Tag Archives: ocean fishing

How to Find Legal Target Shooting Areas?

Target shooting improves one’s shooting skills and accuracy. It is also a great way to introduce someone new to safe gun handling practices and the shooting sports. In this photo, Harry Morse practices his skills at the “Birds Landing Hunting Preserve and Sporting Clays Course” near Fairfield. (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Target shooting improves one’s shooting skills and accuracy. It is also a great way to introduce someone new to safe gun handling practices and the shooting sports. In this photo, Harry Morse practices his skills at the “Birds Landing Hunting Preserve and Sporting Clays Course” near Fairfield. (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: A friend used to own property just outside the city limits and we were able to legally shoot our rifles on his property. Times have changed though and we now need a new place where we can we still legally shoot our rifles and shotguns for sport. We’re not hunters; we just practice target shooting. How do we go about finding places where we can legally shoot? (Gracie R., Carlsbad)

Answer: Your best bet is to contact the closest Sheriff’s Office that patrols the area where you want to target shoot. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) does not regulate target shooting nor keep track of all the potential target shooting areas available to the public. This issue basically comes down to county shooting ordinances and landowner permission. I think you will find most cities do not allow discharge of firearms within their city limits, so contact the local Sheriff’s Office to see what county areas may be open.

For public areas like U.S. Forest Service (USFS) or Bureau of Land Management (BLM) property, contact the applicable regional station or headquarters that oversees the area. Some USFS or BLM lands may have designated target shooting or plinking areas. They may also have other areas on their properties where target shooting is allowed, but it’s always a good idea to check ahead of time to be sure it is legal with the applicable county as well.

Otherwise, for public and private gun clubs or shooting ranges in your area, you might try http://www.wheretoshoot.org from the National Shooting Sports Foundation website. I’ve used this site often and they make it easy to find a safe and licensed range in your local area to target shoot or to introduce someone new to the shooting sports.


How to prove the sex of a turkey?
Question: Since only tom turkeys are legal to take during the spring season, how do I prove the sex to an inquiring game warden? Must a wing be left on? A beard left on? Both left on? One or the other left on? (G.B.G.)

Answer: The regulations are intended to require that only tom turkeys may be taken during the spring season, but the law specifically states that the turkey must be “bearded” (a bearded turkey is one having a beard visible through the breast feathers). In most cases a beard will distinguish the animal as male, but in some rare incidents hens may also have them.

Keep the beard attached to the carcass until you return to your residence. You may pluck the bird in the field, but remember to keep the beard connected to the body.

Toms and hens can be easily determined by their significant head and wing color differences. If by chance you run across a rare bearded hen, even though the provisions of the law may allow you to take it, we strongly discourage it. Spring is the turkeys’ primary mating and nesting period so hens may not be harvested in order to protect their production


Catching fish with baited fish traps?
Question: Is it legal to use baited fish traps in Southern California? I see in the regulations where it refers to the use of baited traps to catch a variety of fish species in the San Francisco area (California Code of Regulations, section 28.75). Is this the only place where this method of take is allowed? (Corey)

Answer: Baited traps may not be used to take fish in ocean waters off Southern California. This is legal only in San Francisco and San Pablo bays, their tributaries, etc., and in the ocean and bays off of Marin, Sonoma and Mendocino counties for a few specified species of ocean fish. Only hook-and-line or hand may be used to take finfish (per Section 28.65) unless other, specific permissions are provided in regulations listed in the Gear Restrictions section (which begins on pg. 45 of the current California Ocean Sport Fishing regulations booklet).


Spearfishing without a license?
Question: I know it’s legal to fish without a license off public piers, but is there anywhere to go spearfishing without a license? (Keith H., Santa Barbara)

Answer: No, there is usually no place you can spearfish without a license, but there are two free fishing days per year, usually around the Independence Day and Labor Day holidays. On those two days, spearfishing without a license is allowed (bag limits and other regulations still 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.

