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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
Czech nymphing and weight placement when fly fishing?
Question: I have a fly fishing question on rigging flies for nymphing. There is a very popular technique called “Bounce Nymphing,” which involves using three nymphs on short droppers off of a long leader with a weight attached to the bottom of the leader. The idea is to bounce the shot off of the stream bottom in order to keep the nymphs in the bottom of the water column. After the cast, a mend is thrown downstream to create a belly and loop in the fly line so that the current catches the line, and drags the rig along in the current. My interpretation of this technique (under California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 2.10 (b)(4)) is that it is an illegal setup, although it is one that’s widely used by guides in the Eastern Sierra. Can you clarify this, please? (Craig B., Oroville)



Answer: There is often confusion regarding this set-up as it is very popular in other states given the presentation, not to mention when the split-shot snag is on the bottom, the angler usually only loses the weights. Unfortunately, in California if the weight is oriented below the flies, it would be illegal (CCR Title 14, section 2.10 (b)(4)).

If an angler is uncertain, an easy way to test the set-up would be to hold the leader in the air, grasping the section above the flies. If the weight hangs below the lowest fly, its illegal. One option that fly anglers use in California to emulate this technique is to use a heavily weighted nymph to replace the spilt-shot, but that runs the risk of losing that terminal fly to snags. The origins of the previously mentioned regulation stem from an unethical technique that uses weights below hooks to snag salmon, but the regulation is also applicable for protecting inland fisheries as well.

Crab fishing with both traps and snares simultaneously?

Question: Is it legal (and ethical) to drop a crab trap, and then use my fishing pole to cast out a crab snare? In other words, can I use them simultaneously? I am hoping to get the most out of my gear. (An avid fisher)

Answer: Yes. On a public pier, this would be the maximum amount of gear you could use at one time (CCR Title 14, section 28.65(b)).

Selling elk antlers from Idaho?

Question: I work at Moscow Hide and Fur in Moscow, Idaho (not Russia). We received an email recently referring us to your Q and A web site. It’s a great resource and we appreciate the time you put into it and all the other things you do. We think we may be one of the companies referred to in this previous question about elk antlers.

I remember that CDFW used to publish a brochure about selling wildlife. It parsed out the language of 3039(c) in a way that is more readable, the same way your answers do. I've asked people much smarter than me to read 3039(c) and they don't seem to be able to agree exactly how to interpret it either. So since we are not sure, we strictly follow the information from the old brochure we have from CDFW. In one part of the brochure it states that no part of an elk or various other animals can be sold.

We assume the status of elk antlers has changed at some point since that brochure was printed, but not by statute. Can you please point me to someone who could clarify this to satisfy our lawyers? (Barrett S., Moscow, ID)

Answer: Statutes regulating trade in wildlife parts have changed over the years, so CDFW doesn’t recommend relying on a brochure that is out of print. As you mentioned, Fish and Game Code, section 3039 is the key statutory provision regarding elk to be aware of. Within this code section, subdivision (a) provides that:

(a) Except as otherwise provided in this section, Section 3087 [relating to unclaimed taxidermy mounts], Section 4303 [allowing sale of lawfully taken deer hide], another provision of this code, or a regulation adopted pursuant to this code, it is unlawful to sell or purchase a bird or mammal found in the wild in California.

It doesn’t matter whether a species is indigenous. This language would also apply to wild pigs that are not native, but “found in the wild.”

Subdivision (c) makes an exception for shed antlers and some other antlers, but complete antlers or mounts may not be sold. Here’s the statutory language:

(c) Shed antlers, or antlers taken from domestically reared animals that have been manufactured into products or handicraft items, or that have been cut into blocks or units which are to be handcrafted or manufactured into those articles may be purchased or sold at any time. However, complete antlers, whole heads with antlers, antlers that are mounted for display, or antlers in velvet may not be sold or purchased at any time, except as authorized by Section 3087.

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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 .

Scouting and hunting from a paraglider?
Question:Is it legal to scout wild game from a non-motorized paraglider? If so, would it also be legal to locate game from the sky and then land and pursue the animals on foot? (Tony A.)

IS IT ILLEGAL to scout for big game via a paraglider because using any device capable of flight in order to locate big game during the hunting season is prohibited. CREATIVE COMMONS PHOTO

Answer: For scouting big game, this would be illegal because using any device capable of flight in order to locate big game during the hunting season is prohibited. “No person shall pursue, drive, herd, or take any bird or mammal from any type of motor-driven air or land vehicles…. Additionally, no person shall 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 beginning 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)

Carp spearfishing in the Russian River?

Question: I've been told that even though the Russian River is a salmon spawning river, I would be allowed to spearfish for carp because the carp are invasive. I need to confirm this from the regulation book though. Can you please help? Is this allowed? (Michael S.)

