Carrie Wilson's Blog

WONews Column by Carrie Wilson

Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game. She cannot personally answer everyone’s questions but will select a few to answer in this column each week. Contact her at
Bass anglers fishing beyond limits
Question: I was reading one of your responses to a trout fisherman's question regarding continuing to fish and practice catch and release after he had five trout on his stringer. The short answer was no, because "...catch-and-release fishing is not legal unless you’re still under your maximum bag limit." I'm a bass fisherman and if that's the case, it would seem to conflict with me culling fish once a limit is reached in a tournament. Are we violating the law? (Jim V.)

BASS ANGLERS COMPETING in a CDFW-permitted bass fishing tournament may keep fishing once five fish are in possession but must cull one of these immediately upon catching a sixth Photo courtesy of RBFF TAKE ME FISHING

Answer: You are correct that is most cases once an angler reaches their bag limit they cannot continue fishing. However, a special provision has been made for California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW)-permitted and approved bass fishing tournaments to allow black bass anglers only during the tournament to keep fishing once five fish are in possession (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 230). They must cull one of these fish immediately upon catching a sixth in order to never be in possession of more than five bass at one time.

Harvesting barnacles attached to floating driftwood?

Question: I read your answer recently about how barnacles cannot be harvested in the intertidal zone. Is there a way of legally obtaining Gooseneck barnacles to eat? When I’m way out in the ocean on a boat, I often see floating logs, driftwood and other debris. If it has been floating for a long time, more often than not I will find there are a large number of Gooseneck barnacles attached to the submerged side. Since they are not being taken from the intertidal zone (1,000 feet of shore), would they be legal to take? (Joe K.)

Answer: Yes, if the barnacles are attached to floating logs or driftwood, it would be legal and the limit would be 35 (CCR Title 15, section 29.05(a)). The only problem now is that for much of the debris off our coast that has been in the water long enough to have large numbers of Gooseneck barnacles, there could be health concerns if the wood originated in Fukashima, Japan, due to the possibility of contact with radioactive materials. You’d want to carefully consider how badly you want to harvest those barnacles!

Hunting with a depredation permit

Question: I have several related questions regarding hunting. If I have a pig depredation permit, can I legally carry a firearm and a bow while hunting deer during the archery season? Does the person who helps me with my pig problem need a hunting license? Lastly, is there an expiration date on a depredation permit? (Bill)

Answer: When deer hunting during an archery season, you may not possess a firearm of any kind.

Regarding the pig depredation permit, if you are listed as one of three allowed designated shooters on the permit, you may remove property-damaging wild pigs under conditions listed on the permit. All depredation permits have an expiration date listed on them. Someone “assisting you” with the depredation permit should also be listed as a designated shooter. No hunting license is required for a person authorized under a depredation permit. The person assisting you has to be at least 21 years old and may not have a conviction of wildlife law in the past 12 months.

Bringing a stuffed polar bear mount into California?

Question: A relative of mine owns a stuffed polar bear which is currently located in Idaho at my uncle’s house. I have another elder relative who would like to take it but is not able to drive that far to pick it up so he asked me to do it. However, I am concerned because I'm not sure about the laws and regulations for this kind of thing for simply picking it up in Idaho and bringing it to California. What are the laws and am I able to do this? (Andrew M.)

Answer: So long as you comply with the declaration requirement in Fish and Game Code, section 2353 and have no intent to import or possess the polar bear for commercial purposes, you are not prohibited from transporting it into California. Importations for commercial purposes, possession with intent to sell, and the sale within California of any part of a polar bear is prohibited (Penal Code, section 653o). In addition, the sale, purchase or possession for sale of any bear or bear part in California is prohibited (Fish and Game Code, section 4758).

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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

Sea Lions Are Eating All My Bait!
Question: Is there anything I can do to deter or discourage seals from eating all my crabbing bait? I know that seals and sea lions are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act but I've heard there are exceptions for recreational fishermen to deter them to prevent damage to private property, including gear and catch. What can I legally do to chase off these seals/sea lions or at least prevent them from chewing up my bait cages and hoop nets? Is it legal to shoot them with paintball guns? (Sam L.)

Answer: California sea lions and Pacific harbor seals have been federally protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act since 1972, and thus harassing, capturing, killing or attempting to do so is prohibited and carries a hefty fine. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in recent years the populations of these animals have increased dramatically and are now considered healthy and robust.

Unfortunately, with the good often comes the bad – the increased abundance of animals has also resulted in a growing number of negative interactions with humans and incidents of property damage. People seeking legal methods for deterring marine mammals in order to protect their property, fishing gear and catch from damage by sea lions and seals can find recommendations and approved methods on NOAA’s website,

Shooting wrong deer

Question: If you are out hunting and shoot a spike by mistake, what should a person do? What kind of trouble could a hunter get into for that if reported to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW)? (Steve C.)