Selling Tickets for a Fundraiser Serving Abalone?

Red abalone can be shipped out of state only certain conditions. (© Derek Stein)

Sport-taken abalone may not be bought, sold, bartered or traded. To use abalone for a non-profit fundraising dinner, the cost of attending the dinner must be advertised as a requested donation to the organization putting on the dinner (Photo by Derek Stein)

Question: My husband and I dive for abalone in Humboldt where we live. If we don’t consume them right away, we freeze them whole in the shell as the local wildlife officer advised us years ago. I also work for a nonprofit hospice in Sutter County and they will soon have a fundraiser at a private house where many of our staff will prepare appetizers for 100 guests. I want to prepare abalone appetizers from three abalone that we already have tagged and frozen from last season. The event is being professionally catered for the meal and dessert and so they are selling tickets, but no one is paying for or making money from the abalone I want to cook. The abalone is such a minuscule part of the meal. I just want to make sure I am allowed to bring it to an event like this and I was not able to find anything specific about that in the regulations. Please advise. Thank you. (Amy M.)

Answer: Sport-taken abalone may not be bought, sold, bartered or traded (Fish and Game Code, section 7121.) If sport-taken abalone are used for a non-profit fund-raising dinner, then the cost of attending the dinner must be advertised as a requested donation to the organization putting on the dinner. In your situation, if you are just providing a few abalone for an appetizer, and as long as the dinner is not advertised to contain abalone in order to sell more tickets to the fund-raising dinner, then you will not be violating the law.


Are hunters required to wear blaze orange hunting vests?
Question: I recently completed my hunter safety education course, got my license and went hunting with a small group on private land. None of us wore hunter safety orange vests as we were all together at all times and in each others line of sights. I see hunting shows where they sometimes don’t wear the orange hunter vests either. When do you wear the vests? Is it acceptable to not wear them while on private land when you’re with a small group and know where everyone is? Or, do you have to wear blaze orange all the time while hunting? (Joseph L.)

(Photo courtesy of National Shooting Sports Foundation)

(Photo courtesy of National Shooting Sports Foundation)

Answer: Though some states require hunters (especially when hunting upland game) to wear blaze orange all the time while in the field for safety reasons, California Fish and Wildlife laws do not require it. However, keep in mind that some military bases such as Camp Hunter Liggett and Camp Roberts do require blaze orange. It is a good idea to wear this distinctive color whenever possible for your safety as it does help you to stand out. You’ll find that orange is being incorporated more and more into hunting camouflage patterns to provide greater safety. One thing to note for deer hunting, deer cannot detect the color orange. To deer, orange looks gray.


Can local police issue Fish and Game citations?
Question: Can local police issue a violation for no fishing license? (Phil F.)

Answer: Yes, they are authorized to cite people who are breaking fish and wildlife laws but in many cases they will contact the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and turn the case over to our wildlife officers.


Shooting clay pigeons in dove fields when doves out of season?
Question: Is it legal to shoot clay pigeons in the same fields that I use for dove hunting when doves are not in season? (Richard X.)

Answer: Fish and Game laws do not generally cover target practice. However, Fish and Game law does prohibit target practice on most state wildlife areas, except in specifically designated areas that are identified as such. Keep in mind that shooting clay targets produces a lot of litter. Please make sure you have the property owner’s permission before you do it and comply with their requirements regarding cleanup.


Glasses when abalone diving?
Question: I wear reading glasses. I don’t like to take my glasses on the beach or in the water with me because I don’t want them to get scratched. However, without my glasses, I cannot clearly read the new abalone cards. Last season I accidentally used the wrong tag (one that was not in sequential order) because I could not read the numbers. What can I do to make this easier? (Zoe D., Trinidad)

Answer: I can empathize with your frustrations. You may want to consider including non-prescription reading glasses and/or a small magnifying glass in your dive bag or innertube. Either can be purchased at many convenience stores for under $15. At least with these you would not have to risk losing or breaking your prescription glasses and you will be able to comply 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.

