Tag Archives: ocean fishing

Hoop Netting for Crabs off California Piers

Dungeness crab (DFG photo)

Dungeness crab (DFG photo)

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

Why Not a Split Season for California Waterfowl?

Mallard drake (USFWS photo)

Mallard drake (USFWS photo)

Question: Global warming and climate change seem to have seriously affected waterfowl migration patterns. Last year we saw the effects exacerbated as birds delayed migrations from summer nesting grounds until late into the year. So, why do we ignore this change in California and persist in starting our waterfowl season so early in the year? My native state of Texas pushed its waterfowl season opener back into early November. Baja Mexico, just a stone’s throw south of us, has a waterfowl season that runs later and doesn’t close until the end of February. And further south in the Mexican states of Sonora and Sinaloa, the seasons run as late as March.

How about considering a split season? One option our extremely elongated state could employ would be to open waterfowl season in the northern part of the state a month before the southern part of the state. Another option could be to have an early season for a couple of weeks, separated by a two to three week break, and then a late season that runs to the end of February. Other states have split seasons, just like we do for doves in California. This last season’s start and finish dates did not track our modern day weather patterns or the flights of birds. It is time to change the hunting season to match the change in our climate. What will it take to implement such a change? (James P. Hill, San Diego)

Answer: It is difficult to determine the exact cause of delayed migrations for some species or populations. According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Senior Waterfowl Program Manager Melanie Weaver, California historically has started waterfowl seasons in October to accommodate the early arrival of some duck species, like pintail, that arrive in late August. The peak concentrations do occur from mid-December to January or so, much of that having to do with stormy weather pushing birds further south. Additionally, habitat conditions tend to be more favorable and abundant in northern California, so there is incentive to stay put.

As far as season timing, federal regulations do not allow hunting of most migratory game birds past the last Sunday in January. Currently, we are in what is called the liberal regulations package for all four flyways. This allows California (Pacific Flyway) 107 days while Texas (Central Flyway) is allowed 74 days. California is allowed a longer season and higher bag limits because we have far fewer hunters than the other flyways (this equates to less harvest). CDFW could recommend that the season open in November or later but that would reduce the season length. CDFW has overwhelmingly heard that hunters value a longer season as that allows the greatest opportunity to get out. To be able to hunt past the last Sunday in January would require a change in the federal regulations.


Fishing for cuttlefish?
Question: Can you please tell me if recreational cuttlefish fishing is allowed in Los Angeles County? I am interested specifically in Santa Monica Bay from Playa Vista all the way down to Redondo Beach? (Karim B.)

Answer: Cuttlefish (a cephalopod closely related to squid and octopus) are seldom seen in cool California waters, so it’s unlikely you will encounter them here, thus we have no fishing regulations for them.


Possession of lead shotshell when hunting predators?
Question: Because I am near the state line and often hunt out-of-state, I keep lead ammo in my truck. Is this breaking the law? I understand that it’s against California law to have lead in the field. (Anonymous)

Answer: “It is unlawful to possess any projectile containing lead in excess of the amount allowed … and a firearm capable of firing the projectile while taking or attempting to take wildlife” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 250.1). If you are hunting from your vehicle in an area or for a species that requires the use of nonlead ammunition, leave your lead ammunition at home.


Lobster fishing in Santa Monica Bay
Question: Is there a restricted season for taking lobster in Santa Monica Bay? Appreciate any information and rules or regulations you can supply, if there are any. (Danny B.)

Answer: Yes, there is a restricted recreational lobster season in Southern California, not just in Santa Monica Bay. Lobster season is underway now — it always begins the Saturday preceding the first Wednesday in October and ends the first Wednesday after the 15th of March. But commercial take of lobster is always unlawful in Santa Monica Bay.

Some marine protected areas (MPAs) do not permit the take of lobster. There are no MPAs within Santa Monica Bay, but there are some immediately to the north and south of the Bay. You can find MPA regulation information in the regulations booklet, and in greater depth at http://www.wildlife.ca.gov/fishing/ocean/regulations/fishing-map/southern.