Answer: If you shoot a spike deer by mistake, you should immediately contact your local CDFW office and/or your local wildlife officer to report it and explain what the situation was that caused the mistake. You may still be cited for wrongly harvesting an animal that you are not authorized to take, and if convicted you could lose your deer hunting privileges for the following year in all wildlife violator compact states. If you try to conceal the animal, don’t tag it, take it home or leave it in the field without field dressing it, you may be cited for additional violations that entail higher fines and penalties. And these actions could lead to an extended revocation of your deer hunting privileges in all Wildlife Violator compact states, or may lead to the revocation of all hunting privileges in California and all wildlife violator compact states.

Archery for quail

Question: I am planning on archery hunting for quail this year. Do the same laws from shotgun apply to archery? Does the quail have to be flying before shooting at it? Or if archery hunting, can the quail be standing on the ground or sitting in the trees? (John V.)

Answer: The early archery-only season for quail ended on Sept. 4, but using archery equipment generally allows you to hunt both during the archery-only season (listed under California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 300) and during the general season. Otherwise, the bag and possession limits are the same.

Whether to shoot the birds when flying vs. when they are standing on the ground or roosting in trees is not a legal question but rather an ethical decision that you must make. Under the widely accepted “fair chase” principles that most hunters abide by, shooting upland game birds or waterfowl under conditions other than when they are flying would violate this principal and be considered unethical.

Six months residency requirement

Question: If a taxpayer is considered a California resident for tax purposes and pays about $6,000 a year in California income tax, plus California sales tax, but has lived overseas for part of the year, why can't they purchase a resident fishing license until after they have physically resided in California for six months? Under fishing regs it would be legal to purchase a license in January, leave the country and return in 11 months and the CA license is still valid within the same year. What is the point of this rule? (Bob R.)

Answer: While there are many ways the legislature could have defined residency, for purposes of purchasing hunting and fishing licenses, Fish and Game Code section 70 defines a resident as “any person who has resided continuously in the State of California for six months or more immediately prior…” to the date of application for a license or permit. The law also includes specific provisions regarding persons on active duty in the military and persons enrolled in the federal Job Corps. The purpose of this law is to provide criteria to establish residency for the purpose of purchasing hunting and fishing licenses.

According to CDFW License Program Analyst Glenn Underwood, the law does not say that you cannot leave California while you are a resident. However, if you live outside of California, your identification is based outside of California, or you buy resident licenses in another state or country, then you will not be able to purchase a resident California license. Many people attempt to purchase resident licenses in more than one state.

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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

All that glitters can be deceiving
Question: I have been studying up on different methods of spear fishing while free diving and have read about the use of “glitter” as an attractant for bait fish. I have an idea to sprinkle glitter in the water so that when the bait fish come to investigate, the large game fish will follow and be caught as they attack the bait fish!

What are your views and the legal ramifications of this method? I understand chumming is not legal for taking game animals in our state, but the use of artificial lures is. With my idea the game fish would not be chummed by this method but instead just attracted by the collection of bait fish. If this method actually works, would it be legal? (Theodore G., Stockton)

CDFW photo by Marine Scientist Derek Stein

Answer: You have an innovative idea there. Unfor­tunately, even if your plan to lure unsuspecting fish to you by sprinkling shiny, sparkling glitter in the water were to work, you could be cited for doing so. Placing glitter in the water is littering and is prohibited under Fish and Game Code, section 5652.

The activity you describe would be considered chumming and chumming is defined as “placing any material in the water, other than on a hook while angling, for the purpose of attracting fish to a particular area in order that they may be taken” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.32). Chumming in the ocean is allowed (as long as the chum is not considered to be litter!). But, chumming in freshwater is typically not permissible except in specific areas and for certain fish species (see CCR Title14, section 2.40).

Prohibited from retrieving deer from private property

Question: I recently shot a doe with my A31 tag in Los Angeles County (Archery Only-Either Sex). It appeared to be a lethal shot from 22 yards with decent shot placement. I tracked the blood to a privately owned ranch 100 yards away. I stopped tracking it when it appeared she went onto the ranch property. I then approached the ranch manager to get permission to continue tracking my deer. The owner initially agreed but after one of her coworkers talked to her, she retracted her permission (approximately 10 minutes from the time we spoke in her office). She requested that we leave her property at once as she didn’t want people to think they approved of hunting. I didn’t have enough time to locate my deer and left broken-hearted.

I don’t like seeing animals die or suffer for no reason. I would never have shot if I would have known I couldn’t recover her. I believe I did everything legal and correct but it shouldn’t be right that a deer goes to waste because of the bias of a property manager.

