Tag Archives: freshwater fishing

Bird Feeders May Lure Other Unwanted Wildlife Visitors

than you’d

Wild bird feeders often lure in more than just the intended birds (Creative Commons photo)

Wild bird feeders may be a lure for a lot more unintended wildlife visitors than you’d expect (Photo courtesy of Creative Commons)

Question: Is it okay in California to put bird feeders out to feed wild birds? Assuming it is, if we observe deer eating the seeds intended for birds, are we obligated to remove the bird seed and stop feeding the birds or can we continue to put out seeds for the birds even if the deer are also coming in to consume it? (Mark M.)

Answer: Wild bird feeders are legal to use, but keep in mind that you don’t want the birds to become completely dependent on this artificial food source. If they do become dependent, then if/when this artificial food source becomes unavailable, the birds may have trouble going back to find a natural food source to sustain them.

Which leads into your second question … if you find that the deer are changing their behavior and coming onto your property in pursuit of any spilled bird seed, you should stop feeding the birds until the deer stop coming in. Pretty soon there won’t be any birds, just deer standing around waiting for their handout. It’s either that or move the feeder to a spot the deer can’t get to. It’s never a good idea to start feeding deer.

Another potential problem is that bird feeders can also be a big attractant for black bears who are trying to consume enough calories to support hibernation during winter months when natural food is scarce. The suet (animal fat) used to hold bird seed together in many products is also a dense calorie source which bears can become dependent upon. Knowingly attracting bears with this food source, which can be considered bait, is a citable offense.

Keep in mind, it’s illegal to feed big game (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 251.3) and unlawful to harass wildlife (causing them to alter their normal behavior). Harassment can include feeding (CCR Title 14, section 251), even if it’s via bird feeders.


Spiny lobster hoop net buoy regs
Question: I read where crab traps need the owner’s GO ID number on the buoys this year. Is this required for lobster hoop nets as well? I did not see it but the locker room lawyers I hang with say the requirement applies to both. (Joe H.)

Answer: For this season, that is not the case. Beginning with the 2017 season, however, this will be required unless the hoop net is deployed from shore. You can get a preview of the adopted regulation changes for sport lobster fishing on the California Fish and Game Commission website.

“Beginning on April 1, 2017, hoop nets used south of Point Arguello shall be marked with a surface buoy. The surface buoy shall be legibly marked to identify the operator’s GO ID number as stated on the operator’s sport fishing license or lobster report card. Hoop nets deployed from persons on shore and manmade structures connected to the shore are not required to be marked with a surface buoy.”


Bear tag on my body?
Question: I have a question about bear hunting. This past season while in camp and talking to wildlife officers , a big bear walked by about 100 yards away. I was about to shoot it when I remembered my tag was in my trailer and not on my body. I got the tag first, then contained my dog, but by then the bear was gone. I could have shot him but didn’t have the tag on me. Did I just save myself a ticket for shooting without my tag in possession or did I just miss the bear? It says on the tag that it must be in immediate possession while hunting. (Rick W.)

Answer: Because you were at your camp and not hunting at the time, you are not expected to have your tag/license on you. However, according to Fish and Game Code, section 4753, “The person to whom a bear tag has been issued shall carry the tag while hunting bear.” So, you did the right thing. Once you would have picked up your firearm, you would have been actively hunting, so therefore required to carry your tag. Also keep in mind that if you were in a designated campground area, many campgrounds have safety zones around them where shooting is not allowed.


Trout fishing at night
Question: Can you clarify the exact rules for trout fishing at night? The regulations aren’t very clear to me when I read them. (Brandon C.)

Answer: In most cases, trout and salmon may not be taken at night. However, some exceptions can be found in the 2016-2017 Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations handbook on page 16 under CCR Title 14, section 3.00. Night is defined as one hour after sunset to one hour before sunrise.


Mouth calls for deer
Question: My question goes back to 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. (Richard T.)

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

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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.

Waterfowl Hybrid Limits?

Pintail drake (USFWS photo)

Pintail drake (USFWS photo)

Question: When hunting waterfowl in California, how do hybrid ducks and geese count toward species limits? For example, the first duck of the day someone shoots looks like a cross between a pintail and a mallard. Would that hunter be within his/her limit to shoot another two pintail? Another example would be if a hunter was within the Special White Fronted Goose Zone and shot a goose with both Canada goose and White Front features. I’ve heard other hunters claim everything from you can consider it the more restricted species, to it’s an “other” duck on a refuge kill card/entry permit, to it’s the species with fewer restrictions. (Andy D.)

