Tag Archives: hunting

How to Bring Home Fish Caught Out of State?

(U.S.F.W.S. photo)

Question: Later this year I am planning a trip to fish in the state of Washington. The limits and retention are different. What is the best way to bring fish home from the trip? Is there some paperwork trail that must be kept or some type of certification? (Ross B.)

Answer: Yes. To import fish into California, you are required to complete a declaration of entry form once you reach the California border (Fish and Game Code, section 2353). On this form you will list your fishing license information from Washington, along with the county where the fish were taken. You must deliver one copy of the declaration to the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) entry station, mail one to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and keep one for your records. The declaration of entry provides you the paper trail back to the county and state where the fish were legally harvested.


No deer tag, so what can we hunt?
Question: Half of our group drew tags for our favorite hunting zone and half did not. The unlucky ones will be helping with chores, fishing and hunting coyotes. Can we carry a rifle for coyotes while riding with the hunter with a tag? Many times we’ll drop the deer hunter off and then come back to pick them up, meanwhile calling coyotes as a way to kill the time. Is it legal or would it be best to leave the guns at camp and separate the two activities? (Mark)

Answer: This would be legal as long as the coyote hunters are clearly not attempting to hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill a deer. If your friends are hunting deer and you are hunting coyotes, it’s best to keep the two practices separate. This is especially true during deer season, so the coyote hunters will not appear to be deer hunting without a tag. In addition, as coyote hunters, you cannot engage in driving deer for your friends to shoot because this is considered “take” of deer. Take is defined as, “Hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill, or the attempt to hunt pursue, catch, capture or kill” (FGC, section 86). If the coyote hunters are involved in any activity which results in the pursuit of deer, they would be in violation.

Keep in mind that coyote hunting methods are often not compatible with deer hunting, so wildlife officers sometimes encounter hunters claiming to hunt coyotes when in fact they are deer hunting and trying to fill a friend’s tag. This is a significant problem in areas where drawing a tag is difficult, such as the X-1 zone, so the officers are watching for this.


Measuring salmon correctly
Question: Salmon fishing can be challenging because it often entails spending all day on the water, with some days not even getting a legal size fish. I was fishing over the weekend and caught a salmon that when laid flat on the deck measured 23-3/4 inches. If I grabbed it by the tail and held onto it, the fish would measure 24-1/4 inches, making it a legal catch. If a warden had checked me, would it have been a legal catch if I squeezed the tail while the game warden was measuring it? (Ralph C., Santa Cruz)

Answer: Since salmon are measured by their total length, this means measured to the longest length from the tip of the nose to the longest point of the tail. Pinching the tail or stretching the fish using gravity or muscle to find the longest possible length is not permissible. The best way to get the longest length is to lay the fish down flat on a flat surface, pinch the mouth shut and then swing the caudal (tail) fin back and forth until you find the longest point.

Some species, such as tunas, are measured by fork length rather than by total length. This measurement is taken from the tip of the mouth to the length inside the fork of the tail. Minimum and maximum size are defined as, “Tip of the head shall be the most anterior point on the fish with the mouth closed and the fish lying flat on its side” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.62). A diagram showing the correct measurement methods can be found in the 2017-2018 Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet or online.

Keep in mind, fish that are just barely legal can often measure differently between the person’s on deck measuring device and a warden’s device on shore, especially after cleaning/bleeding. I suggest using a bit of caution when keeping a fish that appears to be exactly the legal minimum size as it might come up short when measured later on.

# # #

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

Hunting Over Alfalfa?

Successful pig hunter at Tejon Ranch (CDFW photo)

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

# # #

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.

Scouting and Hunting from a Paraglider?

It is illegal to scout for big game via a paraglider because using any device capable of flight in order to locate big game during the hunting season is prohibited. (Creative Commons photo)

Question: Is it legal to scout wild game from a non-motorized paraglider? If so, would it also be legal to locate game from the sky and then land and pursue the animals on foot? (Tony A.)

