Tag Archives: freshwater fishing

Fish Carcasses for Bait?

Generally in ocean waters, if a fish can be legally possessed, it can be used for bait. However, there are some situations you need to watch out for.

Question: I recently went deep sea fishing and was wondering if the carcass and/or leftovers of fish caught could be used as bait? I cleaned the fillets today and thought that the skin left attached for identification purposes could be frozen and taken back on a future trip to use as an additional attraction attached to my jigs. The head and body after being filleted might also make for good bait. Are either or both of these ideas legal? I know that crab fishermen often use fish carcasses for baiting their traps, but then I also know of others who have been cited for baiting with fish carcasses. What do the regulations say? (Mark B.)

Answer: Generally in ocean waters, if a fish can be legally possessed, it can be used for bait. You may use rockfish carcasses for crab bait, but there are some situations you need to watch out for.

To eliminate any questions or confusion when you go out crabbing and fishing for rockfish, set your crab traps baited with rockfish carcasses first. Then, at the end of the day when you are returning with limits of rockfish, you can pull your crab traps and discard the used rockfish carcasses before returning to port. Otherwise it may look as though you went out and caught a limit of rockfish to use as crab bait and then continued to catch another limit of rockfish to take home. People have been caught and cited for doing this.

Also, make sure that any fish carcasses you use are from fish that are legal to possess. Many crab fishermen get cited because the carcasses they are using are from undersized salmon, lingcod, cabezon, greenling or other fish with size limits, or from cowcod, canary, yelloweye or bronze-spotted rockfish or other restricted species. They may tell their friends they got cited by the warden for using a fish carcass as crab bait, but the real story is that they got cited for the illegal take and possession of restricted fish.


Following the trout planting schedule?
Question: When the trout planting page on your website says plants will occur the week of any Sunday, does that mean the plant occurred in the week before or will occur the week following that Sunday date? Thanks for all of the help for sportsmen in California. (Robert G.)

Answer: When you see this message, it means that those waters are scheduled to be planted some time in that upcoming week (meaning following that Sunday). To learn more about the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) fish hatchery program and to view the upcoming trout planting schedule in waters throughout the state, please visit our website.


How to lose big game preference points?
Question: I have accrued several preference drawing points over the past years for various species. If I don’t put in for the preference points every year, do I lose all of those that I currently have accrued? (Dick D.)

Answer: No, accumulated preference points are zeroed out if you do not participate in the drawing for that species for five consecutive years. A missed application deadline is considered as not applying. In addition, you can also lose accumulated preference points for each of the species in the following manner:

Deer – when you are drawn for a premium deer tag as your first choice
Elk, Pronghorn Antelope and Bighorn Sheep – when you are drawn for and pay for the tag.


Rockfish size and possession limits?
Question: Is there a size limit for rockfish in California? Also, are lingcod counted in the 10 RCG Complex bag limit? (John S.)

Answer: No, there are no size limits or fillet limits for any rockfish species. Lingcod are counted OUTSIDE of the RCG Complex bag limit of 10 Rockfish, Cabezon and Greenlings in combination. The bag limit for lingcod is two fish per day/in possession. You can find this information in the current Ocean Sport Fishing regulations booklet, in groundfish tables toward the front of the booklet, and online.


Crab pot line length suggestion?
Question: Is there a regulation or suggestion regarding length of line for a second buoy for crab pots? Many individuals add a second buoy that is attached to the main buoy to make it easier to grab the line to hoist the pot. My impression is that this line should be about four to six feet long. I have seen the second buoy line very long such that it could be caught in the boat’s prop very easily. (Ken H., Santa Rosa)

Answer: There are no regulations regarding trailer buoy length at this point in time. My best advice would be to check out this “Best Practices Guide” website.