Answer: The bird will count towards your daily bag limit, and if it looks like a pintail, it will count towards your pintail limit. Always consider the most conservative approach to your limit even if you think you might have a hybrid. Your best bet would be to consider it the more restricted species.


Halibut fishing out of Tomales Bay during a groundfish closure?
Question: I want to fish for California halibut from a boat out of Tomales Bay near Bird Rock or Elephant Rock or go out of the Gate. I used to fish for them whenever herring, squid or anchovy would come in to spawn during the winter or spring. The halibut would lay in wait as the forage fish came through, usually from January through April or May.

I haven’t done this kind of fishing for a long time (years in fact) because no one wants to go out there in the wintertime when no one else is fishing and we are absolutely alone at sea. My fishing buddy wants to go but is worried that we would be cited for targeting lingcod or rockfish. I told him that as long as we were not keeping anything except the halibut, we would not be cited. We wouldn’t be doing anything wrong. But he repeated that he was worried that we would have no protection against being cited because we were out there during the closed groundfish season.

Can we be cited for targeting groundfish as long we do not keep any incidentally caught groundfish? Or, how about steelhead or Pacific halibut or canary cod or anything else that you are not allowed to keep? (Jerry Z.)

Answer: Warmer ocean water temperatures have made some interesting adjustments to the ocean and fish distribution in recent years. During the summer months when the water warms, more halibut move into Tomales Bay. You know that the sandy bottoms are where the halibut hang out. You indicated fishing the Bird and Elephant Rock areas, so keep in mind there are a lot of underwater rock croppings there. That’s where the rockfish and lingcod hang out.

According to local California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Lt. Jim Jones, incidental catch is not a violation. However, once you do catch a species that is prohibited, it’s recommended that you leave that area. If you continue to fish and catch fish you are not targeting, you could be cited.

If you are fishing during a closure (such as now) and start catching lingcod and rockfish, even if you are fishing catch and release, you could receive a citation for targeting those fish, depending on the situation.


Van Duzen River pikeminnow fishing regs?
Question: After a short 35-year hiatus, I have decided to return to sport fishing. I live within walking distance of the Van Duzen River and my friends tell me it is “infested” with pikeminnow, a non-native and destructive predator of salmonid eggs in this watershed. I have tried to read the regulations online but am confused as to the restrictions on this fish in my area. (Tony W.)

Answer: Welcome back! Sacramento pike are a California native species, and although they are natural predators of salmonids, they have coexisted in streams for many years.

For regulations on the Sacramento pikeminnow, please check section “5.95. OTHER SPECIES” on page 27 of the 2016-2017 Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations handbook. Here it states that other species of fish not included in the species-specific regulations may be taken “in any number and at any time of the year by angling,” except for in the closures and restrictions listed under district special regulations. Specific regulations for the Van Duzen River can be found on page 42 of this regulations booklet (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 7.50(b)(63)(B)). Sacramento pikeminnow (Ptychocheilus grandis) are also referred to by some as Sacramento squawfish.


Selling skulls?
Question: Is it legal to sell skulls and bones from small mammals such as fox, skunk, raccoon, opossum, coyote, badger and bobcats? (Kayla M.)

Answer: No, it is “unlawful to sell or purchase a bird or mammal found in the wild in California” (Fish and Game Code, section 3039). However, “products or handicraft items made from furbearing mammals and nongame mammals lawfully taken under the authority of a trapping license may be purchased or sold at any time.”

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Carrie Wilson is a marine environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. While she cannot personally answer everyone’s questions, she will select a few to answer each week in this column. Please contact her at CalOutdoors@wildlife.ca.gov.

Human-Powered Boats?

(Photo courtesy of David A. Jones, Ducks Unlimited)

(Photo courtesy of David A. Jones, Ducks Unlimited)

Question: I have a question regarding a human-powered boat for duck hunting. I understand from the regulations that sails and motors can’t be used, but paddles and oars can. My boat has a prop for propulsion, but it isn’t gas or battery powered. Instead, it has bike pedals so I power it with my legs. It’s called a drive so would that be considered a motor? I am wondering if the “spirit of the law” originally allowed for the use of human power, but because pedals weren’t thought about when the law was written, they aren’t specifically mentioned under the “letter of the law.” How would this be enforced? Would I be OK to use it? (Doug T.)

