012)

The courts have consistently upheld these inspection authorities. As for check points, CDFW has used check points for the past 25 years as a focused and effective means of educating resource users and deterring violations of our wildlife laws. In a state as vast as California with a population of over 38 million people and with a staff of only 400 sworn officers, CDFW needs to ensure that the funds and manpower resources we have are put to the most efficient use possible. Conducting checkpoints allows us to contact thousands of people who are using our public trust resources with a handful of officers. For those who are not using our public trust resources, the check points provide us an opportunity to educate them about our state’s wildlife resources and our role in protecting those resources. The courts have established minimum standards that must be followed when we conduct checkpoints, but just like DUI checkpoints, wildlife checkpoints have been upheld by the courts.


Helping friends fill their deer tags?
Question: If a group of friends go hunting for a week, and one of the hunters tags a buck on the first day, can he continue to carry his loaded rifle with him and help his friends fill their tags? If not, can he only help with spotting and drives without a weapon? (Rod P., Napa)

Answer: Once a hunter takes a deer and fills his tag, he may accompany other hunters but cannot assist them in any way in the take of additional deer. In addition, he should leave his rifle behind. Otherwise, if encountered in the field with a rifle or other method of take, wildlife officers may determine the person assisting the hunters is also actively hunting.


Fishing for rockfish and fishing crab snares simultaneously?
Question: Can a kayak/boat angler use one line to take rockfish and then fish a crab snare with another line? In this case, a hand line tied off to his kayak? (Anonymous)

Answer: The law requires that when fishing for rockfish, only one line with no more than two hooks may be used. However, in this case, an angler may also fish for crabs at the same time with a line that attaches to a crab loop trap because these traps will not likely catch rockfish. If approached by a wildlife officer, the angler should be prepared to explain up front that only one line contains two hooks for rockfish and the other line is attached to a crab loop trap. Remember that crab loop traps are restricted to six loops.


Pelagic red crabs
Question: The pelagic red crabs (tuna crabs) are drifting in with the warm El Niño waters and washing up on beaches everywhere. I’d like to use them for bait. Are there any regulations to be aware of? (Andrew S.)

Answer: The limit is 35 pelagic red crabs per day and 35 in possession. There are no size limits and they may be taken only by hand.

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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.