Tag Archives: upland game hunting

Turkey Hunting with Lead or Nonlead Shot?

Nonlead shot is now required when turkey hunting in California (Photo courtesy of the National Shooting Sports Foundation)

Question: Do I have to use nonlead shot when turkey hunting with a shotgun this spring? (Joe N., Sacramento)

Answer: Yes. Nonlead ammunition is now required statewide when hunting wild turkeys with a shotgun. This applies to both public and private lands (except for licensed game bird clubs), including all national forests, Bureau of Land Management properties and California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) lands. Private landowners or anyone authorized to hunt on private land must also comply with these regulations.


Moving crab pots that have become navigational hazards?
Question: Can I pick up and remove a crab pot that is a navigational hazard and/or has significant line floating on the surface? (Daniel)

Answer: No, it is unlawful to “disturb, move or damage any trap that belongs to another person that is marked with a buoy identification number or unless the person has written permission in possession from the owner of the trap” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.80(a)(3) and Fish and Game Code, section 9002).

Instead, you are encouraged to report any crab pot creating a hazard to CDFW or the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard has the authority to remove traps that are in violation of rule 9, which prohibits fishing that impedes the passage of a vessel that can only operate safely in a narrow channel or fairway. These are specifically designated by the sector of the coast guard that operates in that area.


Shooting too close to neighbors’ houses with permission?
Question: My neighbors and I each live on five-acre lots in Calaveras County that back up to open land with no buildings or dwellings. We all like to hunt and have dove and quail on the back sides of our properties that run in conjunction with each other. I noticed that our houses are between 100-140 yards from the area where we like to shoot which is facing away from our homes. We all allow each other to shoot with no problems, but based on of the language of Fish and Game Code, section 3004 it says we should be at least 150 yards away from our homes. Since we are all in agreement regarding shooting from this area, does this regulation make it illegal? (Brendon G.)

Answer: This regulation reads, “It is unlawful for a person, other than the owner, person in possession of the premises, or a person having the express permission of the owner or person in possession of the premises, while within 150 yards of an occupied dwelling house, residence or other building, or within 150 yards of a barn or other outbuilding used in connection with an occupied dwelling house, residence or other building, to either hunt or discharge a firearm or other deadly weapon while hunting” (FGC, section 3004). It appears you would not violate these provisions but you should also contact your local Sheriff’s Department to see if there are any local laws that may apply to your location.


Ocean finfish landing net size requirement?
Question: I understand that the following regulation applies to ocean-going kayaks. It says, “No person shall take finfish from any boat or other floating device in ocean waters without having a landing net in possession or available for immediate use to assist in landing undersize fish of species having minimum size limits; the opening of any such landing net shall be not less than eighteen inches in diameter” (CCR Title 14, section 28.65(d)).

My question has to do with how the diameter is measured on a net that isn’t round. Many nets that are aimed at small craft use are not round and meet the opening size in one direction, for example, 18 inches x 14 inches. Is that legally sufficient or must the minimum diameter at any point be no less than 18 inches? That would push the net size up considerably, and given the limited utility of a net (or a gaff for that matter) from a near-water craft like a kayak or float tube, I’d prefer to carry as little as possible. (Ariel C.)

Answer: The net need not feature a circular opening despite its reference to “diameter,” but the net must be a minimum of 18 inches at its narrowest part. Good luck and tight lines!

# # #

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 to Use a Crossbow?

Crossbows are normally not considered legal "archery" equipment for taking game birds and game mammals during archery-only season. However, there is an exception for those who hold a Disabled Archer Permit. (Photo courtesy of Parker Bows)

Crossbows are not considered legal “archery” equipment and cannot be used during the archery-only seasons for game birds and mammals unless the hunter possesses a valid disabled archer permit. Crossbows can be used during the open seasons for wild turkey hunting (Photo courtesy of Parker Bows)

Question: With turkey season coming up soon and deer season right around the corner, can you please clarify when crossbows may be used for hunting big game and turkeys in California? As I understand it, you can use a crossbow instead of a rifle during rifle season. Is this correct? Can we use crossbows for taking wild turkeys? (Jesse J.)