Answer: Your drive may give the impression that your boat is under power, so if you are checked in the field, I would expect that you would be thoroughly inspected to determine the source of propulsion.

Regulations generally prohibit the take of “any bird or mammal from any type of motor-driven air or land vehicles, motorboat, airboat, sailboat or snowmobile” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 251). However, take is allowed if “the motor of such motorboat, airboat or sailboat has been shut off and/or the sails furled and its progress therefrom has ceased, and it is drifting, beached, moored, resting at anchor or is being propelled by paddle, oar or pole.”

Since our regulations don’t define what a “motor” is, courts would interpret the word by looking at the dictionary. Most definitions of motor seem to point to a machine or engine. However, many definitions refer to devices that convert one kind of energy into mechanical energy to produce motion. Given this potential ambiguity, many wildlife officers would likely not cite you for shooting from your human powered boat. But, to avoid the potential of being cited, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recommends you take the propeller out of the water in addition to being stopped while actively hunting.


Lobster double limits?
Question: What form will I need to obtain in order to possess double limits of lobster and what requirements are there? Thank you. (John K.)

Answer: The daily bag and possession limit is seven lobsters. Generally, the law only allows a person to possess a single limit (CCR Title 14, section 1.17). The only exception would be for multi-day trips as authorized under CCR Title 14, section 27.15. This section requires you to submit a Declaration for Multi-Day Fishing Trip to CDFW and to keep a duplicate on the vessel. The trip must be continuous and extend for a period of 12 hours or more on the first and last days of the trip. If you were diving for lobster for 12 hours or more before midnight on the first day of your trip, then you would be able to take your second day’s limit after midnight, as long as your trip extended for at least 12 hours on the second day as well.

The multi-day fishing declaration process is intended to allow persons fishing offshore, on a trip that lasts multiple days, to catch and keep up to three daily limits of finfish, lobster and rock scallops (in Southern California). In addition, no berthing or docking is permitted within five miles of the mainland shore, including Catalina Island. If passengers disembark the vessel to spend time ashore in Avalon, the trip is not continuous and the permit is invalid. This is the intention of the section when it talks about not berthing along the mainland shore.


Are artificial fish scent attractants considered bait?
Question: Are products like artificially scented fish eggs considered “bait” when it comes to areas where the regulations call for artificials only? My guess is they would be considered bait, but what about just plastic salmon egg imitations with no scent? Does scent play into the regulations at all? (Mike S.)

Answer: An artificial lure is “a man-made lure or fly designed to attract fish. This definition does not include any scented or flavored artificial baits.” (CCR Title 14, section 1.11). This means attractants may not be applied to the lure while fishing in waters restricted for artificial lure use.

In addition, some people spray WD-40 on their lures. This substance contains petroleum and is specifically prohibited by law to be deposited or introduced into the waters of the state (Fish and Game Code, section 5650).


Pistol on a wildlife area?
Question: Is it legal for me to have a pistol unloaded and locked up in my truck while hunting at a wildlife area for ducks (for example, in the Mendota Wildlife Area)? (David R.)

Answer: Yes, as long as the pistol is securely locked and stowed.

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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 to Determine if a Black Bear Has a Cub Nearby?

During hunting season, black bear sows may have dependent cubs nearby. If you have any doubts, don't take the shot (Photo courtesy of Pat Matthews, ODFW)

During hunting season, black bear sows may have dependent cubs nearby. If you have any doubts, don’t take the bear (Photo courtesy of Pat Matthews, ODFW)

Question: When hunting bears, how can you be certain that the adult you are stalking does not have a cub nearby? And what should be done if after the harvesting of a bear, you determine or find out that it had a cub hidden from sight (like up a tree)? (Dwight H.)

Answer: As you track the bear and do not encounter smaller bear-like tracks in close proximity, it may indicate you are not stalking a family unit but instead an individual adult or sub-adult. If possible, from a distance try to observe the bear with binoculars to further verify that it is not accompanied by cubs.

According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife Bear Program Coordinator Jesse Garcia, black bear young are born around the first of February while the sow is hibernating. The newborn cubs weigh less than a pound at birth and continue developing while suckling. They emerge with the sow from their dens in April or May at around five to seven pounds.

Cubs are dependent on their mother’s milk for 30 weeks (birth through early September), transitioning to solid food after their teeth have erupted, and will reach independence at 16–18 months. Cubs approaching their first birthday will be denning with their mother and learn aspects about hibernating.