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

Rainbow Trout/Steelhead vs Coastal Cutthroat Trout

Steelhead fishing (Photo courtesy of Ken Oda)

Question: I have a question regarding regulations on non-adipose fin-clipped (“wild”) rainbow trout/steelhead and coastal cutthroat trout in tributaries on the North Coast (e.g. the lagoons in northern Humboldt County). Anglers are not permitted to keep wild rainbow trout/steelhead but are permitted to keep wild coastal cutthroat trout. However, these two species are well known to hybridize and hybrid offspring are reproductively viable.

Hybrids also exhibit a continuous spectrum of phenotypic expression that runs from the rainbow phenotype (few spots below the lateral line, small head, maxillary terminating before the rear of the eye and no throat slashes) to the cutthroat phenotype (heavily spotted including below the lateral line, large head, maxillary extending past the rear of the eye and throat slashes present). These phenotypes are what the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) website recommends for identification of the two species, but there is no reference to the basibranchial teeth that are specific to cutthroat.

Therefore, if an angler catches a non-adipose fin-clipped trout that has no throat slashes, no spots below the lateral line, a small head and a maxillary that does not extend beyond the rear of the eye, but has basibranchial teeth, is the angler allowed to keep the trout? The fish described is likely a hybrid “cuttbow.” Alternatively, if an angler catches a trout that outwardly looks like a coastal cutthroat but does not have basibranchial teeth, is the angler allowed to keep the trout? Again, this fish is likely a cuttbow. (Brian P., Sacramento)

Answer: According to CDFW Environmental Program Manager Roger Bloom, it is true that rainbow trout/coastal cutthroat hybrids exist at some low level in sympatric populations. However, based on a recent scientific study, the practice of using phenotypic traits to distinguish hybrids is not very effective. Although the presence of basibranchial teeth are a strong indication of a cutthroat trout lineage, it should not be used exclusively as a definitive sign to retain/harvest a fish.

From a regulatory/enforcement perspective, field identification of coastal cutthroats should be based on commonly agreed upon morphology of red/orange slashes found under the jaw. If there is a question about a fish being a hybrid coastal cutthroat crossed with a rainbow trout, anglers should err on the side of caution. It must have observable red/orange slashes if the trout is to be considered a coastal cutthroat for harvest.

Interestingly, some Central Valley hatchery steelhead may exhibit orange/yellow slashes which could stem from genetic influences via ancestral redband trout. Hence, if an angler encounters an adipose-clipped fish that looks like a rainbow trout but has these characteristics, it can be retained/harvested as there are currently no hatchery coastal cutthroats with clipped adipose fins.


Eating fresh-caught fish while at sea?
Question: Is it legal to eat just-caught fish while still at sea? For example, if I catch a tuna, fillet it into six pieces and later that day have one piece for dinner, would that be a criminal offense under the new fillet rules? (Jim K.)

Answer: No, you are welcome to cook sport-caught fish on a vessel as long as the fish is counted toward the angler’s individual bag limit and the vessel’s boat limit. The fish must also meet the fillet length requirements and any skin patches must be left on until the fish is prepared for immediate consumption (Fish and Game Code, sections 5508 and 5509). Remember, you cannot catch another fish to replace the one that has been eaten once the bag/boat limit has been filled for that type of fish for that day.


Ranching wild pigs on private property?
Question: Are there circumstances under which a California rancher or even a private resident can keep live wild pigs on their property? I haven’t found any regulations that specifically address this. (Mike A.)

Answer: No, it is not lawful for any California resident to possess wild pigs (Sus scrofa) (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 671(c)(2)(Q)). However, there is an exception for Sus scrofa domestica, also known as the domesticated pig one commonly sees on a farm (CCR Title 14, section 671(c)(2)(Q)(1)).


Crab Hawk
Question: Is it legal to use the device called the “Crabhawk” to fish for Dungeness crabs? (Forrest L., Watsonville)

Answer: This device, which attaches to the end of a fishing line, is not legal in California. For descriptions of legal devices that may be used to take crabs, please check CCR Title 14, section 29.80. The Crabhawk does not meet the regulatory criteria.