Answer: It is important to understand that a crossbow is not considered archery equipment. Crossbows cannot be used during the archery seasons for game mammals or game birds unless the hunter possesses a valid disabled archer permit.

Crossbows may be used during the general seasons for deer, pig and game birds. For big game, hunters must use a broad head which will not pass through a hole seven-eighths of an inch in diameter (California Code of Regulation Title 14, section 354)). For wild turkeys, any arrow or crossbow bolt may be used except as prohibited by CCR Title 14, section 354(d) – which addresses explosive or tranquilizing arrowheads.

For additional information regarding archery equipment and crossbow regulations, please check the California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 354. Good luck!


Revamping crab traps with five inch minimum openings?
Question: I have a question on the Dungeness crab regulations. There’s a new requirement this season that crab traps must have a destruct device with an unobstructed opening that is at least five inches in diameter. The regulations also describe ways to meet the requirement using cotton twine with rubber straps. I don’t keep my crab traps more than a few hours in the water. My existing crab traps already have two circular openings that are 4.5 inches in diameter.

Can I simply add one more circular metal/plastic ring, with inside diameter more than five inches, on the top of the crab trap and NOT use the cotton twine method? Basically, I will have a five-inch opening at all times, regardless of whether I lose my gear (crab trap) or not. (Chin D.)

Answer: “Starting Aug. 1, 2016, crab traps shall contain at least one destruct device of a single strand of untreated cotton twine size No. 120 or less that creates an unobstructed escape opening in the top or upper half of the trap of at least five inches in diameter when the destruct attachment material corrodes or fails” (CCR Title 14, section 29.80(c)(2)).

An opening over five inches would satisfy this requirement as long as the permanent opening in the trap is in the upper half of the trap and it provides the same or greater escape dimensions that would be created when or if a self-destruct cotton failed. A trap set with the destruct material in the failed state (i.e. with no destruct material), would satisfy this requirement.


Shooting gophers and ground squirrels on private land?
Question: Do I need a hunting license to shoot gophers and ground squirrels on private land? (Anonymous)

Answer: Yes, if you are taking them for recreational purposes. Gophers and ground squirrels are nongame mammals and may be taken by licensed hunters. However, gophers and ground squirrels that are damaging growing crops or other property may be taken without a hunting license “by the owner or tenant of the premises or employees and agents in immediate possession of written permission from the owner or tenant thereof” (Fish and Game Code, section 4152).


Collecting natural sea water for aquarium?
Question: I have a big saltwater reef aquarium in my home and would like to collect natural sea water for it. What is allowed with regard to collecting natural sea water to use in home aquariums? I live just outside the Sacramento area and am willing to drive north or south but before setting out, I want to know what the rules are or what laws must be followed. Are there any limits on where or how much I can collect? I scuba dive around Monterey a lot and know that most areas are protected and/or are designated reserves, so figured I should ask.

I apologize for the odd question. I’m just hoping to conserve freshwater by using natural saltwater, if it’s possible and makes sense. Initially, I’d like to collect around 300 gallons. Are there are any laws or restrictions that I should be aware of? (Scott F.)

Answer: No, only that collection of seawater is not prohibited as long as you do so outside of marine protected areas. For information and maps of all of the marine protected areas in the state, please check out the CDFW website.

# # #

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

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).

# # #

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 a Turkey’s Age be Determined by Beard and Spur?



Monterey Rio Turkeys_186_8661

Rio Grande turkeys from Monterey (photo by Carrie Wilson)

Turkey identification
Question: I am fairly new to turkey hunting and hear everyone always referring to their birds by their beards and spurs. Can wild turkeys be aged based on these trophy characteristics? (Jim C., Modesto)

Answer: Yes and no. There is no absolute standard for identifying a wild turkey’s age, but there are some general guidelines that can be used to provide fairly reliable estimates.

