Tag Archives: mollusks

Crabbing from Shore with a Launcher?

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

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

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

Crab loop trap or crab snare (Creative Commons photo)

Crab loop trap or crab snare (Creative Commons photo)

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

Can Sport-Caught Fish Be Donated to a Food Bank?

Sport-caught fish can be donated to a food bank or soup kitchen as long as they were legally taken, don’t exceed the angler’s bag limit and as long as the food bank or soup kitchen will accept them. Be sure to check with them first! (CDFG photo)

Sport-caught fish can be donated to a food bank or soup kitchen as long as they were legally taken, don’t exceed the angler’s bag limit and as long as the food bank or soup kitchen will accept them. Be sure to check with them first! (CDFG photo)

Question: We often take folks out fishing while they are visiting the area and staying at hotels, bed-and-breakfasts or campsites. Unfortunately, they are often not able to consume all of the fish that they catch. We understand we are allowed to gift fish to friends and family members (as long as each individual does not possess more than one bag limit per person per day).

Are there restrictions on gifting extra fish to local food banks or soup kitchens as long as the food bank would want and accept them? This is a question from a traveler who is interested in planning a future trip. (Jenny O., Santa Cruz)

Answer: Yes, a person is allowed to donate (gift) any fish taken to a food bank or soup kitchen that does not charge money for the fish as long as the fish were legally taken and the daily bag limit was not exceeded. Since every person is only allowed to take or possess one daily bag limit of fish per day, anglers should individually donate their fish to avoid having someone transport more than a possession limit of fish at any time. Since many food banks and soup kitchens no longer accept donations of meat or fish that is not USDA-certified, you may want to check with them in advance.


Airguns and Upland Game Hunting?
Question: My buddy and I are part of the ever increasing population of airgun hunters. We typically take rabbits and ground squirrels, but would like to use these .22 caliber precharged pneumatics for turkey and other upland game, such as quail and dove. While we believe the regulations cover the turkey hunting explicitly, can you confirm if it is also legal to take dove and quail with these firearms? (Jason C., Windsor)

Answer: Resident small game (as listed in California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 257) may be taken with an air rifle firing pellets and powered by compressed air or gas. This includes: wild turkey (must use at least 0.177 caliber or larger), Eurasian collared doves, quail, non-protected squirrels, jack rabbits and cottontails, in addition to the other resident small game species defined in section 257.

Western mourning dove, white-winged dove and band-tailed pigeons are listed as migratory game birds and may not be taken with an air rifle.


Continue diving for fish after abalone limit reached?
Question: Just a quick question now that abalone season is upon us. I took up spearfishing last season and really enjoy it. I know the regulations state that once you reach your limit on abalone you must immediately stop diving. Does this mean stop diving altogether or just for abalone? I guess the question I am asking is can I continue to dive and spearfish after I get my limit of abalone? (Tom R.)

Answer: It is legal to spearfish after harvesting abalone. Abalone divers may take up to three abalone per day, and no more than three abalone may be possessed at any time. Nothing in the regulations requires you to exit the water after harvesting a limit of abalone. However, individuals “taking abalone shall stop detaching abalone when the limit of three is reached” (CCR Title 14, section 29.15(c)). This section also requires abalone divers to retain all legal-sized abalone they detach until they reach the limit.


Crayfish for bait?
Question: I was wondering if you can use crayfish as bait when fishing for freshwater fish, such as bass? (Jerry Y.)

Answer: Generally, crayfish may be used for bait statewide, with some exceptions (see CCR Title 14, sections 4.00 and 5.35). Even though crayfish are allowed as bait for bass fishing in most areas of California, if the crayfish were not caught and used in the same waters from where taken, many lakes prohibit anglers entering lakes with live bait. This is due to the potential for the introduction of exotic species, such as quagga and zebra mussels. There is no way to certify the bait and water holding the bait are free from these species. If you plan on using crayfish brought into a lake, it is important to check ahead of time with the operator of the lake to see if they allow importation of legally acquired bait.