An alternative trap that may be attached to the end of a line is the crab loop trap. These have been legal to use in California for many years.

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

Properly Catching and Releasing Fish while Taking Photos?

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

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

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

Steelhead (Photo by Ken Oda)

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

Are Green Lobsters Safe to Eat?

(CDFW photo by Derek Stein)


Question: A buddy of mine got two lobsters in San Diego Bay right before the season closed. While he was cleaning them, he noticed green algae on their shells and then found the meat to be white, looking like it was already cooked. Both lobsters were still alive when detailing them. Have you heard any other stories like this? Would they have still been okay to cook and eat? (Ray C., San Diego)

Answer: When you find a lobster with algae on its shell (exoskeleton) it usually means it hasn’t molted in quite a while. This should be nothing to worry about, though. An animal getting ready to molt pulls salts out of its existing shell and creates a soft exoskeleton underneath that will expand with water and salts once the animal molts. Our best guess is that the old exoskeleton may have been overgrown and what your friend encountered (white, cooked-looking meat) could have been the new exoskeleton just under the old. As long as the animal was acting normally and was still alive before it was cooked, there was likely no problem with the meat.

One test seafood businesses use when cooking whole lobsters is whether they curl. The shell should turn to a darker red color and the tail tends to curl (not tightly, but it’s difficult to lay the animal flat). If there’s no curl, discard the animal.


Trapping opossums?
Question: My city neighbor is now renting a home and has taken it upon himself to trap local opossums and release them elsewhere. He says he is taking them to a county road (Dry Creek) but there is no way to verify this. We have lived in our home for 15 years and so we, along with our neighbors, are concerned. We have lived with the possums and raccoons for a lot of years without issues. This tenant intends to exterminate them. Is there anything we can do? (Tyler)

Answer: “All furbearing and nongame mammals that are legal to trap must be immediately euthanized or released” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 465.5(g)(1)). So it is not legal to transport opossums elsewhere for release. Possums should not be “relocated” from where they were trapped for many reasons, the most important being to prevent the spread of disease, and immediately releasing the opossums would not take care of the “pest” problem that your neighbor probably wants to solve. There are other options that you could inform your neighbor about though. “Keep me Wild” is a campaign that strives to limit conflicts between wild animals and humans. More information about how your neighbor can avoid problems with opossums may be found at the Keep Me Wild website.


Python skins to make leather goods?
Question: I’m a fashion designer located in New Jersey and I am looking to move my business to California. I’ve heard and read things about Python skin being illegal in California. I was looking for more information on this and whether this is 100 percent true? I currently make leather goods, but with exotic skins. (Michael S.)

Answer: Pythons are on the list of animals, or parts or products thereof, that are illegal to import into this state for commercial purposes, to possess with intent to sell, or to sell within the state (see California Penal Code, section 653o.) Prohibited species include: polar bears, leopards, ocelots, tigers, cheetahs, jaguars, sable antelope, wolves (Canis lupus), zebras, whales, cobras, pythons, sea turtles, colobus monkeys, kangaroos, vicunas, sea otters, free-roaming feral horses, dolphins or porpoises (Delphinidae), Spanish lynxes or elephants.


Fishing with kids and friends
Question: I am taking my daughter and a couple of friends and their dads on our boat this weekend. The girls are all under 16. I have a license but do all of the dads need them, too? Or, can I be the only adult angler? (Eric N.)

Answer: As long as the non-licensed adults on the boat do not assist in any way with fishing, they do not need to have a sport fishing license to ride along with you on your fishing trip. “Every person 16 years of age or older who takes any fish, reptile or amphibian for any purpose other than profit shall first obtain a valid license for that purpose and shall have that license on his or her person or in his or her immediate possession or where otherwise specifically required by law or regulation to be kept when engaged in carrying out any activity authorized by the license” (Fish and Game Code, section 7145).

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

Catching Crabs with a Chicken Leg?