Answer: No. Spearfishing is only allowed in the waters listed under section 2.30 in the 2017 Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations booklet (CCR Title 14, section 2.30) beginning on page 12. In fact, even possessing a spear within 100 yards of the Russian River is unlawful (CCR Title 14, section 2.09).

Upgrading to lifetime fishing license?

Question: I've already purchased my 2017 sport fishing license. Can I pay the difference and upgrade to a permanent fishing license? (Bob I.)

Answer: Thank you for your interest in a lifetime license. Unfortunately, annual licenses cannot be upgraded to lifetime licenses mid-year. We suggest that you continue to use your annual license for the remainder of the year and purchase a lifetime license at the end of the year, before the new year to avoid any potential lifetime license fee increases.

How many hooks are allowed when fishing Sabiki rigs?

Question: My question is regarding Sabiki rigs. These pre-made rigs are sold with six hooks, and I have read that we are only allowed to use rigs with a max of three hooks. Does the three-hook rule also apply to Sabiki rigs since these rigs (the small ones with No. 12 hooks) are only for catching bait fish instead of game fish? If so, do I need to cut the rig in half? (Andy S.)

Answer: It depends on where you’re fishing and what you’re fishing for. To catch and keep some species of fish you’re required to use a certain number of hooks. If you catch one of these fish on a rig with more hooks than permitted, you’d have to throw it back.

Many species of rockfish, especially blue rockfish, will bite Sabiki rigs. So, even though they are designed to catch bait, they target any fish species that sees them as food. If you have rockfish, cabezon, greenling or lingcod on your boat, you cannot use a full Sabiki rig and must cut all but two hooks off.

And remember, it’s not legal to keep chinook salmon if taken with barbed hooks or if using more than two barbless hooks per line if a salmon is in possession. If you have no fish onboard and are trying to catch bait with a Sabiki rig, you would be required to release any such species.

Also, if fishing in inland waters, you would be restricted to using three hooks or less.

I suggest that you read the Gear Restrictions section of the annual Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet beginning on page 33, and the Fishing Methods and Gear Restrictions beginning on page 12 of the annual Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations booklet , to learn more about the regulations of the fish species you expect to encounter.

Maximum number of crab traps allowed per vessel?

Question: We just bought a new boat and would like to start fishing for Dungeness crabs. The sport fishing regulations state that a maximum of 10 hoop nets are allowed for Dungeness crabs per vessel (CCR Title 14, section 29.80). Does this regulation also apply when fishing crab traps south of Point Arena? (Lynard S.)

Answer: No, there are no restrictions on the number of crab traps the average sport crabber can have on a vessel for recreational purposes between Point Arguello, Santa Barbara County and the California-Oregon state line. The same is not true for charter/party boats that take recreational fishermen crabbing. When fishing for Dungeness crabs, the commercial sport fishing boats are restricted to using 60 traps per vessel (CCR Title 14, section 29.85(a)(4)). When fishing south of Point Arguello, hoop nets for crabs are allowed but crab traps are not.

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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 .

What can be collected from ocean beaches?
Question: I am an artist and my medium is to work with natural items I find in nature. I was wondering if I am allowed to take items from the beaches near my home. I see people collecting many things but I know that the beaches are protected and I don't want to take anything that is forbidden. I am particularly interested in the seaweed and colorful algae that washes up after storms. There are also items such as sponges, tree fans, dead crabs, even little animal skulls, and of course drift wood. I would really love to know if I am allowed to collect anything so as not to disrupt the natural process of things. Any information you could offer would really be great. (Aggie M.)

SEA STARS. CDFW file photo

Answer: Aside from state parks and marine protected areas that prohibit take/collecting of marine life within their boundaries, some collecting of beach wrack for personal use is allowed under certain conditions. If any of the algae/kelp you collect will be used for products that will be sold, a commercial Kelp Harvesters License will be required. Please check our website for all of the details regarding kelp and marine algae collection.

Shells that have been discarded by their occupants may be taken as long as you’re doing so in an area where collecting is not prohibited by the governing agency. Wherever you go, you should contact the governing agency to find out what collecting activities are legal for that area. As long as the shells are legally obtained and not sport-taken, they can be used to make art and or jewelry that is sold.

Marine protected area information is available online. Notice that some areas do not allow any "take." You will find information on this page regarding the areas you may want to avoid.

As far as animal skulls, sea otters and all other marine mammal skulls may not be collected or possessed unless specifically authorized through the federal government (NOAA). If you are selling your artwork, Fish and Game Code, section 3039 generally prohibits selling any parts of a bird or mammal found in the wild in California.

GO ID required on buoys when crab fishing from a pier/dock?