Underwater camera to find trout?
Question: Is it legal to use an underwater camera to look for trout that may be hiding underneath the creek/river bank? Does it matter if it’s used while engaged in the actual activity of trout fishing or when not in possession of a fishing pole? (Jim B., Elk Grove)

Answer: An electronic viewing device, such as an underwater camera, would be legal but a non-electronic viewing device (such as goggles, scuba mask, etc.), would be prohibited for taking fish (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 2.09). There’s an exception, though, under the provisions of spearfishing (CCR Title 14, section 2.30).

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

 

DIY Personal Domoic Acid Testing of Crabs?

Dungeness crabs from San Francisco (photo by Carrie Wilson)

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

Harvesting Sea Urchins before Abalone Start Time

Purple sea urchins and red abalone often occur in the same locations (CDFW photo by Athena Maguire)

Purple sea urchins and red abalone often occur in the same or similar locations but only urchins can be harvested before 8 a.m. (CDFW photo by Athena Maguire)

Question: My question is about the requirement that abalone may not be taken before 8 a.m. This year there are a few good minus tides that bottom out before 8 a.m. Is it legal to be on the abalone grounds to harvest sea urchins prior to 8 a.m., and then go abalone picking after 8 a.m.? (Paul N., San Francisco)

Answer: You can go out before 8 a.m. to harvest urchins, but you cannot take any action that will assist in your later take of abalone. For example, you may not search for abalone or mark the location of any abalone that you encounter while taking urchins. If you choose to dive before 8 a.m., don’t be surprised if you are questioned by a warden. If your activities appear to a warden to be taking or searching for abalone before 8 a.m., then you can be cited.


What to do with inedible harvested non-game animals?
Question: I know that it is illegal to waste harvested game animals, but what about non-edible, non-game animals (such as jackrabbits, rock doves, coyotes, etc.)? What are the legal/ethical guidelines on what to do with these harvested animals? Should they be buried, left in the field, trashed or something else? (Bill S., Rancho Cucamonga)

Answer: Jackrabbits are small game, and if someone is going to kill them recreationally, then they should be used. They certainly are edible and many people hunt them for consumption. There is no standard way to dispose of legally taken non-game mammals. Some non-game animals like crows require retrieval while others don’t. If they are a species that does not require retrieval, ethically, it is up to the individual. Hunters are encouraged to fully utilize all harvested wildlife. However, even if it is a non-game species where retrieval is not required by law, hunters should still make every effort to properly dispose of it. To just let animals lay where they’ve fallen without retrieval or attempts to properly dispose of them reflects badly on the image of those of us who are conscientious and ethical hunters.


Combination of sabiki rig and drop shot rig
Question: I often go sport fishing around Santa Cruz with my kayak. I would like to catch live fish with a sabiki rig with multiple hooks, then use them with a drop shot rig with two hooks to catch rockfish, cabezon, greenling, lingcod and halibut. Is this allowed? (Kota T.)

Answer: Yes, you can use a fishing rod with multiple hooks as long as you don’t take or possess a species which has a more restrictive method of take than the general gear restrictions (e.g. rockfish, cabezon, greenling, lingcod or salmon). If you happen to catch one of these species while using more than two hooks on your line, you must release the fish.

You are limited to no more than one line and two hooks when fishing for rockfish, cabezon, greenling and lingcod, or if these species are in possession. Once you begin fishing for the species that have hook restrictions, you will want to stow the sabiki rig so that it clearly is not in use.


How many turkeys per year?
Question: Can you legally harvest five birds a year by taking three bearded birds during the spring season and two birds during the fall season, or does the three bird limit apply to a full calendar year? (Pete R.)

Answer: You can legally harvest five turkeys in a year but can never possess more than three at one time. So long as you are eating your game regularly, you should not have an issue so be sure to consume or gift your spring birds before the fall season.


Hunter update email from CDFW?
Question: My friend recently received an interesting “hunter update” email directly from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) encouraging her to buy a license and go turkey hunting. Although I already have my hunting and fishing licenses, I am interested in receiving updates from CDFW. How do I get on this mailing list? (Monica B.)