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

Scuba Diving through MPAs with Lobsters in Possession

California spiny lobster (CDFW photo by Derek Stein)

California spiny lobster (CDFW photo by Derek Stein)

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

“Inland waters are all the fresh, brackish and inland saline waters of the state, including lagoons and tidewaters upstream from the mouths of coastal rivers and streams. Inland waters exclude the waters of San Francisco Bay and the waters of Elkhorn Slough, west of Elkhorn Road between Castroville and Watsonville” (CCR Title 14, section 1.53).

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


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

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

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

“Butterflying” a Legal Alternative to Traditional Filleting?

Only certain ocean fish are allowed to be filleted at sea. Check section 27.65 (c) in the Ocean Fishing Regulations booklet

Only certain ocean fish are allowed to be filleted at sea. Check section 27.65 (c) in the Ocean Fishing Regulations booklet

Question: As an alternative to traditional filleting, some people will do what they call “butterflying.” This is where fish are filleted but the cut is not completed leaving the fillet connected to the skin and the skin attached to the carcass. Is that technique legal for striped bass and sharks? I believe it’s not permissible to fillet greenlings and cabezon at sea. That is where I have seen this done in the past by deckhands that want to be able to make a buck filleting onboard without violating the regs. The patron just pulls the pieces apart when dockside to separate the fillet from the remainder. I just want to see if perhaps further clarification directly to the individual might help them, should they be a deckhand checking to see if there is some means of cutting fish at sea. This might be worth running by a warden to be sure that the butterfly trick is legit. (John B.)

Answer: It is illegal to possess fish on a boat in such condition that the size and species cannot be determined (Fish and Game Code, sections 5508 and 5509). Fillet laws allow for the fillet of certain species as sea (under California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 27.65) consistent with identification requirements specified in the rule (such as retention of attached skin patches or the entire skin of a rockfish). Other than the provisions allowing for the fillet of certain species, no one should jeopardize the ability to identify the species and size of ocean fish. Striped bass, sharks, greenlings and cabezon may not be filleted at sea. So, if the person filleting your fish at sea, while rolling back and forth, makes a mistake and removes the whole piece of skin, you would be in violation. To be safe, the butterflying can occur once the fish are landed.


Determining when and where a gun is considered “loaded”?
Question: Please clarify the definition of “loaded” that you gave in your column: “Live round in the chamber.” Is it okay to have the clip or magazine loaded if there’s no round in the chamber? (Will B., Palmdale)

Answer: This is a classic example of the answer depending on where you are and what activity you are engaged in. Loaded gun laws applying to vehicles on roads open to the public have changed over the years, and there are differences in the definitions of loaded between the Fish and Game Code and the Penal Code. Long guns are considered to be loaded “when there is an unexpended cartridge or shell in the firing chamber but not when the only cartridges or shells are in the magazine” (FGC, section 2006). Under the Penal Code, a firearm is also considered to be loaded if there is a round in the magazine that can be loaded into the firing chamber with the firearm’s action.

So if you are in a vehicle along a public roadway while hunting, the Fish and Game Code does not prohibit rounds in the magazine of the rifle or shotgun, but rounds in the firing chamber would violate Fish and Game Code section 2006. The situation is different when you’re not hunting though. The Penal Code treats a firearm as loaded when a round is in the magazine, and Penal Code section 25850 provides that “a person is guilty of carrying a loaded firearm when the person carries a loaded firearm on the person or in a vehicle while in any public place or on any public street in an incorporated city or in any public place or on any public street in a prohibited area of unincorporated territory.”


Fishing with live minnows purchased at a bait shop?
Question: I know it’s illegal to move live finfish, so how can it be legal to use live minnows purchased from a bait shop for sport fishing in inland waters? (Mike R.)

Answer: It depends upon what area of the state the minnows are purchased in and where they are used. The term “minnow” often refers to many different species of small baitfish, some of which belong to the minnow family. Some lakes no longer allow the use of live bait due to possible water contamination (quagga or zebra mussels) in the water containing the bait fish. Depending upon where in the state you plan to use the minnows and, more specifically, which species of minnow (e.g. longjaw mudsucker, fathead minnow, Mississippi silverside, etc.), you will need to check the appropriate baitfish regulations that apply to the specific waters where you intend to fish. Please check sections 4.00 – 4.30 on pages 16-18 in the 2016-2017 Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations handbook for these 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.

