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CALIFORNIA'S ONLY SPORTSMAN'S NEWS SINCE 1953

Carrie Wilson's Blog


DFG Q & A
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 cwilson@dfg.ca.gov.
Why Not Wolves in California?
Question: Even though gray wolves are slowly expanding back out into their historical ranges, why have they not returned to California? Other western states have them. What makes California different? What’s the status of the wolf planning effort? Is there funding for it? (Emma M.)

Answer: The biggest considerations on natural reestablishment of gray wolves into California are the smaller populations of prey species available (compared to other western states), the growing population of people and the decline in habitat to support them.


According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Wildlife Program Manager Karen Kovacs, while the gray wolf’s prey species is similar to other western states (deer and elk), California cannot compare with the other states on the numbers of prey animals. In general, wolves in the western states prey on elk. And while some states have hundreds of thousands of elk, our state has less than 10,000 elk. California has more deer than elk, but again, less than what other western states have.


Human population in California is also different. California has more than 38 million people and infrastructure to support that population including highways, development, reservoirs, intensive agriculture, etc., all of which contribute to a loss of deer and elk habitat, hence a loss of potential wolf habitat.


One other difference is that California has very limited information regarding the prior presence of wolves in the state. Very little verifiable information exists, including about two wolves collected in the 1920s. So just how widespread and what those historical numbers are is unknown.


The draft Wolf Plan will address these considerations and other consequences of wolves in California. The wolf planning process with the stakeholder working group is completed. We are in the process of revising the draft based on peer review and the last round of comments from the working group. We anticipate having the revised draft available for public review along with holding two public meetings for additional input to the department. We will then make any necessary changes and finalize the Wolf Plan. Timeframe is late spring or early summer. There is no specific funding identified at the present time.


California has no intention to reintroduce wolves into the state as other states have done. For more information on gray wolves and the work being done in California, please go to: www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/nongame/wolf/


Filleting fish onboard vessels?


Question: I want to make sure I have this filleting of fish onboard vessels correct. If I am fishing in San Francisco Bay and catch a 36-inch striped bass and a 48-inch leopard shark, I cannot remove the fillet from either fish until I am off my boat, correct? If so, can I remove the tail, head and fins from the fish? If I move to the Delta District to fish, are the filleting restrictions different? Thank you, as always, for helping to clarify these regulations. (Howard A.)


Answer: Both striped bass and leopard sharks have minimum length requirements and no established minimum fillet lengths, so neither can be filleted until you are back on shore. Heads and tails must also stay attached so that the fish can be measured to confirm they are of legal size, unless the fish is still of legal size after removing the head and tail. No person shall fillet, steak or cut into chunks on any boat or bring ashore as fillets, steaks or chunks any species with a size limit unless a fillet size is otherwise specified (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 27.65(c)). In addition, no fish may be possessed on a boat or brought ashore in such condition that the size and/or species cannot be determined (Fish and Game Code, sections 5508 and 5509).


Can youth hunters earn preference points?


Question: If my 9-year-old daughter has her hunting license, can she apply for preference points for any big game species, even though we know she can’t big game hunt until she is 12? (Shelley D.)


Answer: No. Hunters can only apply in the big game drawing once they are eligible to hunt for big game. Applicants for premium deer license tags, pronghorn antelope license tags, or elk license tags must be at least 12 years of age on or before July 1 of the license year for which they are applying. Youth hunters are not eligible to apply, even if it’s just to earn preference points (CCR Title 14, section 708.11).


Number of rods while fishing with crab snares?


Question: While out crabbing from our boat, my friend and I like to cast crab snares while waiting to check our soaking crab pots. I don't see any regulations related to the number of rods we can have out when using only snares from a boat. (Paul S.)


Answer: Regulations for crab snares (referred to as crab loop traps in our laws) can be found in CCR, Title 14, section 29.80. Although there is no limit to the number of poles you use, each loop trap is restricted to no more than six loops (snares).


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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 Carrie.Wilson@wildlife.ca.gov.