Cubs of the year will be dependent upon and remain with their mother throughout the entire bear season while they are less than a year old. Sows with yearlings (one year plus) will have separated by the time the first bear season opens in early August. The percentage of sows with cubs of the year during bear season can change from one year to the next based on various factors.

Keep in mind that all bear harvesting requires immediate reporting. Therefore, the inadvertent take of a sow with a hidden cub would also need to be reported for follow-up enforcement action. If there is any doubt at all, do not take the bear.


Dungeness crab buoy identification with GO ID?
Question: I enjoy sport fishing for crabs and am wondering if I have two buoys on each crab trap, am I required to mark both buoys with my GO ID number? Do you have a recommended method of marking the buoy with the GO ID number? I am assuming this number changes with each year’s new license? If yes, then writing the number on the buoy will look bad after a couple years.

My buddy and I share six traps. Sometimes he takes them on his boat, sometimes I take them on mine, but we don’t always fish together. Do you have any suggestions for whose GO ID number should be on the buoys? Are we required to change the GO ID number depending on who is using the traps, assuming we are not fishing together? (Steve W.)

Answer: Crab traps are required to be marked with a buoy, and “each buoy shall be legibly marked to identify the operator’s GO ID number” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.80). At least one crab trap buoy must be marked with the operator’s GO ID number. Your GO ID is tied to you and is your individual identifying number for all fishing/hunting license and tag transactions you may make over your lifetime. It remains the same over the years and will not change. The number must be marked in a permanent manner on your buoys. It may be applied via burning, painting, permanent marker, etc. Just make sure the number is legible and will not wear off or become unreadable.

If two fishermen are sharing traps, the buoys should be marked with both GO ID numbers. That way, whichever person is working the traps on a given day has his number on the buoys. Keep in mind that if any of these traps are found to be in violation (such as set in an MPA), both fishermen could potentially be cited.


Fishing in isolated ponds
Question: As our creeks dry up, ponds are formed, some of which appear at the road culverts. Is it legal to fish these ponds with a pole, by hand or a dip net? (Jeanne G., Portola)

Answer: In intermittent streams like you describe, what appear to be ponds are actually isolated pools. Although not apparent during the dry season, water may still be flowing out of sight, under the streambed surface. This is often called “intragravel flow.” Because a creek is still a stream and not actually a pond or lake, the stream regulations still apply. Fish can only be taken from these waters under the regulations currently applicable for that stream, including seasons, limits, methods of take, etc. Current California Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations can be found online or you can pick up a copy of the booklet wherever fishing licenses are 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.

Using a Dinosaur Blind for Waterfowl Hunting?

(Creative Commons photo)

(Creative Commons photo)

Question: I realize this may sound like a really dumb question or a joke, but I’m honestly being serious. Can I make a plywood cutout of a dinosaur to hide behind so that I can better sneak up on waterfowl? I recently heard about using a plywood cutout of a cow as a way to approach ducks and geese. However, I then saw that this is illegal in California because hunters are not allowed to use something that looks like a mammal to approach waterfowl. Dinosaurs aren’t mammals though so I don’t see why this wouldn’t work, but I just wanted to ask. (Sydney M.)

Answer: Fish and Game Code, section 3502, which is derived from a provision of the Penal Code dating to 1909, prohibits using “any mammal (except a dog) or an imitation of a mammal as a blind in approaching or taking game birds.” Since dinosaurs are not mammals, you will be ok as long as your blind can’t be confused with a mammal.


Is a SUP considered a vessel?
Question: Is a stand-up-paddle (SUP) board considered a vessel when used in the taking of abalone? I ask because I’m wondering if I have to fill out my abalone tag on my SUP before coming to shore. (Jonathan W.)

Answer: No, you may wait until you come ashore to tag and fill out your abalone report card. Although California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.16(b)(1) requires that people taking abalone “shall tag any red abalone either immediately upon exiting the water or immediately upon boarding a vessel, whichever occurs first,” it also provides that people “who dive from a non-motorized vessel such as a kayak that is in the water may wait until immediately after disembarking from the non-motorized vessel to tag and record any abalone in possession.”