Is there anything I could have done to recover my deer? Do I have any rights or is there anyone I could have contacted? I’m still sick over the situation. (Luke G., Loma Linda)

Answer: It’s unfortunate that this happened. Although the law prevents one from wasting the deer, the law does not permit the trespass to retrieve it. Perhaps, if you’d contacted the local game warden, they may have been able to contact the ranch manager or owner for some possible assistance to prevent the deer from going to waste.

According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Lt. Todd Tognazzini, when archery hunting it is recommended to hunt farther from private property boundaries to avoid this type of problem as deer taken with archery usually travel farther after a lethal wound than those shot with a rifle. Tognazzini says he has never been refused when a fresh and legitimate blood trail is found leaving public land onto private property.

Where do inland waters end and ocean waters begin?

Question: I would like to fish with two rods in the Delta but don’t know whether the regulations are in the freshwater books or in the ocean books. Is the Delta part of the ocean regulations or is it considered inland waters? Where does it change from ocean to inland if considered inland? (Brian S., Felton)

Answer: You can legally fish in the waters of the Delta with a second rod stamp. Inland regulations apply from upstream of the Carquinez Bridge. The definition of inland waters vs ocean waters is, “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 and San Pablo bays downstream from the Carquinez Bridge, the tidal portions of rivers and streams flowing into San Francisco and San Pablo bays, and the waters of Elkhorn Slough …” (CCR Title 14, section 1.53).

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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

Blue Crabs in Mission Bay?
Question: I have seen what appears to be blue crabs in the Mission Bay area of San Diego that look like crabs normally found in the southern U.S. What are these? What is the limit, size and permitted way of catching them in California? I cannot seem to find it in the handbook. (Don F.)

CDFW photo by Travis Buck

Answer: The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has received several reports of blue crabs, Callinectes sapidus, in the Mission Bay area of San Diego. However, none of the reports thus far have been substantiated. According to CDFW Marine Environmental Scientist Travis Buck of San Diego, the crabs you have seen are most likely Portunus xantusii (swimming crab), which are native to Southern California and resemble the East Coast/Gulf of Mexico blue crab.

To harvest these crabs, you will need a California sport fishing license with an ocean enhancement stamp. There is no closed season or minimum size limit, the bag limit is 35 and these crabs may be taken by hand or with a hoop net. No more than five hoop nets may be used per person from a boat and no more than two per person from a pier or jetty. There is a maximum of 10 hoop nets per vessel. Also, divers may not possess any hooked devices while diving for crustaceans, including crabs.

Regulations for these crabs fall under section 29.05, “general regulations for invertebrates,” and 29.80, “gear restrictions for crustaceans,” found on pages 46, 49 and 50 in the current Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet.

Can Drones Be Used to Find and Track Wildlife?

Question: A discussion came up at our rod and gun club the other day about whether there are any official regulations or restrictions regarding hunters using drones to assist in locating and tracking big game and/or other wildlife. I personally can’t believe they would be legal to use but none of us have ever heard any official determination on this subject one way or another. With deer season in full swing and more people now owning drones, I shudder to think that these increasingly sophisticated aerial contraptions might be used by other hunters for wildlife surveillance and even possibly for the driving or tracking of animals that they are hunting. Or conversely, what about anti-hunters using them to spook wildlife and disrupt hunters while they are tracking and stocking their animals? What is the official word on this issue? (Anonymous)

Answer: It is unlawful to use a drone to assist in taking wildlife as you describe, and it would be unlawful to harass legal hunters with a drone (Fish and Game Code, section 2009). It is also unlawful for any person to “… use any motorized, hot-air, or unpowered aircraft or other device capable of flight or any earth orbiting imaging device to locate or assist in locating big game mammals 48 hours before and continuing until 48 hours after any big game hunting season in the same area” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 251).

Drone owners/pilots should also keep in mind that additional legislation is currently being considered that may further restrict the use of drones in different public and private areas. Drones are already prohibited in National Parks and that list may soon grow, so stay tuned.

Crayfish trap limits?

Question: Had a question about crawfishing that no one can seem to answer for me. My questions are how many traps are allowed per person with a fishing license? I have been told that it’s a limit of 2 but when I look into the California Fish and Game for 2015-2016 Handbook it doesn’t say anything about how many traps are allowed. (William P., Lemoore)

Answer: Crayfish may be harvested year round with a sportfishing license (except for closures listed below) and there are no limits on the number you can possess or take home. Regarding methods of take, crayfish may be taken only by hand, hook and line, dip net or with traps. There is no limit on number of traps, however, they may not be over three feet in greatest dimension. Any other species taken must be returned to the water immediately. Traps need not be closely attended.

For a list of those areas closed to harvest in order to protect the Shasta crayfish, please refer to section 5.35(d) on page 21 of the 2015-2016 California Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations booklet. In addition, crayfish may not be used for bait in sections of the Pit River (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 4.30). The season closures in Chapter 3 (District Trout and Salmon Special Regulations) do not apply to crayfish fishing with methods other than hook and line (see sections 7.00 and 7.50(a)(2)).