Bow Hunting for Spring Turkeys?

Spring tom turkeys in Northern California (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Spring tom turkeys in Northern California (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: I am interested in bow hunting for turkeys this year but have some questions. Last week I saw a flock of hens and jakes on the side of a highway and I got to wondering if it’s legal to hunt off the side of a highway. I know we can’t shoot across a highway, but exactly how many yards or feet away does a bow hunter have to be? (Rafael O.)

Answer: It is unlawful to discharge a firearm or release an arrow or crossbow bolt over or across any public road or other established way open to the public in an unsafe and reckless manner (Fish and Game Code, section 3004(b)). Definitions for road and roadway can be found in the California Vehicle Code, sections 527 and 530. In addition, most counties have ordinances setting the distance from a public roadway that one must be to lawfully discharge a firearm. Many counties require 150 feet, but this distance varies and you will have to check with the appropriate county’s sheriff’s department to determine the legal distance. It is always unlawful to negligently discharge a firearm, and the discharge of a firearm from or upon a public road or highway is prohibited (California Penal Code, section 374c).


Bringing a speargun into California
Question: I am coming to California from Australia for a diving holiday and wish to bring my own gear, including a spear gun. Do you know what the rules are about bringing one through U.S. customs? (Edward C.)

Answer: The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) does not regulate the importation of dive gear, including spear guns. You should check with the Transportation Security Administration (www.tsa.gov) and U.S. Customs (www.cpb.gov) to see if they have any special provisions you must follow.


Live rodents as fishing bait?
Question: I have seen several videos about using live “feeder” mice and rats for bass and trout fishing and was wondering whether they are legal to fish with here in California. I wasn’t able to find any regulations talking about using live mice or rats. If not acceptable to use as a live bait, can they be used if dead/frozen? (Anonymous, Sacramento)

Answer: No. The freshwater fishing regulations do not list mammals as acceptable bait options, so rodents may not be used (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 4.00.)


Hunting Sandhill cranes?
Question: Does California have any type of hunting opportunities for Sandhill cranes? I have seen a couple of videos in which the hunters state that the meat is great and some say it tastes like steak. I tried to research any regulations for them but wasn’t able to come up with anything. Can you please let me know if they can be hunted here? (Jose G.)

Answer: While some states do authorize the take of Sandhill cranes during waterfowl season, there are currently no hunting opportunities for Sandhill cranes in California.


Kangaroo product ban?
Question: I am the owner of a store that sells kangaroo hide boots and other products made of kangaroo leather. I read in the news that California recently re-instated a ban on the import and sale of kangaroo products. Is this true and if so, what should retailers like me know about the ban? (Anonymous)

Answer: You are correct. The ban on kangaroo products went back into effect Jan. 1, 2016. California Penal Code section 653o prohibits the importation, possession with intent to sell, and sale of any parts of specified animals, including kangaroos. Some common retail products made from kangaroo leather are boots, belts, wallets and soccer cleats.

As you know, California retailers are responsible for knowing the laws and regulations of the state of California and must take the necessary efforts to ensure they do not possess kangaroo products with the intent to sell.

Penal Code section 653o may be enforced by any peace officer in the state, including police officers, sheriff deputies, and wildlife officers. A person who violates section 653o is guilty of a misdemeanor and is subject to a fine between $1,000 and $5,000 and up to six months in jail for each violation.

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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.

Kage (Hawaiian Spear Gaff) – Spear or Gaff?