Still confused about antibiotics in stocked fish
Question: I just read with interest in the Modesto Bee your answer to the question about antibiotics in stocked fish. The answer doesn’t make sense to me. First, you say that hatchery fish are treated with antibiotics when necessary to save their lives and it is done on an as-needed basis. Knowing that hatchery fish number in the tens of thousands, and no individual fish would be pulled out and antibiotics delivered to just those fish, you must be saying, yes, they are treated, right? And then you finish the answer with “none of the stocked fish have antibiotics.” Huh? (Barbara S.)

Answer: Sorry for any confusion. When the fish need to be treated with antibiotics, then they are treated as a group since most ailments would be ones that would affect them all. Antibiotics are only used when necessary to save lives, and there is a good chance that none of the fish raised during a growing cycle were ever treated with antibiotics at all.

Prior to the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approving (registering) any antibiotics for use in food fish, they set withdrawal times to ensure public safely. Withdrawal times are meant to guarantee that residual antibiotics are either non-detectable, or lower than the FDA’s acceptable limits, prior to the fish being released.

Once all treatments are finished, the fish are held for the required time for the chemicals to work their way out of their bodies. Only after this time can those fish finally be planted and available for human consumption.

Some other agricultural industries have been criticized for using antibiotics as a growth aid. We don’t do that for the fish we supply to our anglers.


Sport fishing on a commercial crab boat?
Question: Can commercial boats sport fish for Dungeness crab during the sport season when the commercial season is closed? (Anonymous)

Answer: Yes, if the commercial vessel is not engaged in any commercial activity (FGC, section 7856(f)), the commercial vessel does not hold a Dungeness crab vessel permit (CCR Title 14, section 132.1(a)), and everyone taking crab or fishing onboard has a sport fishing license and is following sport fishing regulations.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

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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.

Bowfishing for Bullfrogs?

Bullfrogs can be taken by bow and arrow (CDFW photo by Dave Feliz)

Bullfrogs can be taken by bow and arrow (CDFW photo by Dave Feliz)

Question: In the regulations it says it’s legal to use bow and arrow to take bullfrogs. Does this mean we are also allowed to take them using compound bows? (J. Riggs)

Answer: Yes, compound bows are legal for taking bullfrogs as long as the arrow shaft or the point, or both, are attached by a line to the bow or to a fishing reel (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.23). Bow fishing for bullfrogs will also require you to have a California sport fishing license. Amphibians may be taken only by hand, hand-held dip net, or hook and line, except bullfrogs may also be taken by lights, spears, gigs, grabs, paddles, bow and arrow or fishing tackle (CCR Title 14, section 5.05(e)). Since there are some protected frog species that may coexist with bullfrogs, please be sure you are correctly identifying your frog as a bullfrog, Rana (Lithobates) cataesbeiana, before releasing your arrow!


Lead ammo on Native American reservations?
Question: I have a relative with land that borders a Native American reservation. For the past 40 years I have hunted doves and quail on his ranch. I talked to a tribal member next to the ranch and he said they still use lead shot and bullets when they hunt, and if they lease the part of the ranch where I hunt, I could still use lead shot there because they are a sovereign nation. He also said I did not need a California hunting license, stamps or tags except from the tribal government. I always love to read your column. Please advise me if this information is correct. (Jay S.)

Answer: Non -tribal members (you), even if given permission by a tribe to hunt within the tribe’s reservation or on its lands, may still be required to have a valid California hunting license, stamps and tags and comply with California hunting laws. Check with a California Wildlife Officer to confirm whether you will need. A non-tribal member may also be required to comply with tribal hunting and fishing regulations within a tribe’s reservation. Also, federal law prohibits entering tribal lands without permission for the purpose of hunting and transporting wildlife taken in violation of tribal law, so hunters are encouraged to contact the tribe before hunting within a tribe’s reservation or on tribal lands.

Tribal members within their own reservation, with very limited exceptions, are subject to federal and tribal fish and wildlife laws, rather than state laws. The lead ammo ban would not apply to them within their own reservation (Fish and Game Code, section 12300, 16 US Code sections 3372 and 18 US Code section 1165).


Rotten cotton?
Question: I am trying to make my crab traps compliant with the new “rotten cotton” regulations that require escape features must be threaded with single strand untreated cotton of no greater than size 120. My traps are tied with multi strand cotton. I cannot find single strand cotton cord. All the places that sell replacement cord seem to carry only multi strand. I was thinking of untwisting the multi strand cord and using the single strands. Any suggestions? (Walter)d-crab-trap-1

Answer: Twine size is based on the diameter of the line, which is based on established size reference tables. You must use a single strand of untreated cotton twine size 120 or less. “Single strand” in the regulations refers to one strand of whatever cotton twine (legal size) that a person may choose to use. It does not refer to the number of strands that make up the single strand of cotton twine. Commercial crab fishermen have been required to include escape openings using this “rotten cotton” for many years without problems. If you’re having trouble finding it, check fisherman supply warehouses or businesses that sell commercial fishing supplies.d-crab-trap-5

“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)).