Dungeness crabs (ODFW photo)

Dungeness crabs (ODFW photo)

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Hoop Netting for Crabs off California Piers

Dungeness crab (DFG photo)

Dungeness crab (DFG photo)

Question: Is it legal to use hoop nets to catch crab off piers in California this time of the year? I thought that I read crab season runs through June. However, the hoop net is a net that people use for catching California spiny lobster too, so do I need the California Spiny Lobster Report Card even though I’m not fishing for lobster? I ask this because someone might think that I intend to fish for lobster if I am operating a hoop net.

Also, I have a fishing license I recently purchased for this year, but in general, does one need a license to operate a crab trap during crab season on a pier in California? (Trevor W.)

Answer: Dungeness are the only crabs with a closed season, and they are found mostly along the northern half of California’s coast. Dungeness crab season varies depending on location, so you should check the regulations once you know where you will be crabbing (see section 29.85 on page 51 of the 2016-2017 Ocean Sportfishing Regulations booklet).

The other crabs belonging to the Cancer genus (yellow crab, rock crab, red crab and slender crab) are found statewide and may be taken year round. You need a sport fishing license to take crab generally, but whenever you are fishing from a public fishing pier, a sport fishing license is not needed. You are limited to two fishing appliances on a public fishing pier, though (two nets, rods, lines, etc.).

As long as you immediately release any lobster that may wander into your net, you do not need a Spiny Lobster Report Card. This means you cannot keep them for any length of time. If you pull one up, it must go right back into the water.

Before taking crab, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) encourages you to check for any health advisories related to domoic acid by calling the California Department of Public Health at 1-800-553-4133.


Using artificial scents as fish attractants?
Question: Are you allowed to use artificial scents applied to lures such as fish oil-based products to attract fish in freshwater lakes of California? What’s the difference between bait and using scents that do not contain food to attract fish? (Dean H.)

Answer: Artificial scents may be applied to lures or baits except in areas with specific artificial lure restrictions. An artificial lure “does not include scented or flavored artificial baits” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.11). This means attractants may not be applied to the lure while fishing in waters restricted for artificial lure use only. It is very common to use fish oil products and or scents in many areas of the state.


Does a loaded Bandolier make an unloaded gun loaded?
Question: If a gun is unloaded but has a Bandolier attached to the stock containing loaded bullets/shells, is it actually considered to be a loaded gun? (Anonymous)

Answer: No. Loaded gun laws that apply to vehicles on roads open to the public have changed over the years, and there are differences between the Fish and Game Code and the Penal Code. Long guns are considered to be loaded pursuant to Fish and Game Code, section 2006 “when there is an unexpended cartridge or shell in the firing chamber but not when the only cartridges or shells are in the magazine.” Under the Penal Code, a firearm is also considered to be loaded if there is a round in the magazine that can be loaded into the firing chamber with the firearm’s action. A firearm with rounds in a holder attached to the stock would not be considered loaded under these standards.


Hunting small game with a .22 air rifle?
Question: What are the laws on hunting small game (doves, quail, etc.)? Do I need a hunting license to hunt small game? I live in the Bakersfield area and am wondering if I can hunt doves and quail with a .22 air rifle? (Arnold C.)

Answer: You will need a hunting license to hunt big and small game mammals as well as game birds. If you don’t yet have your license, you will need to take and successfully pass a Hunter Education course. You can find information about the courses, dates and locations of upcoming classes, and you may sign up for a class on our Hunter Education website.

Methods of take for resident small game include “air rifles powered by compressed air or gas and used with any caliber of pellet, except that wild turkey may only be taken with a pellet that is at least 0.177 caliber” (CCR Title 14, section 311(f)). Different methods of take are specified for migratory birds, such as doves. Air rifles or all other rifles are prohibited for the take of migratory birds (CCR Title 14, section 507).

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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.