While precisely determining a turkey’s age in years may be difficult, there is a surefire method for distinguishing between adults and juveniles using the last two primary flight feathers. In juvenile birds the feathers will be sharp at the ends. By the time the bird reaches maturity at one year of age, it will molt and the two sharp feathers will be replaced by more rounded ones.

Beyond this, beard and spur length can be used to estimate a bird’s age, but unfortunately, it’s not an exact method. Variables such as subspecies, environmental conditions, and possibly nutrition can alter the length of both the beard and the spur, resulting in a misrepresentation of the bird’s age.

In terms of beards, the general rule of thumb is the longer the beard, the older the bird. But, while a jake (juvenile) will not have a 10-inch beard, a four-year-old turkey may have a short beard due to any number of conditions. If the turkey is in “rough” vegetation, the beard may wear away on the ground more easily when it grows long. If a turkey has long legs, the beard will be able to grow longer before it reaches the ground, where it will naturally face wear and tear. The fact that the beard may have been altered at any time by environmental or circumstantial conditions prevents biologists from using this method as an accurate way of measuring a turkey’s age.

Spur length can also be used to estimate a bird’s age although, like beards, spurs can also wear down. Spur length does tend to be slightly more reliable than beard length, however, because they do not wear as easily.

While both of these methods are not entirely precise, they can provide an approximate age range. These estimates are not reliable for turkeys older than about three or four years though.


Freediving for horseneck (gaper) clams?
Question: I’m an avid free diver and spear fisherman, as well as a frequent clammer. While diving for crabs recently, I noticed a number of enormous clam siphons in the silty mud bottom in 4-8 feet of water. Having previously dug for horseneck clams (Tresus capax) on a number of occasions, it was clear to me that these were horseneck siphons, or “shows”. These clams are all well below the low tide line and would thus be impossible to dig in the traditional way. Would it be legal for me to harvest these clams using a homemade PVC “clam gun” to excavate the mud in which they are encased? Looking at the regulations pertaining to horseneck clams, underwater harvest is neither specifically permitted nor forbidden. (Carter J.)

Answer: Yes, you can take clams underwater using a “clam gun” as long as you are free diving. The use of SCUBA is prohibited for the take of clams north of Yankee Point in Monterey County. SCUBA can be used south of Yankee Point. You don’t say where you plan to dive for clams, but you may like to know that there are gaper clams south of Yankee Point.

Here’s what the regulations say:

Invertebrates
29.05. GENERAL.
(d) In all ocean waters skin and Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus (SCUBA) divers may take invertebrates as provided in this article except that in all ocean waters north of Yankee Point (Monterey Co.), SCUBA may be used only to take sea urchins, rock scallops and crabs of the genus Cancer. For the purpose of this section, breathing tubes (snorkels) are not SCUBA.

29.20. CLAMS GENERAL.
(a) Except as provided in this article, there are no closed seasons, bag limits or size limits on saltwater clams.
(b) Fishing hours: One-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset.
(c) Special gear provisions: Spades, shovels, hoes, rakes or other appliances operated by hand, except spears or gaff hooks, may be used to take clams. No instrument capable of being used to dig clams may be possessed between one-half hour after sunset and one-half hour before sunrise, on any beach of this state, except tools and implements used in the work of cleaning, repairing or maintaining such beach when possessed by a person authorized by appropriate authority to perform such work.


Motorized decoys for doves and upland game
Question: Can motorized decoys, such as Mojo be used on doves or other upland game birds?

Answer: Yes.


Catching live shad for bait using a cast net?
Question: I live in San Joaquin County and have two fishing questions. First, is it legal to fish with live shad? Second, is it legal to use a cast net/bait net to catch shad and minnows? (Justin)

Answer: A casting net or throw net is unlawful to use or possess in inland waters, but dip nets are authorized for taking certain species of fin fish that can be used as bait (see California Code of Regulations Title 14, sections 4.00 – 4.30 in the Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations available online or wherever licenses are sold). Live shad may be used in the Valley and South Central Districts (CCR Title 14, section 4.10) in waters where taken, but they must be taken with a legal dip net under certain provisions.