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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.

Kite Fishing

(CDFW photo by Sabrina Bell)

(CDFW photo by Sabrina Bell)

Question: Can you tell me the regulations regarding using a fishing kite from shore or a pier to catch fish? We use these specially modified kites to help us get our lines out farther than the distance we could normally cast them. (Jenny C.)

Answer: There are no specific regulations prohibiting the use of a kite or other windborne device (a helium-filled balloon, for example) to help you get your line out to where the fish are. However, please be mindful of the environment and remember that any items or materials discarded or abandoned could be considered litter. If, for instance, an angler used a balloon to catch a fish and then released the balloon when the fish was hooked — or when the line reached the desired distance from shore — the angler could be subject to citation.

Also, there may be city or county ordinances that pertain to this, so please check with local authorities.


What to do about raccoons visiting my backyard
Question: I live in a residential area and raccoons have begun visiting my backyard at night. They are using my yard as a rest stop in their nightly urban foraging. Our backyard is landscaped including a grass lawn. I am looking for anything short of cages to discourage them. Is there any non-toxic substance I can spread near their entrance/exit point to discourage their visits? They do not appear to be eating or digging up anywhere in the yard, but they’ve adopted my yard as their restroom. I would appreciate any insight or suggestions you may have. (John W., Elk Grove)

Answer: We see an upsurge in raccoon sightings and reports this time of year because youngsters born in the spring are now independent of their moms and the adults are building up their fat reserves for the winter.

According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Wildlife Biologist Jeff Cann, you should first remove all attractants from your yard such as pet food, dropped fruit, old garden vegetables, and securely close all garbage cans and compost heap containers. Even water can be an attractant this time of year, so if you have a fountain or fish pond, try to make it off limits (e.g. electric fence or dry it out). If the raccoons are coming in through holes in the fence, block those entry points with wire, wood or some other barrier.

Keep in mind that raccoons are excellent climbers and are capable of gaining access to yards by climbing fences or using overhanging limbs to bypass fences altogether. Cutting overhanging limbs may help to keep them from dropping in. If the raccoons are climbing over your fence, one deterrent could be to line the top with spikes or sharp tack strips. An easy way to do this is via carpet tack strips which are essentially a lot of little nails anchored in wood that carpet installers use to stretch carpet over. If you completely line the top of the fence with these then the raccoons will not use the top board as a transit way either. A “hot wire” from an electric fence charger at the top of the fence will greatly increase the effectiveness of a fence for excluding raccoons but you’ll need to find a way to properly ground it.

While these may all seem like extreme measures, the point here is to make your yard less hospitable than your neighbors so the pesky critters will move on.

If you’re looking for chemical detractors, one option you could try is Capsaicin (a chile pepper extract). It’s registered as a repellent for raccoons and may be useful in deterring trash-raiding raccoons.

A great place for more information on all of this is the University of California Integrated Pest Management Program page on raccoons. Good luck!


Is licorice legal bait?
Question: My brother and I have two burning questions we have been wondering about. Is it legal to use licorice to fish with as bait? Also, we observed a man with a syringe injecting air into his bait worms so they would float off the bottom. Is this legal? (Marcus O.)

Answer: Processed food, such as licorice, are legal under bait regulations for inland waters where bait is legal (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 4.00). It is also legal to inject air into a fishing worm and many such kits are found at sporting goods outlets. This method can be a very effective way to keep a worm off the bottom of lakes with heavy bottom vegetation.


Can you lure a lobster with a sardine?
Question: Are you allowed to lure lobsters out of a hole with a piece of sardine in your hand? (David C.)

Answer: Sure, you can give it a try, but I don’t know how successful you’ll be. The law says that skin and SCUBA divers may take crustaceans by the use of the hands only and may not possess any hooked device while diving or attempting to dive for them (CCR Title 14, section 29.80). There is no prohibition against waving snacks in front of 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.

Carrie is on vacation. This column was originally published Nov. 20, 2008.