Question: The 2016-2017 Dungeness crab fishing regulations say you have to have a buoy on your crab pot with your GO ID number. Does this requirement apply when you are crabbing off a pier or dock, too? (Judy and John F.)

Answer: Yes, if you already have a fishing license when fishing off a pier or jetty (even where no license is required), then you must fish with buoys marked with your GO ID. It’s OK to use a small net float/buoy instead of a full size buoy if you’d prefer. According to the California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.80(c)(3), every recreational “crab trap” except those used by a Commercial Passenger Fishing Vessel (CPFV) “shall be marked with a buoy” with the operator’s GO ID on it. One exception to the GO ID requirement in this scenario would be if the person fishing from a public pier or jetty was not required to have a fishing license and therefore has no GO ID. The trap would still need a buoy attached, but would not need to be marked. Anyone can get a GO ID, even if they have no fishing license or are under age 16. Instructions for getting a GO ID are available on our website.

Baiting turkeys with water?

Question: I have a friend who bow hunts for turkeys and puts a tub of water near his turkey blind. He also places small water tanks in brush areas during deer season and says it’s ok. Is this true? Is it legal to use water as bait? (Dennis B., Palmdale)

Answer: Your friend should be informed that CCR Title 14, section 251.1 prohibits intentional acts that “disrupts an animals’s normal behavior patterns.” This activity is also specifically prohibited on some public lands (CCR Title 14, section 730). This section prohibits hunting for more than 30 minutes within 200 yards of wildlife watering places on public land within the boundary of the California Desert Conservation Area or within ¼ mile of six specified wildlife watering places in Lassen and Modoc Counties. The definition of “watering place” includes man-made watering devices for wildlife.

Do licensed fishing guides also need a fishing license?

Question: Is a California licensed fishing guide required to also have an individual sport fishing license? (Tom H.)

Answer: If the guide is just driving the boat and only verbally guiding clients while they fish, then no. However, if the guide does any fishing themselves, then a sport fishing license is also required.

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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/Steelhead vs Coastal Cutthroat Trout
Question: I have a question regarding regulations on non-adipose fin-clipped (“wild”) rainbow trout/steelhead and coastal cutthroat trout in tributaries on the North Coast (e.g. the lagoons in northern Humboldt County). Anglers are not permitted to keep wild rainbow trout/steelhead but are permitted to keep wild coastal cutthroat trout. However, these two species are well known to hybridize and hybrid offspring are reproductively viable.

Hybrids also exhibit a continuous spectrum of phenotypic expression that runs from the rainbow phenotype (few spots below the lateral line, small head, maxillary terminating before the rear of the eye and no throat slashes) to the cutthroat phenotype (heavily spotted including below the lateral line, large head, maxillary extending past the rear of the eye and throat slashes present). These phenotypes are what the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) website recommends for identification of the two species, but there is no reference to the basibranchial teeth that are specific to cutthroat.

Therefore, if an angler catches a non-adipose fin-clipped trout that has no throat slashes, no spots below the lateral line, a small head and a maxillary that does not extend beyond the rear of the eye, but has basibranchial teeth, is the angler allowed to keep the trout? The fish described is likely a hybrid “cuttbow.” Alternatively, if an angler catches a trout that outwardly looks like a coastal cutthroat but does not have basibranchial teeth, is the angler allowed to keep the trout? Again, this fish is likely a cuttbow. (Brian P., Sacramento)


Answer: According to CDFW Environmental Program Manager Roger Bloom, it is true that rainbow trout/coastal cutthroat hybrids exist at some low level in sympatric populations. However, based on a recent scientific study, the practice of using phenotypic traits to distinguish hybrids is not very effective. Although the presence of basibranchial teeth are a strong indication of a cutthroat trout lineage, it should not be used exclusively as a definitive sign to retain/harvest a fish.

From a regulatory/enforcement perspective, field identification of coastal cutthroats should be based on commonly agreed upon morphology of red/orange slashes found under the jaw. If there is a question about a fish being a hybrid coastal cutthroat crossed with a rainbow trout, anglers should err on the side of caution. It must have observable red/orange slashes if the trout is to be considered a coastal cutthroat for harvest.

Interestingly, some Central Valley hatchery steelhead may exhibit orange/yellow slashes which could stem from genetic influences via ancestral redband trout. Hence, if an angler encounters an adipose-clipped fish that looks like a rainbow trout but has these characteristics, it can be retained/harvested as there are currently no hatchery coastal cutthroats with clipped adipose fins.

Eating fresh-caught fish while at sea?

Question: Is it legal to eat just-caught fish while still at sea? For example, if I catch a tuna, fillet it into six pieces and later that day have one piece for dinner, would that be a criminal offense under the new fillet rules? (Jim K.)