Kage 1_ Eric Mcdonald

The kage (Hawaiian spear gaff) is a popular East Coast fishing gaff used by offshore kayak fishermen to quickly dispatch their fish. (Photos courtesy of Eric McDonald of Deep Blue Kayak Fishing)

Question: Is a kage (Hawaiian spear gaff) legal in California waters? I live in Southern California and I use one to very quickly dispatch legal fish. A kage is easier than a regular gaff, especially since I’m fishing on a kayak. I’m strictly a kayak angler and use my kage more often than a conventional gaff. In case you are unfamiliar with a kage, here are a few links that might help: http://deepbluekayakfishing.com/products/
http://www.scout.com/outdoors/fishing/story/1496518-kage-gaff. (KeKage 3_ Eric Mcdonaldvin M.)

Answer: The kage would not be considered a gaff and thus not be legal to use as a gaff from a kayak. A gaff is defined as “… any hook with or without a handle used to assist in landing fish or to take fish in such a manner that the fish does not take the hook voluntarily in its mouth” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 28.65(d)).

A kage would be considered spearfishing gear and subject to the diving and spearfishing regulations (CCR Title 14, section 28.90). Under these regulations, you would be required to be floating or swimming in the water to use this device to take fin fish, other thanKage 6_ Eric Mcdonald those listed in this section.

It can also be considered a spear or harpoon, in which case (under CCR Title 14, section 28.95) if you were not in the water but on a kayak, boat or on the shoreline, it can only be used to take skates, rays and sharks (except white sharks). And the device can’t even be possessed on a boat when swordfish or marlin have been taken.


Where to buy a live largemouth bass?
Question: I rent a home on a property that has a pond with some quite large largemouth bass in it. The landlord lets people fish the pond on a catch-and-release basis. I caught one, easily 6-8 pounds, which managed to take the bait and large hook so deep that I could not remove the hook. I thought I had condemned the fish to a slow painful death, so rather than let it suffer, I took the fish. The owner of the pond was very upset when I told him. He said if I had just cut the line the fish would have survived. Do you have any idea where I can buy a large bass to replace the one I killed? (Daniel C.)

Answer: Replacing a fish the size of the one you’ve described is highly unlikely. Most aquaculture facilities only keep black bass up to about three inches due to cannibalism. Regarding replacing the fish though, you can find a list of licensed aquaculturists with locations and products sold (limited to those who elected to be listed) on our website at http://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Aquaculture. Click on the link on the right that says “List of Aquaculturists (PDF).”


Duck blind partner with overlimits
Question: I have an issue with another hunter who was in my duck blind this year. I hunted in a four man blind with three other people. Two were great, but one was being an ass. He had been shooting overlimits of pintails and stuffing them in his backpack and pretending he still didn’t have a limit. If all four of us were in the blind and he shot overlimits of pintails, who would have gotten cited? We repeatedly told him not to do this. I shot and retrieved my own ducks, as did the other two hunters in the blind. We are working on trying to kick him out of the blind next year, but any suggestions on what we should have done this year? (Ken S.)

Answer: The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has a dedicated program and phone number for exactly this reason. CalTIP (Californians Turn in Poachers and Polluters) is a confidential secret witness program that encourages the public to provide factual information leading to the arrest of poachers and polluters.

CalTIP was introduced in California in 1981 in order to give Californians an opportunity to help protect the state’s fish and wildlife resources. The toll free telephone number operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You do not have to give your name. If you witness a poaching or polluting incident or any fish and wildlife violation, or have information about such a violation, immediately dial the toll free CalTIP number 1-888- 334-CALTIP (888 334-2258), 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Or you may submit anonymous tips using tip411. This is an Internet-based tool from CitizenObserver.com that enables the public to text message an anonymous tip to wildlife officers and lets the officers respond, creating an anonymous two-way conversation. Anyone with a cell phone may send an anonymous tip to CDFW by texting “CALTIP”, followed by a space and the message, to 847411 (tip411).

If you were hunting on a private club, you can take the matter up with the club manager or owner to begin with. The club should have bylaws prohibiting this unlawful and unethical behavior. If an investigation determines your hunting blind buddy is solely responsible for taking or possessing overlimits, he alone will be cited for those violations.