Answer: For scouting big game, this would be illegal because using any device capable of flight in order to locate big game during the hunting season is prohibited. “No person shall pursue, drive, herd, or take any bird or mammal from any type of motor-driven air or land vehicles…. Additionally, no person shall use any motorized, hot-air or unpowered aircraft or other device capable of flight or any earth orbiting imaging device to locate or assist in locating big game mammals beginning 48 hours before and continuing until 48 hours after any big game hunting season in the same area.” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 251)


Carp spearfishing in the Russian River?
Question: I’ve been told that even though the Russian River is a salmon spawning river, I would be allowed to spearfish for carp because the carp are invasive. I need to confirm this from the regulation book though. Can you please help? Is this allowed? (Michael S.)

Answer: No. Spearfishing is only allowed in the waters listed under section 2.30 in the 2017 Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations booklet (CCR Title 14, section 2.30) beginning on page 12. In fact, even possessing a spear within 100 yards of the Russian River is unlawful (CCR Title 14, section 2.09).


Upgrading to lifetime fishing license?
Question: I’ve already purchased my 2017 sport fishing license. Can I pay the difference and upgrade to a permanent fishing license? (Bob I.)

Answer: Thank you for your interest in a lifetime license. Unfortunately, annual licenses cannot be upgraded to lifetime licenses mid-year. We suggest that you continue to use your annual license for the remainder of the year and purchase a lifetime license at the end of the year, before the new year to avoid any potential lifetime license fee increases.


How many hooks are allowed when fishing Sabiki rigs?
Question: My question is regarding Sabiki rigs. These pre-made rigs are sold with six hooks, and I have read that we are only allowed to use rigs with a max of three hooks. Does the three-hook rule also apply to Sabiki rigs since these rigs (the small ones with No. 12 hooks) are only for catching bait fish instead of game fish? If so, do I need to cut the rig in half? (Andy S.)

Answer: It depends on where you’re fishing and what you’re fishing for. To catch and keep some species of fish you’re required to use a certain number of hooks. If you catch one of these fish on a rig with more hooks than permitted, you’d have to throw it back.

Many species of rockfish, especially blue rockfish, will bite Sabiki rigs. So, even though they are designed to catch bait, they target any fish species that sees them as food. If you have rockfish, cabezon, greenling or lingcod on your boat, you cannot use a full Sabiki rig and must cut all but two hooks off.

Also, if fishing in inland waters, you would be restricted to using three hooks or less.

And remember, it’s not legal to keep chinook salmon if taken with barbed hooks or if using more than two barbless hooks per line if a salmon is in possession. If you have no fish onboard and are trying to catch bait with a Sabiki rig, you would be required to release any such species.

I suggest that you read the Gear Restrictions section of the annual Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet beginning on page 33, and the Fishing Methods and Gear Restrictions section beginning on page 12 of the annual Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations booklet, to learn more about the regulations of the fish species you expect to encounter.


Maximum number of crab traps allowed per vessel?
Question: We just bought a new boat and would like to start fishing for Dungeness crabs. The sport fishing regulations state that a maximum of 10 hoop nets are allowed for Dungeness crabs per vessel (CCR Title 14, section 29.80). Does this regulation also apply when fishing crab traps south of Point Arena? (Lynard S.)

Answer: No, there are no restrictions on the number of crab traps the average sport crabber can have on a vessel for recreational purposes between Point Arguello, Santa Barbara County and the California-Oregon state line. The same is not true for charter/party boats that take recreational fishermen crabbing. When fishing for Dungeness crabs, the commercial sport fishing boats are restricted to using 60 traps per vessel (CCR Title 14, section 29.85(a)(4)). When fishing south of Point Arguello, hoop nets for crabs are allowed but crab traps are not.

# # #

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.

Bait Launching with a DIY Spud Gun?