# # #

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.

Carrie is on vacation. This column was originally published Aug. 9, 2012.

What’s Required When Packing out Game?

Mule deer around Clear Lake (USFWS photo)

Mule deer around Clear Lake (USFWS photo)

Question: What are the laws on deboning a bear or deer to pack out the meat? I don’t know of any laws saying I cannot debone a deer or bear as long as I am able to prove that the quarters and heads are all part of the same animal. I’m just looking for clarity as I am heading into X9A for my first time and I plan on hiking into deep country on foot. (Brad P.)

Answer: This is a legal practice as long as you can verify what animal the meat belongs to. The only problem that may arise is when people are packing out multiple animals at the same time. If that’s the case, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) asks that hunters keep each animal separate to avoid any misunderstandings.

For deer, you must pack the antlers out with the meat to verify the sex, and the antlers must be tagged. With bears, you must pack the skin and the portion of the head bearing the ears along with the meat so that we can extract a tooth for aging purposes (FGC 4757). You are not required to prove the sex of bears.

In addition, all hunters must comply with Fish and Game Code, section 4304, which prohibits needless waste of any portion of the meat that is usually eaten by humans.


Nontraditional measurement devices?
Question: I am aware that a person must be able to judge the size of their take, but are there any regulations saying what types of devices the person must carry? For example, I recently observed a group that were crabbing and their only means of measurement was a cut zip tie, but it was indeed the correct minimum length. (Katlyn G., Sausalito)

Answer: It varies, but for crab, the only requirement is that the device be capable of accurately measuring the minimum size of the species (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.05(c)). But, sometimes the regulations are very specific about the type of measuring device that is required. Persons taking abalone, for example, “shall carry a fixed-caliper measuring gauge capable of accurately measuring seven inches. The measuring device shall have fixed opposing arms of sufficient length to measure the abalone by placing the gauge over the shell” (CCR Title 14, section 29.15(f)).

An object such as a ruler is capable of accurately measuring rock crab because size limits are “measured by the shortest distance through the body, from edge of shell to edge of shell at the widest part.” For Dungeness crab though, the measurement is “five and three-quarter inches measured by the shortest distance through the body from edge of shell to edge of shell directly in front of and excluding the points (lateral spines).” Because of the curvature of the Dungeness carapace, and the need to measure the straight line distance across a curved surface between the points, a measuring device such as a ruler or zip tie is not accurate. CDFW recommends using a fixed or adjustable caliper for Dungeness crab. It does not have to be commercially purchased and we have seen devices cut out of wood or plastic that work fine.


Sale of valley quail during the offseason?
Question: Is it legal to sell pen-raised valley quail during the offseason to be used to train dogs? The pen-raised valley quail will have CDFW tags that I think only cost a few cents each. (Matthew W., Santa Rosa)

Answer: Interesting question since very few people raise California quail and instead raise bob white. However, the answer is yes, they can be sold if they were bred and raised under the authority of a CDFW Domesticated Game Breeder License (see Fish and Game Code, section 3201). The birds will need to be marked with game bird tags to differentiate them from wild birds. These tags are sold to game bird breeders through our License and Revenue Branch for less than four cents each.


Spearfishing with scuba before free diving for abalone?
Question: If I’m out spearfishing with scuba gear, can I leave the scuba gear in the boat to also free dive for abalone? (Anonymous)

Answer: No. Sport divers are prohibited from using scuba or other surface-supplied air equipment to take abalone, and they cannot possess abalone on board any boat, vessel, or floating device in the water containing scuba or surface-supplied air. There is no problem transporting abalone and scuba gear together while on land. Divers working from boats, kayaks, float tubes or other floating devices who wish to use scuba equipment to spear fish or harvest sea urchins, rock scallops or crabs of the genus Cancer, will need to make a separate trip for abalone.

