Tag Archives: invertebrates

Targeting Stripers and Sturgeon together in San Francisco Bay

(CDFW photo)

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Czech Nymphing and Weight Placement when Fly Fishing?

(Photo by Ken Oda)

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

What Can Be Collected from Ocean Beaches?

Sea Stars of the California Coast (CDFW photo)

Question: I am an artist and my medium is to work with natural items I find in nature. I was wondering if I am allowed to take items from the beaches near my home. I see people collecting many things but I know that the beaches are protected and I don’t want to take anything that is forbidden. I am particularly interested in the seaweed and colorful algae that washes up after storms. There are also items such as sponges, tree fans, dead crabs, even little animal skulls, and of course drift wood. I would really love to know if I am allowed to collect anything so as not to disrupt the natural process of things. Any information you could offer would really be great. (Aggie M.)

Answer: Aside from state parks and marine protected areas that prohibit take/collecting of marine life within their boundaries, some collecting of beach wrack for personal use is allowed under certain conditions. If any of the algae/kelp you collect will be used for products that will be sold, a commercial Kelp Harvesters License will be required. Please check our website for all of the details regarding kelp and marine algae collection.

Shells that have been discarded by their occupants may be taken as long as you’re doing so in an area where collecting is not prohibited by the governing agency. Wherever you go, you should contact the governing 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 art and or jewelry that is sold.

Marine protected area information is available online. Notice that some areas do not allow any “take.” You will find information on this page regarding the areas you may want to avoid.

As far as animal skulls, sea otters and all other marine mammal skulls may not be collected or possessed unless specifically authorized through the federal government (NOAA). If you are selling your artwork, Fish and Game Code, section 3039 generally prohibits selling any parts of a bird or mammal found in the wild in California.


Go ID required on buoys when crab fishing from a pier/dock?
Question: The 2016-2017 Dungeness crab fishing regulations say you have to have a buoy on your crab pot with your GO ID number. Does this requirement apply when you are crabbing off a pier or dock, too? (Judy and John F.)

Answer: Yes, if you already have a fishing license when fishing off a pier or jetty (even where no license is required), then you must fish with buoys marked with your GO ID. It’s OK to use a small net float/buoy instead of a full size buoy if you’d prefer. According to the California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.80(c)(3), every recreational “crab trap” except those used by a Commercial Passenger Fishing Vessel (CPFV) “shall be marked with a buoy” with the operator’s GO ID on it. One exception to the GO ID requirement in this scenario would be if the person fishing from a public pier or jetty was not required to have a fishing license and therefore has no GO ID. The trap would still need a buoy attached, but would not need to be marked. Anyone can get a GO ID, even if they have no fishing license or are under age 16. Instructions for getting a GO ID are available on our website.

Baiting turkeys with water?
Question: I have a friend who bow hunts for turkeys and puts a tub of water near his turkey blind. He also places small water tanks in brush areas during deer season and says it’s ok. Is this true? Is it legal to use water as bait? (Dennis B., Palmdale)

Answer: Your friend should be informed that CCR Title 14, section 251.1 prohibits intentional acts that “disrupts an animal’s normal behavior patterns.” This activity is also specifically prohibited on some public lands (CCR Title 14, section 730). This section prohibits hunting for more than 30 minutes within 200 yards of wildlife watering places on public land within the boundary of the California Desert Conservation Area or within ¼ mile of six specified wildlife watering places in Lassen and Modoc Counties. The definition of “watering place” includes man-made watering devices for wildlife.

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.

Do licensed fishing guides also need a fishing license?
Question: Is a California licensed fishing guide required to also have an individual sport fishing license? (Tom H.)

Answer: If the guide is just driving the boat and only verbally guiding clients while they fish, then no. However, if the guide does any fishing themselves, then a sport fishing license is also required.

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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.

When and Where are Turkeys Nesting?

Wild spring turkeys (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: I know that turkeys roost in trees at night and that this is their courtship and nesting season, but where do they nest and for how long? We’re seeing lots of toms running around right now but not many hens. I’ve not found any sitting on nests. When can we expect the newly hatched chicks to be out and on their own? (Dwayne J.)

Answer: In most areas, nests can be found in a shallow dirt depression surrounded by moderately woody vegetation that conceals the nest. Hens look for locations close to food and water and with ample cover to safely conceal the hen and her poults (chicks) once hatched. Hens are very leery of predators, such as coyotes and fox, but do leave the nest unattended for brief periods to feed and drink.

Hens typically lay a clutch of 10 to 12 eggs during a two-week period, usually laying one egg per day. She will incubate her eggs for about 28 days, occasionally turning and rearranging them, until they are ready to hatch.

A newly hatched flock must be ready to leave the nest to feed within 12 to 24 hours. Poults eat insects, berries and seeds while adults will eat anything from acorns and berries to insects and small reptiles. Turkeys usually feed in early morning and in the afternoon.

For more on wild turkeys, please see our “Guide to Hunting Wild Turkeys in California” publication online as well as the National Wild Turkey Federation website.


How to catch spot prawns with only a half-inch trap opening?
Question: I took a look at a few online California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) articles about traps, mesh sizes, etc. Once I saw that other types of shrimp traps have a logical trap opening size compared to the size of the shrimp, I began to wonder if the regulations might have an error.

Can you verify if there has been some sort of error in defining the half-inch opening of the trap as the mesh size of the trap? If this is the case, the size of the opening of the spot prawn trap should be more in line with other shrimp traps. If the opening of the shrimp traps could be in the 3-5 inch range with an alum hoop as the standard, recreational spot prawn trap fishing would be as enjoyable as lobster hooping. (Geoff H.)

Answer: The trap openings cannot exceed a half-inch as you’ve noted, and the regulation has not changed. “Shrimp and prawn traps may be used to take shrimp and prawns only. Trap openings may not exceed one half-inch in any dimension on traps used south of Point Conception nor five inches in any dimension on traps used north of Point Conception” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.80(f)). The reason for the difference in opening dimensions is to protect juvenile lobsters (found south of Point Conception) from being incidentally taken in these traps.


Does a licensed fishing guide’s son need a guide fishing license, too?
Question: I’m a licensed fishing guide on the upper Sacramento and Feather rivers. Is it legal for my son to help me on my vessel while I’m guiding? I’m seeing that there is a guide employee permit but in this situation that permit doesn’t seem right. Is there a deckhand permit where he can help me and help other friends in their boats that are guided also? He’s not being paid; he’s just there for the experience. (Michael T.)

Answer: If he is not collecting a fee or accepting tips, then he would not meet the definition of an employee as he is a family member and simply a volunteer. However, if he took any kind of compensation, then he would technically be an employee and subject to those licensing requirements. If he is assisting people by casting or fishing and he’s 16 years old or older, then he will need to have a fishing license.


Kangaroo leather motorcycle gloves
Question: I got my motorcycle gloves back in 2014-2015 and the palm area and parts of the digits incorporate kangaroo leather. I don’t intend to sell them but I’m OK to possess and wear them, right? (Anonymous)

Answer: Yes, you are fine as long as you do not have any intention of selling them. It is illegal to “import into this state for commercial purposes, to possess with intent to sell or to sell within the state, the dead body, or any part or product thereof, of a polar bear, leopard, ocelot, tiger, cheetah, jaguar, sable antelope, wolf (Canis lupus), zebra, whale, cobra, python, sea turtle, colobus monkey, kangaroo, vicuna, sea otter, free-roaming feral horse, dolphin or porpoise (Delphinidae), Spanish lynx or elephant” (Penal Code, section 653o).

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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.