Pneumatic potato guns that use compressed air are legal as long as they are not used like a weapon (e.g. shot at a person, etc.) (Creative Commons photo)

Question: Is the use of bait launchers legal in California? I have seen many videos and DIY plans showing how to build fishing bait launchers. They look pretty much like a potato gun but are used only for propelling the bait past the surf for a chance at the larger fish. They are made of PVC pipe and filled with air, probably from a bike pump. Its only purpose is for getting the fishing bait out farther than one can cast. I would imagine that certain areas would be opposed to their use, but in general, are these legal to use? (Daniel N.)

Answer: Potato-style guns like you are referring to are legal under federal law. However, under state law, potato guns that use combustion (instead of compressed air) to launch the projectile are “firearms,” and one with a bore of over 0.5 inches is a destructive device.

Pneumatic potato guns that use compressed air are legal as long as they are not used like a weapon (e.g. shot at a person, etc.), so this line launching device would be legal under state and federal laws. However, you should check for local city and county ordinances because some local governments prohibit use of any devices that propel projectiles. If you intend to use this line launching device on a state beach, you may also want to consult State Parks. And if you plan to use it to fish within a National Marine Sanctuary, I suggest you check in with that Sanctuary office to be sure they do not prohibit these types of devices.

As far as using it to cast a fishing line, nothing in the Fish and Game Code or its implementing regulations prohibit using this compressed air launcher as long as the fishing line remains attached to a rod and reel, or the person is brave enough to hold the other end of line in their hands!


Catching crabs both inside and outside San Francisco Bay
Question: Let’s say I’m in the ocean at Baker Beach in San Francisco and I catch a Dungeness crab. Then I want to go fishing and crabbing nearby at Ft. Point Pier (just inside the bay) or Aquatic Park. Basically, I don’t want to leave my crabs in the car for hours, and I have one bucket with an aquarium pump to keep all the crabs in. Can I bring the bucket with the crab onto that pier or will a California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) warden presume I caught it there? And similarly, would leaving it in the parked car be allowed or would they presume it was from that area? (Fred D.)

Answer: “Dungeness crab may not be taken from or possessed if taken from San Francisco Bay and San Pablo Bay, plus all their tidal bays, sloughs and estuaries between the Golden Gate Bridge and Carquinez Bridge” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.85(a)).

Based upon the scenario you describe of having Dungeness crabs in possession in a prohibited area, you could get into trouble if you have Dungeness crabs on the pier with you or while returning from a prohibited area with fishing equipment. As per Fish and Game Code, section 2000(b): Possession of a bird, mammal, fish, reptile, amphibian, or part of any of those animals, in or on the fields, forests, or waters of this state, or while returning therefrom with fishing or hunting equipment, is prima facie evidence the possessor took the bird, mammal, fish, reptile, or amphibian, or part of that animal.

CDFW recommends that you first fish in the more restrictive area (the Bay), then move outside the Bay to fish for Dungeness crab to avoid any misunderstandings or extra scrutiny by wildlife officers. But, what you describe is not prohibited, and experienced local wildlife officers will be able to tell the difference between freshly caught crab and those that have been in your bucket for hours.


Transporting a compound bow
Question: What are the requirements to legally transport a compound bow? (Antoine R.)

Answer: “No person may nock or fit the notch in the end of an arrow to a bowstring or crossbow string in a ready-to-fire positon while in or on any vehicle” (CCR Title 14, section 354(i)).


Lost fishing license
Question: I purchased a fishing license a couple of months ago but now cannot find it. I do have a picture of it. How can I get a copy of my original? (Dee D.)

Answer: Go to any License Agent or CDFW License Sales Office to buy a duplicate sport fishing license. A small fee is charged for each duplicate validation. If you lose your Abalone Report Card or Sturgeon Fishing Report Card, you can obtain a duplicate from CDFW license sales offices only. You must complete an Abalone Report Card Affidavit (PDF Form) and pay the duplicate fee to replace an Abalone Report Card. You must complete a Sturgeon Fishing Report Card Affidavit (PDF Form) and pay the duplicate fee to replace a Sturgeon Fishing Report Card. Duplicate fees are listed on the license description page.

# # #

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.

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.

# # #

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.

# # #

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.

# # #

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.