# # #

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.

Slingshot Hunting for Grouse and Quail?

Greater Sage Grouse (ODFW photo)

Greater Sage Grouse (ODFW photo)

Question: Is it legal to use a slingshot to hunt grouse and quail during the archery season? I have never seen slingshot listed as legal “archery” equipment nor have I seen anything indicating it is illegal. (David W.)

Answer: No. Slingshots do not fall under the definition of archery equipment as defined in the California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 354 and so would not be legal to use during the archery season.


Shipping trout and venison out of state?
Question: What are the laws on mailing fish to family or friends? A friend of mine took me to Lake Shasta a few years ago, and to return the favor I always bring him some fish on the way home. He is going to be moving to Kansas and I want to send him some of the prized fish. Is it legal to ship them through the mail? I know I can get live lobsters from Maine, but they are a commercial product. My friend also wants to try to send me some venison but we’re not sure of the laws there either. Thank you for your help. (Steve)

Answer: Unfortunately, it is not legal to ship trout outside of California (Fish and Game Code, section 2356.) You also cannot personally transport them to another state, unless you have a nonresident angling license or are on active military duty (in which case you may personally transport no more than one limit of trout across state lines).

Regarding venison mailed across state lines, as long as the animal was taken legally in the state of origin, it can be shipped to a recipient in California for their personal use provided the shipper complies with the following procedures:

Both California (FGC, section 2348) and United States (Lacey Act) laws require that packages containing wildlife and being shipped by common carrier “…shall clearly and conspicuously indicate the following:

(1) The name and address of the shipper.
(2) The name and address of the consignee.
(3) The number and kind of bird, mammal, fish, reptile, and amphibian contained in the package.”

In addition, a Declaration for Entry Form must be filed when importing fish, game, etc. (FGC, section 2353.)

Though it’s not a requirement, it would be a good idea for your friend to include with his venison shipment a copy of his valid hunting license and tags for the deer, along with all information regarding where and when the animal was taken.


Spear fishing options when close to stream outlets?
Question: I know there is a law prohibiting spear fishing in the ocean within 100 yards of a stream outlet. But would it be ok to enter the water from the beach and swim out past 100 yards with our equipment before we start fishing or would we have to find a beach with no outlet at all? (MJH)

Answer: The requirement for divers and spear fishermen to stay away from stream mouths was designed to protect salmon and steelhead that may be entering or exiting a stream. “No person may possess or use a spear within 100 yards of the mouth of any stream in any ocean waters north of Ventura County,” (FGC, section 28.90).

Because the regulation says “no person may possess … within 100 yards,” it would be unlawful to even stand on the beach with a spear in hand if you are within 100 yards of the mouth of a stream. This means that you will need to find an entry point more than 100 yards away from the mouth of the stream to enter the water to go spear fishing.


How many rods on piers and from shore with two-rod stamp?
Question: I’ve gotten conflicting information about the number of rods that can be used on public piers and from shore. I thought only one rod could be used from a public pier and two rods with a license and stamp from shore. However, some friends say two rods from public piers and any number of rods from shore. What’s the correct answer? I’m new to fishing in the ocean in California and I don’t want to get a ticket for something I may have misunderstood. If you could clarify this for me I would deeply appreciate it. Thank you for your time. (Jeanine Q.)

Answer: This is a common point of confusion. To clarify, the two-rod stamp (or second rod validation) applies only to freshwater fishing gear. In saltwater, only two rods (or any two fishing “appliances”, for example one rod and one crab trap, or one rod and one hoop net, etc.) may be used from public piers, and any number of rods may be used when fishing from shore. However, when fishing for groundfish or salmon in the ocean, only one rod with two hooks may be used.