Bird Feeders May Lure Other Unwanted Wildlife Visitors

than you’d

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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


Mouth calls for deer
Question: My question goes back to deer season. I am wondering if it is ok to use mouth calls for deer hunting here in California. I have found this legal to do in other states. (Richard T.)

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

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

Waterfowl Hybrid Limits?

Pintail drake (USFWS photo)

Pintail drake (USFWS photo)

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

Importing native snakes to control ground squirrels?

California Ground Squirrel (USFWS photo)

California Ground Squirrel (USFWS photo)

Question: We have a small orange grove in Ventura County that has been overrun by ground squirrels in the past few years. Is there any legal method of “importing” king snakes or gopher snakes onto our property to help control the squirrel population? (Darrell J., Ventura County)

Answer: Unfortunately, we don’t allow the release or relocation of snakes into the wild without specific authorization, and at this time we do not allow it for bio-control such as you are requesting. According to CDFW Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Policy Coordinator Laura Patterson, “We’d have to evaluate what else they may eat that could be sensitive, make sure they’re disease-free and that they are genetically similar to the local snakes.”

If the property where you live is hospitable, we’d assume you have gopher and king snakes there already. However, if they’re not currently there, perhaps the site is just not suitable for them. These snakes naturally occur in most places where the habitat and prey sources can support their survival.

The only circumstances in which we might allow snakes to be relocated would be if there was a development nearby, and the snakes would otherwise be killed by construction. In a case like this, we might allow them to be relocated to another property nearby.


Hunting on property not posted with “No Hunting” signs?
Question: Can I hunt on property that is fenced but not posted with “No Hunting” signs without specific permission from the landowner? (Anonymous)

Answer: No, it is unlawful to trespass onto fenced property for the purpose of discharging any firearm or taking birds or mammals without the written permission of the landowner or other authorized person.

Fish and Game Code regulations specifically state that if property is owned by another person and is either under cultivation or enclosed by a fence, you need written permission (Fish and Game Code, section 2016). This law also applies to land that is not fenced or under cultivation but is posted with no trespassing or no hunting signs. A simple guideline is to respect crops, fences and signs, and in any other circumstance that makes you wonder about hunter access, seek out the landowner and ask for permission. In cases involving publicly owned property (game refuges, state wildlife areas, etc.), specific written permission may or may not be required.


Sea urchin sport harvesting?
Question: I’m looking for confirmation regarding the recreational take of sea urchins. Is it correct that they can be taken with a California sport fishing license as long as they are not taken in marine protected areas? Also, that the daily limit is 35 urchins and size does not matter so I will not be required to carry a measuring gauge like with abalone diving? Is all of this correct? (Dan L.)

Answer: Yes to all above. Sea urchins are legal to take in California with a sport fishing license. The season is open year-round for all species of urchin. The limit is 35 urchins per day/in possession and there is no size limit (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.05). Sea urchins can be taken only on hook and line or with the hands (CCR Title 14, section 29.10). These regulations can be found in the Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet, along with the marine protected areas in California that are closed to the take of sea urchins.


Why can’t hunters buy extra preference points?
Question: I’ve noticed in other states that hunters are allowed to buy preference points. Why can’t hunters in California buy extra preference points like elsewhere? (Noel)

Answer: The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) does allow hunters who do not wish to apply for a premium hunt in a specific year to essentially “buy” a preference point by applying in the drawings for a preference point. These are only for deer, elk, antelope or bighorn sheep. Hunters can only obtain one point per year and cannot obtain points for previous years in which they did not apply.

According to Tony Straw from CDFW’s Automated License Data System Unit, CDFW’s Modified Preference Point System was established to reward persistent, unsuccessful applicants and provide a predictability of when a hunter will be drawn for their premium hunt choice, while still providing some opportunity for new hunters.

If a system of “buying extra preference points” was implemented, it would remove the predictability of winning a premium hunt because the number of hunters at the various point values would be inconsistent each year (it would depend upon the number of hunters purchasing additional points). Additionally, the advantage gained by a hunter who consistently applied without success over the years would be significantly reduced in a single year as other hunters at lesser point values purchased additional points.

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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.