Multi-day trip for abalone

Question: I'm a rock picker for red abalone. Because of long distance driving I plan to go for a two-day trip. With daily limits of three, I would get three on the 1st day and another three on the 2nd day before driving home. I will then have six abalone in possession. Would this be legal? (Henry)

Answer: No. The bag limit is also the possession limit. You may only legally possess up to three red abalone. You would have to eat or give away all or part of your first day's limit before you picked more abalone on a subsequent day.

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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

Rainbow Trout in Anadromous Waters
Question: I have taken up fly fishing again after a long while away. This past weekend I went fishing on the Russian River and caught two rainbows/steelhead (one a hatchery fish and the other a wild fish) and both were about 10 inches long. I am wondering if I have to report fish of that size on my Steelhead Report Card in the future. I recorded them this time out of an abundance of caution, but I don't want to over-inflate the run estimates needlessly. (Kyle K., Healdsburg)


Answer: It can be a bit confusing because steelhead trout and rainbow trout are the same fish. Its scientific name is Oncorhynchus mykiss (O. mykiss). Generally speaking, rainbow trout are O. mykiss found in land-locked freshwater with no access to the ocean, while steelhead trout are O. mykiss fish found in anadromous waters, which are waters with unimpeded access to the ocean where they live the majority of their life before returning to freshwater to spawn.

For practical purposes and to facilitate compliance, fishing regulations differentiate between rainbow and steelhead in anadromous waters by a 16-inch size threshold. O. mykiss smaller than 16-inches are treated as rainbow trout, and those bigger than 16-inches are treated as steelhead. Fishing for steelhead, meaning any O. mykiss in excess of 16-inches, in anadromous waters will require the purchase of a Steelhead Report Card, even if you practice catch-and-release (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 5.88).

The report card provides important data to fishery scientists and requires an entry for each day that you fish and statistics on all fish caught and released. Fishing for O. mykiss less than 16-inches does not require a steelhead report card.

Can other law enforcement agencies enforce CDFW regulations?

Question: I am a current sworn recruit in a Southern California Sheriff’s Department Academy. I will be working in a county with a heavy hunting and fishing population and an abundance of wildlife areas. I am just curious, and have been earnestly trying to find the answer on my own accord without luck, about a specific phrase in Fish and Game Code, section 2012. It states:

§ 2012. All licenses, tags, and the birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, or amphibians taken or otherwise dealt with under this code, and any device or apparatus designed to be, and capable of being, used to take birds, mammals, fish, reptiles or amphibians shall be exhibited upon demand to any person authorized by the department to enforce this code or any law relating to the protection and conservation of birds, mammals, fish, reptiles or amphibians.

My question is: who are the persons authorized by the department to enforce this code or any law relating to the protection and conservation of birds, mammals, fish, reptiles or amphibians? Are local police and county sheriffs authorized by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to enforce the Fish and Game Code? If it does exist, is there any statute that expresses that authority? (Calen A., M.A.)

Answer: Only CDFW wildlife officers are authorized to enforce the “exhibit upon demand” authority of Fish and Game Code, section 2012. Police officers and county sheriffs are authorized to enforce most hunting and fishing laws but are not authorized to enforce Fish and Game Code Section 2012.

Aside from CDFW wildlife officers, only Rangers and Lifeguards of the Department of Parks and Recreation are authorized to use that law, and then only while on duty in a state park, state beach, state recreation area, state underwater park, state reserve, or other similar facility. Although other law enforcement officers can’t make a formal demand under section 2012 to see someone’s licenses, fish, game, or equipment, they can still enforce fish and game laws and inspect these items if they are in plain view or with the person’s consent.

Discharging a firearm along public roadway

Question: As a firearms instructor and hunting enthusiast, I am continually asked the question, “When hunting and on foot (outside of a vehicle), can you discharge a firearm or other weapon (e.g. compound bow) from or along a public roadway?” Is there a minimum distance from a public roadway? For example, an inhabited structure or barn at 150 yards away? (Don S., Fresno)

Answer: It 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)). Discharging a firearm from or upon a public road or highway is also prohibited (Penal Code, section 374c). In addition, it is a felony to willfully discharge a firearm in a grossly negligent manner that could injure another person (Penal Code, section 246.3). Many cities and counties have also adopted ordinances further restricting where firearms may be fired, so hunters should consult their local law enforcement agency for specific information about the area where they wish to shoot.

Halibut fishing in SF Bay

Question: If I’m trolling for halibut in the San Francisco Bay, can I use another line that has only dodgers and flashers on it without any hooks to attract the fish closer to my boat? I will only have one pole or line with a hook on it. (J.V., Rodeo)

Answer: Yes.

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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

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