Keep in mind that the law also says that “… lines must be closely attended” (CCR Title 14, section 1.05), so you can use as many lines as they can closely attend. Thus, if you have ten lines spread out over a couple hundred yards, you’d have a tough time convincing a game warden that they are all being closely attended. Make sure all lines can be quickly attended to if you catch a fish.

# # #

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.

Antibiotics in Hatchery Fish?

Trout planting_CDFWQuestion: I would like to fish at a local stocked pond. Do the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) fish that are stocked there have antibiotics in their systems? Are they fed antibiotics on a routine basis or even on an occasional basis? I just want to be sure any fish I’m catching will be safe to eat. (Connie S., Big Pine)

Answer: CDFW hatchery fish are treated with antibiotics when it is necessary to save their lives. According to Dr. William Cox, CDFW Program Manager of Fish Production and Distribution, this is done on an as-needed basis and using only antibiotics that are approved and registered by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for diseases listed on the label and in fish species approved. This is all done under veterinary prescriptions by CDFW veterinarians. To be approved by the FDA, there are many hurdles to prove human food safety, animal safety and environmental safety. These are all met in the process of becoming registered. So to answer your basic question, none of CDFW’s stocked fish have antibiotics when they are stocked for anglers. They are perfectly safe to eat.


Steel shot for chukars
Question: A friend told me that we are now required to use steel shot when hunting chukars (Red-legged Partridge). Is this a new regulation? Since these are introduced non-native birds, why shouldn’t they be treated similar to the Eurasian doves? Please let me know because I would not want to get a ticket. (Chris J.)

Answer: As you may know, we are in the middle of a transition to nonlead ammunition for all hunting in California. As of July 1, 2016, nonlead ammunition is now required for all hunting on CDFW wildlife areas and ecological reserves and when taking upland game birds with a shotgun, except for dove, quail, snipe and any game birds taken on licensed game bird clubs. In addition, nonlead shot is required when using a shotgun to take resident small game mammals, furbearing mammals, nongame mammals, nongame birds and any wildlife under the authority of a CDFW depredation permit.

In regards specifically to chukar (which are related to Red-legged Partridge but a different species), you are required to use nonlead shot when hunting them with a shotgun from this season on unless you are hunting at a licensed game bird club.

According to CDFW Upland Game Bird Senior Environmental Scientist Karen Fothergill, there is no species-related or ecological reason for the manner in which we are phasing-out lead ammunition. Rather, in order to implement the nonlead legislation in a way that is least disruptive to hunters, we coordinated question and answer sessions at sportsmen’s shows, held meetings with hunting organizations, hosted a series of public workshops throughout the state and sent letters to major ammunition manufacturers before we finalized the implementation plan.

For more information on the laws and phase-out of lead ammunition in California, please visit our website.


Filleting sheephead at sea
Question: I was recently told that I could not fillet a sheephead aboard my vessel since they do not have a minimum fillet length but do have a size limit of 12 inches (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 27.65).

My question is whether it still applies for a large sheephead if the fillet was longer than the 12-inch size limit? I am assuming the reason for not allowing sheephead to be filleted aboard a vessel is because it is difficult to determine the overall size of the fish from the fillet. However, if the fillet is greater than the minimum size limit for the species, it would seem like there should be some type of exception to the no fillet rule, or perhaps there is another reason I’m not considering?

Answer: Only those species listed as allowed to be filleted may be filleted on a vessel. Since California sheephead have a minimum size limit of 12 inches total length but no fillet length specified in the regulations, they may not be filleted while on any boat or brought ashore as fillets, steaks or chunks (CCR Title 14, section 27.65).

If you think this regulation for California sheephead should be revised to allow for a minimum fillet length allowance, you are welcome to bring a proposal before the California Fish and Game Commission for consideration.


Use of blue tarp with decoys
Question: Can I use a blue tarp and place dove decoys around it? I’m hoping the doves will think the blue tarp is water and will be attracted to fly over or land near the decoys. (Anonymous)

Answer: Sure, you can give it a try!

# # #

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.