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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 Crab Hawk Traps Be Fished in California?

Dungeness crab (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Dungeness crab (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: Is the Crab Hawk legal for use in California during crabbing season? The ads say it is not a trap, and because it opens, crabs would not be damaged should they need to be released. Can you please clarify this for me? (Dennis J.)

Answer: The Crab Hawk traps are indeed traps and are not legal as sold because California state law requires traps to possess escape rings.

Crab traps are required to have at least two rigid circular openings of not less than four and one-quarter inches inside diameter so constructed that the lowest portion of each opening is no lower than five inches from the top of the trap (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.80(c)).

Traps that are not specifically provided for in this section may not be used for crabs or other invertebrates. The Crab Hawk trap is not specifically provided for, nor does it meet standards for crab traps in California, so it is not legal to use in the state.


Neighbor feeding seagulls
Question: I have concerns about a neighbor who, for several years, continues to feed seagulls despite many requests to stop. Every day, and sometimes twice a day, this elderly woman feeds seagulls bread. I have recorded this by video and photographs. It has been going on for several years now. She has been asked numerous times by property management where she lives not to feed the gulls. She has received letters and notices explaining the harm she is doing, but she ignores all. The only time the community doesn’t have trouble is when the birds migrate inland in the spring. But then once winter rolls around, the gulls return and the problem starts all over again, year after year.

Motorists are distracted by birds swooping down across traffic when she feeds them. The seagull droppings are damaging the recently replaced rooftop of the school district building where a large flock gathers and roosts, waiting to see her leave the building where she lives. Bird feces damage paint on the cars, and on and on. Business owners have complained because of the mess the birds leave. Police have been called with complaints, but they say there is no law against feeding the birds.

However, the California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 251.1prohibits the harassment of wildlife and defines harassment as an intentional act that “disrupts an animal’s normal behavior patterns, which includes, but is not limited to, breeding, feeding or sheltering.” They are also protected under one of America’s oldest environmental laws: the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. That’s because gulls live on the Pacific Coast in the winter and migrate inland every spring to lay eggs. The California “Seagull Law” does not necessarily pertain to seagulls in California, but to seagulls on the entire West Coast of the United States.

Another concern is seagull feces and the health hazards that can potentially make humans sick. This activity has gone on for years. We have tried to convince her many times and in many different ways to stop feeding the seagulls, but she has ignored our requests and refuses to listen. Please, if there is any advice you may have that will help, I would greatly appreciate it. (Gina B.)

Answer: I’m sorry to hear about your neighbor’s unfortunate and selfish behavior. You are correct that CCR Title 14, section 251.1 prohibits the harassment of wildlife. Feeding the birds bread offers them very little nutrition. Bread just fills them up but offers virtually none of the important vitamins and minerals that they need as part of a healthy diet.

Since this woman refuses to listen to your complaints, you might consider reporting to your local public health department regarding your concerns that the excess fecal matter is creating a health hazard. Depending on where you live, you could also try to contact your local CDFW office and ask to speak to the regional wildlife biologist. Hopefully, they will have some suggestions for you as far as how to handle this situation and/or may be able to put you in touch with a local wildlife officer. To find your local regional office, please go to: http://www.wildlife.ca.gov/regions.

I have written about this issue many times. Here’s a similar one from a couple of years ago that you might find helpful: https://californiaoutdoorsqas.com/2014/01/16/feeding-wildlife-can-do-more-harm-than-good/. Good luck!


Dead farm-raised trout for bait in lakes and streams?
Question: Is it legal to use dead farm-raised trout for bait in inland waters? I’ve found only “live trout” is called out. Costco has farm-raised rainbow trout for sale at a great price and I was thinking it might make great catfish bait for my kids. (Marcus)

Answer: No. Trout may not be used for bait (CCR Title 14, sections 4.00-4.30).