Answer: No, you are welcome to cook sport-caught fish on a vessel as long as the fish is counted toward the angler’s individual bag limit and the vessel’s boat limit. The fish must also meet the fillet length requirements and any skin patches must be left on until the fish is prepared for immediate consumption (Fish and Game Code, sections 5508 and 5509). This applies regardless of which species is taken, and includes the new tuna fillet rules. Remember, you cannot catch another fish to replace the one that has been eaten once the bag/boat limit has been filled for that type of fish for that day.

Ranching wild pigs on private property?

Question: Are there circumstances under which a California rancher or even a private resident can keep live wild pigs on their property? I haven’t found any regulations that specifically address this. (Mike A.)

Answer: No, it is not lawful for any California resident to possess wild pigs (Sus scrofa) (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 671(c)(2)(Q)). However, there is an exception for Sus scrofa domestica, also known as the domesticated pig one commonly sees on a farm (CCR Title 14, section 671(c)(2)(Q)(1)).

Crab Hawk

Question: Is it legal to use the device called the “Crabhawk” to fish for Dungeness crabs? (Forrest L., Watsonville)

Answer: This device, which attaches to the end of a fishing line, is not legal in California. For descriptions of legal devices that may be used to take crabs, please check CCR Title 14, section 29.80. The Crabhawk does not meet the regulatory criteria.

An alternative trap that may be attached to the end of a line is the crab loop trap. These have been legal to use in California for many years.

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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 .

Collecting moon jellyfish for home aquarium?
Question: I would love to introduce moon jellies into my home saltwater aquarium. Can I collect them myself or do I need to try to buy them? I would not sell or trade them afterwards for something else. If this would be legal, can I collect them under a basic fishing license or would I be required to have a marine collector’s permit? (Tucker M.)


Answer: Moon jellyfish occurring outside the tide pool zone (1,000 ft. seaward from mean high tide) may be legally taken with a fishing license, and the bag limit is 35 (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.05(a)). Anything taken under a sport fishing license in California may never be offered or possessed for sale, barter, exchange or trade.

Steelhead cards when fishing for salmon in anadromous waters?

Question: Do you have to fill out a steelhead card when fishing for salmon in anadromous waters? There’s a debate going on so I need a straight answer. If I am fishing in the American River in Sacramento when steelhead are also present, and I am targeting salmon only, but in a manner in which steelhead are also often taken (like throwing spinners from the bank), do I have to possess and fill out a steelhead report card before fishing even if my intent is only to catch salmon? (James D.)

Answer: No, as long as you do not retain any steelhead caught incidental to your salmon fishing. If you do catch a steelhead by mistake while fishing for salmon, just be sure to immediately release it.

GoPro mounted to my shotgun/rifle while hunting?

Question: Is it legal to mount a GoPro to my shotgun when turkey hunting or rifle while deer or pig hunting? How about when I’m just out shooting? (Derek M.)

Answer: Yes, this is legal when hunting as long as no light is cast out from the camera (even though I know that’s unlikely). There are no restrictions when just target shooting.

Transporting Dungeness crabs

Question: What is required before transporting my Dungeness crabs home? Once crab is caught, measured and brought to shore, how must the crab be transported home? For instance, can it be cooked at a campground, cleaned (i.e. remove bottom shell, gills and viscera) then transported? Or must the crab remain in one piece for transport? (Anonymous)

Answer: “It is unlawful to possess on any boat or to bring ashore any fish (including crabs and lobster) upon which a size or weight limit is prescribed in such a condition that its size or weight cannot be determined” (Fish and Game Code, section 5508). Nothing prohibits you from cooking or cleaning crabs at your campsite before taking them home.

Carrying a holstered pistol for personal protection?

Question: While hiking in our local wilderness areas, is it legal for me to carry a holstered pistol for protection? This could help to protect my family from any threat of dangerous wildlife – either to scare it away or defend ourselves, if needed. (Louis M.)

Answer: While I can understand your safety concerns, the Fish and Game Code and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) generally don’t regulate firearm possession. Instead, we recommend that you consult the Department of Justice’s 2016 Firearms Laws Summary available online. In addition, attacks from wild animals are uncommon.

Boat-based net regulation?

Question: I have been searching for the regulation that requires all boat-based anglers to have a net. I use a kayak to fish in the Monterey Bay and just found out I am supposed to have a net when fishing. I’ve bought a net to take on my fishing adventures since I learned of my error. (Steve L.)

Answer: The regulation you are looking for is CCR Title 14, section 28.65(d), which can be found in the current Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet, Gear Restrictions section on page 45:

“No gaff hook shall be used to take or assist in landing any finfish shorter than the minimum size limit. For the purpose of this section a gaff hook is 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. 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 18 inches in diameter.”

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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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