Answer: The email your friend received is part of a larger effort by CDFW to increase outreach and education to California hunters and anglers. In order to receive these updates, reminders and other useful information from the department, you need to update your CDFW license profile on our website and provide us with your email address and communication preferences.

To sign-up, visit our online licenses sales page, click ‘Customer Login/Register’ then ‘Edit Customer Profile.’ If you are a new CDFW customer making your first license purchase online or from a license agent, you will be asked for your email address and communication preferences while creating your profile. Any personal information collected will never be disclosed, made available or used for any purpose other than as specified at the time it was collected, except with the written consent of the subject of the information or as otherwise permitted by law or regulation. Fish and Game Code, section 1050.6 and California Government Code, section 11015.5 prohibit CDFW from selling or sharing your information with any third party.

Purchasing your licenses, tags and report cards online is easier than ever and now comes with the added benefit of timely updates and information from CDFW.

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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 Bullies Intentionally Harm Wildlife

Aleutian_Canada_Geese-4

If while driving you encounter geese or other wildlife crossing the road, give them the right-of-way or risk a fine of $1,000 and six months in jail. (USFWS photo)

Question: I live in an over-55 community in Rio Vista. There are wild turkeys here and Canada geese, which many of us love. Last month someone deliberately ran into turkeys crossing a road to go to their roosting trees. A man who went out every evening to watch them “fly up” saw a car actually speed up to hit them. The driver floored the accelerator and plowed into them instead of slowing down to let them pass. Six were killed. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) was called, and presumably never caught the guy.

A few days ago a golfer in a golf cart plowed into a bunch of geese crossing the golf path. He hit and injured one. The golfer didn’t stop. A woman walking her dog saw it happen and confronted the golfer who said, “Well, the geese shouldn’t be crossing the path.” Yesterday on a main road outside the community a turkey and babies were crossing; eyewitnesses said that instead of slowing down, a car sped up and killed at least the parent.

Many people here are very upset by bullies in vehicles intentionally killing innocent animals. I am making a flier that will go to people on the Nextdoor community email. I want to tell what the legality is about deliberately killing a wild turkey or Canada goose and what the possible consequences might be. I can’t seem to find a clear answer yet and was hoping you could help. (Judith A.)

Answer: Scenarios like you are describing are very disturbing and constitute several violations. The use of a vehicle to take turkeys or geese violates the law because vehicles are not a lawful method of take (California Code of Regulations Title 14, sections 311 (Upland Game/Turkey) and 507 (Migratory Birds/Geese)). Pursuing, driving, herding or taking any bird or mammal from any type of motor-driven vehicle is also prohibited (CCR Title 14, section 251). In addition, no person shall harass, herd or drive any game or non-game birds (CCR Title 14, section 251.1). Violations of Fish and Game Code and Title 14 regulations such as these are generally punishable as misdemeanors, with fines of up to $1,000 and six months in jail (see FGC, section 12002 (a)).

Hopefully, you will not encounter these types of situations again, but if you do try to collect as many details as you can including vehicle type, license plate number, date and time. Then call the 24-hour CalTIP hotline at (888) 334-2258 or send an anonymous text to 847411 (tip411). In the message, text CALTIP followed by a space and then the information. You can even send photos. Remember, you can remain anonymous and may receive an award for your efforts.


How to find “What’s Open and What’s Closed” in ocean waters?
Question: I’ve spent hours on the CDFW website trying to find the season and take limits for halibut. Can you please tell me if you know the answer? (Richard G., Redondo Beach)

Answer: Yes! And next time you have a question like this, here’s the first and best place to check: http://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Ocean/Regulations/Fishing-Map. This is a great resource, so please bookmark this page! You will find a clickable map of California here. Just click on the portion of the state (along the coast) where you’d like to fish and a list will pop up of exactly what’s open and what’s closed in that area. Then, if you click on the species you’re interested in, you will be provided with the basic fishing regulations and requirements for that species.

In your case, since you are from Redondo Beach and are wondering about California halibut, just click on that location and you will find the following information will immediately pop up:

  • California halibut: The recreational fishery for California halibut (Paralichthys californicus) remains open year-round. The daily bag and possession limit is five fish south of Point Sur, Monterey County. The minimum size limit is 22 inches total length.