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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.

Clamming at Pismo Beach after 40 years

Pismo clams (Tivela stultorum) in Ventura (CDFW file photo)

Pismo clams (Tivela stultorum) in Ventura (CDFW file photo)

Question: I made a promise to my son 40 years ago to take him clamming at Pismo Beach, and I want to keep that promise. How are the conditions there now and when is the best time to plan a visit? (Jim S, Big Arm, Montana)

Answer: Recent surveys at Pismo Beach indicate there are no legal sized clams there, although there has been some limited legal take of razor clams. I would really like to see you and your son have a successful trip, so there are some other locations further south where you should have luck. Rincon Beach in Santa Barbara County and La Conchita Beach in Ventura County have been producing good numbers of legal sized Pismo clams recently.

Clams that have a size limit and are not retained must be immediately reburied in the area from which dug (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.20 (d)). Clammers must do their share to help to maintain healthy populations of clams for future generations.

Clamming is generally done from November to April during minus tide events. Starting the month of May, potentially harmful plankton blooms can become an issue. The annual mussel shellfish quarantine is from May 1 to Oct. 31, and is in place to protect the public against Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning and domoic acid poisoning, also known as Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning. The May through October quarantine period encompasses more than 99 percent of all Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning illnesses and deaths reported in California since 1927. Even though mussels are a different species, I recommend taking similar precautions and would not recommend harvesting Pismo clams during the annual mussel quarantine.

Please remember that any person 16 years of age or older who is participating in clamming is required to have a valid California sport fishing license. An Ocean Enhancement Stamp is also required for ocean fishing (including clamming) south of Point Arguello (northern Santa Barbara County) except when fishing with a one-day or two-day sport fishing license. The stamp is not required if you purchase a one- or two-day sport fishing license.

For regulations specific to Pismo clams, please go to section 29.40 in the current Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet available online or wherever fishing licenses and sold. Good luck!


Abandoned lobster traps and hoop nets
Question: I am a freediver who dives for lobsters along the Southern California coast. I have concerns about abandoned hoop nets and lobster traps. I can tell that they are abandoned and have been there for a while because some are rusted and old, the rope is frayed, and they are just floating underwater with no buoys attached. Numerous times I have seen these abandoned traps with lobsters and fish that have been trapped inside for days, some alive some dead. Am I allowed to open and free those trapped animals and clean up my dive spots of these abandoned traps? What can I do about those hoop nets that have been cut off/frayed and left under water? I am planning to round up a bunch of freedivers to do an underwater clean up. (Chester L.)

Answer: As long as the trap is clearly abandoned and there is no surface gear associated with it, you can legally both release the animals and remove the traps (you may not keep any lobsters found in the traps). The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recommends and prefers that citizens and fishermen instead report the type and location of lost or abandoned fishing gear to the appropriate CDFW field office so that trained department personnel can retrieve the gear. For a list of CDFW Marine Region offices, please go to: http://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Regions/Marine/Contact.


If duck hasn’t built a nest yet, can I catch and eat it?
Question: Can I catch a mallard duck in my housing community, and eat it, if the duck hasn’t built a nest yet? I live in Huntington Beach. (E.J. Fudd)

Answer: No. Regardless of whether the duck is nesting, you must comply with the Fish and Game Code and all applicable local laws or ordinances. For example, you will need to have a valid hunting license, waterfowl season doesn’t open until October and to take a duck you would need to use a lawful method of take. Since you live in a housing community, firearms are likely not allowed and catching the duck by hand is not a legal method of take.


Fishing and trapping crayfish at the same time
Question: I am just wondering if while I am fishing, I can run my crayfish trap at the same time to catch crayfish. I only have one fishing permit and I don’t have a second rod stamp. I just want to make sure I don’t break any laws. (Eric L.)

Answer: Yes, there are no prohibitions against doing this as long as you can closely monitor your fishing rod the entire 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.