Scuba Diving through MPAs with Lobsters in Possession

California spiny lobster (CDFW photo by Derek Stein)

California spiny lobster (CDFW photo by Derek Stein)

Question: If a scuba diver legally enters an area for lobster, proceeds to catch lobster in that area but then is unable to exit the water safely, could they surface swim through a Marine Protected Area (MPA) zone with their catch and exit legally? (Tom)

Answer: Yes, the diver can swim through but should make sure they are clearly not actively hunting for lobsters. For example, if when kicking in on the surface and are right in close to the rocks, they then stop and shine their lights into holes or reach into holes, they may appear to be hunting for lobsters. If they have lobsters in their possession and a warden determines they are attempting to hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill any lobster, they may be issued a citation for fishing in an MPA.

“Spear fishermen with or without catch shall be allowed to transit through MPAs and MMAs. While transiting MPAs and MMAs that prohibit spearfishing or while in possession of species not identified as allowed for take in the MPA or MMA being transited, spearfishing gear shall be in an unloaded condition, not carried in hand, and the diver shall remain at the surface” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 632(a)(8)).


Hunting with an Atlatl (spear thrower)?
Question: Is it legal to use an Atlatl, or spear thrower, to hunt game animals in California? If it is legal, what are the regulations for their use? (Charlie)

Answer: No, a spear thrower is not legal to use. Only methods defined in the 2016-2017 California Mammal Hunting Regulations booklet for the take of small game (CCR Title 14, section 311, on page 26) and for big game (CCR Title 14, section 353, beginning on page 27) may be used.


Personal limits vs boat limits?
Question: When on a boat with a group of fishermen, does the bag limit apply to the boat (as I believe I’ve read in the statutes and have seen on party boats) or does it mean that anyone catching their limit must stop fishing altogether?

I ask because we were ordered off the water when some wardens told us one of our friends could no longer be out there with us since his gear was still in the boat and he was considered to still be fishing. He was the only one with a limit.

Also, since fresh and saltwater regulations are slightly different, where in your regs are the lines of demarcation for San Francisco Bay? (Jerry Z.)

Answer: Boat limits apply to anyone fishing aboard a boat in ocean waters off California or in the San Francisco Bay (CCR Title 14, section 27.60(c)). Boat limits allow fishing by all licensed persons aboard until boat limits of finfish are taken and possessed aboard the vessel. Boat limits do not apply to sturgeon, shellfish or when fishing in inland waters.

“The San Francisco Bay is the waters of San Francisco and San Pablo bays, plus all their tidal bays, sloughs, estuaries and tidal portions of their rivers and streams between the Golden Gate Bridge and the west Carquinez Bridge. For purposes of this section, waters downstream of the Trancas Bridge on the Napa River, downstream of Highway 121 Bridge on Sonoma Creek and downstream of the Payran Street Bridge on the Petaluma River are tidal portions of the Napa River, Sonoma Creek and Petaluma River, respectively” (CCR Title 14, section 27.00).

“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 Bay and the waters of Elkhorn Slough, west of Elkhorn Road between Castroville and Watsonville” (CCR Title 14, section 1.53).

When fishing in inland waters, bag limits apply to each individual angler and not to the boat as a whole.


Bear skin rug and Alaskan whale bone carving for sale
Question: I have a bear skin rug, along with the head, that was the property of my mother-in-law. We also have a whale bone carving from an Alaskan artist. These are not things we wish to hold on to. Is there any way to sell these items in another state (outside of California) even though we live in California? What are the other options? (Kathy S.)

Answer: Regarding your bear skin rug, it is “unlawful to sell or purchase, or possess for sale, the meat, skin, hide, teeth, claws or other parts of any bear in this state (Fish and Game Code, section 4758). And as far as the whale bone carving, “it is unlawful to sell or purchase a bird or mammal found in the wild in California” (FGC, section 3039). So, if your carving comes from a whale that occurs in California waters, it may not be sold in the state. While neither of these laws apply to transactions taking place entirely outside of California, you are encouraged to consult the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine if any federal laws may apply.

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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.