In addition, if you click on “California halibut” in this reference, you will find a hot link that will take you to an informational page that will provide you with additional life history information and interesting facts about this species. The same is offered for most every other fish species that you will find included on this clickable map. We always keep this site current and up-to-date, so you can count on that!


How do hunters deal with fleas and ticks?
Question: I’m not a hunter but am wondering if there is a concern for hunters having to deal with fleas and/or ticks jumping off a cooling carcass when field dressing the animal? (Kelly B., Los Angeles)

Answer: Many animals have fleas and ticks and hunters are encouraged to protect themselves from bites by using appropriate sprays or products to reduce the chance of bites and diseases like Lyme disease.

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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.

Is Boat Captain Responsible for Illegal Acts of Passengers?

Private boatQuestion: A friend of mine took some of his friends’ parents on his boat to go rock picking for abalone. Unknown to my friend, some of the parents picked extra abs and chose the biggest three of the lot to keep. It was clearly illegal and they were cited when they got back to the docks.

Since my friend was just transporting people out to the spot where they could find abalone, was he responsible for what they did once they got off his boat after rock picking? He doesn’t want his boat blacklisted. (Craig)

Answer: Typically, someone in your friend’s situation would not be cited for the violations of the passengers, especially if there is no question of who possessed the abalone. However, if the passengers claimed the abalone were not theirs, or if there were overlimits on board, an officer could cite everyone on the boat for jointly possessing the abalone. In this case, each person who violated the law was responsible for their specific violation. As far as the boat being “blacklisted,” the warden who made the case may pay special attention to this boat in the future because of the actions that took place in the past.

The best advice for your friend is to be educated on the fishing laws that pertain to the activity his passengers are engaging in, and to share this knowledge with the people on his boat.


What’s my recourse for wasted game citation?
Question: Yesterday I was cited for wasted game. My son and I were hunting Eurasian dove at a local feed lot in Southern California. I was approached by the wardens who did all of the normal checks, told us they were watching us from afar, then asked us if we had dropped any birds we didn’t retrieve. I said yes, one in a stagnant pond and one in amongst a herd of cows, which I tried to retrieve but the bird was wounded and flopped away into another pen. He asked why I didn’t retrieve it and I told him I’m broke (bad knees) and couldn’t get through the nasty stuff in the pens. I then sent my son in to push his way through the cows and he retrieved the bird for me in front of the warden. The warden checked to see that it was a Euro, which it was, I put it in my game bag and he still cited me for it. What if any recourse do I have when I go to court? (Jim R., Lake Elsinore)

Answer: Just tell the judge your story. However, since you shot these birds without making sure you were doing so in a location where you could retrieve them, and because your intention had been to let them lay where they landed because they were too difficult to go after, you did intend to leave them where they ended up … that’s “wanton waste” or “wasted game.”


Using a pressure washer to dig up clams?
Question: Can I use a pressure washer to dig geoduck and/or gaper clams? (Vuong M.)

Answer: No. Clams may be taken only on hook and line or with the hands. The only special provisions allowed are for the use of spades, shovels, hoes, rakes or other appliances operated by hand, except spears or gaff hooks (CCR Title 14, sections 29.10(a) and 29.20(c)). Pressure washers are not a legal method of take for mollusks.


Capture and keep rattlesnakes as pets?
Question: Is it legal to capture and keep rattlesnakes as a pet? I know it’s not smart, but is it legal? (Phil C.)

Answer: Yes, except for the red diamond rattlesnake where no take is allowed – so be sure you can identify your snakes! Before collecting anything, you should first check with your local animal control agency and police or sheriff regarding whether any local ordinances apply in your area. Under state law, all pit vipers (except for the five other California native rattlesnakes listed in California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 671(c)(7)(E)) are restricted species that may not be possessed without a permit. Keeping live, native rattlesnakes (except for the red diamond) is not prohibited by Fish and Game laws. No license is required to take or kill other rattlesnakes in California, but the daily bag and possession limit is two. The take of other species of reptiles and amphibians for pets requires possession of a sport fishing license. The daily bag and possession limits are provided in CCR Title 14, sections 5.05 and 5.60. And if you live with the city limits, you might want to check your city ordinances to determine whether possession of a venomous reptile is allowed.

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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.

Late 8 a.m. Start Time for Abalone Unfair

Red abalone feeding on kelp at San Miguel Island (CDFW photo by Derek Stein)

Red abalone feeding on kelp at San Miguel Island (CDFW photo by Derek Stein)

Question: Just a note (complaint) … the start time of 8 a.m. for abalone is very, very unfair. The two lowest tides of the year are in May and June, and you just eliminated them. Rock pickers are put into a shorter collection time and can make even more hurried decisions to take an under-size ab off a rock. You are punishing all rock pickers and putting them in danger by forcing them to dive for abs when they are not good divers (thus, in danger of drowning). The 8 a.m. rule does not adversely affect the divers at all. You already closed off way over half the state of California. There is no way that abalone hunters can wipe out the abalone population. I go rock picking for abalone with six others and we all share these thoughts. (Fred M., San Francisco).

Answer: The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) made recommendations to the Fish and Game Commission (Commission) to reduce the take of abalone because recent scuba surveys had shown lower numbers of abalone at popular abalone sites, particularly in Sonoma County.

According to CDFW Marine Environmental Scientist Jerry Kashiwada, the current Abalone Recovery and Management Plan (ARMP) recommends a 25 percent reduction in the take of abalone when the density (number of abalone in a standard area) reaches the low levels seen in the most recent surveys. Density in the Fort Ross area was so low it reached an ARMP “trigger” for closure to allow the abalone population to recover.

Abalone rock pickers

Abalone rock pickers (CDFW photo by K. Joe)

The Commission had a choice between the 8 a.m. start time, reduction of daily limit to two abalone, reduction of the limit on the abalone card, reduction of the season (more closed months), reduction of take for Sonoma and Marin counties or some combination those proposed changes.

The 8 a.m. start time was initially proposed by CDFW wildlife officers who had been seeing large numbers of rock pickers at all low tides and believed that segment of the fishery was unsustainable. The officers observed rock pickers were taking more time to find legal limits, were less likely to get a limit and were removing and returning more short abalone, many of which were unlikely to survive the handling. The later start time also helps officers by eliminating predawn fishing hours when the light is too dim to observe violations. The effect of the new start time was estimated using data from returned abalone report cards, but the actual effect is unknown since it depended on whether many people would shift to later hours. Data from abalone cards returned this year will provide a clearer picture of the effects of the regulation changes.

The timing of low tides is variable from year to year and while the 8:00 a.m. start reduces the number of low tides available, there usually are some days with suitable tides. The lower numbers of abalone being taken by rock pickers may make it easier to find abalone at higher tide levels than in the past. The activities of sport fishermen might not be sufficient to cause extinction of abalone species but they can reduce abalone populations to the point that the abalone are spaced so far apart that their chances of reproducing are very low. At low abalone population levels, many people might stop participating in the fishery because it is too difficult to find abalone. Reducing abalone populations to low levels also makes them more vulnerable to events like the 2011 die-off that affected abalone in much of Sonoma County.

CDFW is currently in the process of developing a Red Abalone Fishery Management Plan and revising sections of the ARMP. For more information, please visit the CDFW Invertebrate Management Project website.


Can a non-hunter carry an unloaded shotgun when with other hunters?
Question: While hunting on a game bird club, can a non-licensed, non-hunter carry an unloaded shotgun while walking with other hunters? (Anonymous)

Answer: While it may not technically violate the law for you to carry an unloaded shotgun without a license, by doing this with others who have ammunition and are taking game, it will likely generate many questions by the wildlife officer contacting you in the field. Whether or not you have a hunting license is not an element of “take.” You may argue you are not taking game, but the officer has sufficient evidence to prove you are. Do you really want to put yourself through the hassle of going to court? Leave the firearm behind if you want to go with your buddies while they are taking game.

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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.