Catch and release steelhead; Report card required?
Question: I'd like to try steelhead fishing for the first time on the American River. I will purchase a regular California fishing license and adhere to all regulations, but do I have to purchase the steelhead card if I don't intend to keep any steelhead? If so, why can’t one be fishing for regular (rainbow) trout in the same river without a steelhead card? (Lilly K.)

anglerswithwild
ANGLER WITH WILD Klamath River steelhead, prior to release.

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, O. mykiss found in land-locked freshwater with no access to the ocean is a rainbow trout and 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 and come back 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 is a rainbow trout, and bigger than 16-inches is a steelhead. Fishing for steelhead, meaning any O mykiss in excess of 16-inches, in anadromous waters including the Lower American River below Nimbus Dam in Sacramento County, will require 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.


Does sardine fishery closure mean no more sardines for live bait?


Question: I heard in the news last week that the sardine fishery will be closing because it’s been overfished. Is this true? If so, how will this impact sport fishermen who rely on sardines for live bait? What about for fishermen who catch them incidentally on hook and line or who target them on sabiki and similar rigs off piers, jetties, etc.? (Steve C.)


Answer: The season for the current directed commercial sardine fishery has closed. There will also be a prohibition for next season for the same fishery due to a declining stock, but the decline is not due to overfishing. Anglers will be happy to know that these closures have no effect on either live bait or recreational take of sardine. These catches are not considered as part of the prohibition on directed commercial take. Currently, there is no limit on the recreational take of Pacific sardine (CCR Title 14, section 27.60(b)).


Biomass (population numbers) and commercial catch of Pacific sardine have fluctuated since the early part of last century. Over the past couple of years, the biomass of Pacific sardine has been declining. These fluctuations and the recent decline are primarily due to natural large scale changes in oceanic temperature, and studies show that biomass has fluctuated on a decadal scale for thousands of years. For more information on management of the West Coast Pacific sardine stock, please see the Pacific Fishery Management Council website (www.pcouncil.org/).


For more information about Pacific sardine history, research, and management in California, please visit California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW’s) Pacific sardine web site at www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/cpshms/pacificsardine.asp.


Spotting abalone while on probation


Question: I was cited for an abalone violation for failure to tag immediately out of the water last year (I went up to my car to grab a pen and ran into a ranger). My probation states 12 months of no fishing. Would it be legal to still go out with my buddies and spot abalones for them? I would obviously not carry an abalone iron. (Jingsong W.)


Answer: No. The law defines take as “hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill, or attempt to hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill” (FGC, section 86). If you are helping your buddies by spotting abalone for them to harvest, you are pursuing and hunting for abalone, which constitutes take.


Gifting a black bear claw necklace


Question: I have a necklace that contains black bear claws that were legally taken in Wisconsin a couple of generations ago. They were part of a rug until it fell apart from age and moths. I would like to pass it along to my grandson as he is involved in Cub Scout activities. It would be a gift being passed down from one generation to another. Is it legal for him to possess it in California? In keeping with the scouting traditions, I want to make sure we are doing things legally and properly. (Robert Stewart, Texas)


Answer: Yes, you can give this family treasure to your grandson but Fish and Game Code, section 4758, prohibits the sale or purchase of bear parts in California.


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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 Carrie.Wilson@wildlife.ca.gov.


Harvest of road-killed wild game meat?
Question: I have a screwy immune system with 3-4 different diagnoses (depending on the doctor) as to what the problem may be. Going vegetarian makes it worse. I must have flesh food, but again, because of the immune issues, it has to be grassfed/pastured or wild game. Whatever farmers do to crowded animals turns my body into a torture chamber.

I understand from my Canadian contacts with similar issues that Canadian provinces can create a list of people who have a medical need for this kind of protein, and freshly taken road-killed deer, elk, moose (not many of those!) and the like are made available to those people at low cost. The people take on the risk themselves, of course, and have the right to refuse if it doesn't smell or look right to them. Do you know if there is any such system in the works, or being discussed at all, in this country or state? It does seem to be simultaneously wise, rational and kind. (Isabel)


muledeer
MULE DEER PHOTO BY CARRIE WILSON

Answer: I’m sorry to hear about your immune system issues, but in California we have no road kill harvest program available and are not considering such a program. This type of program would create many biological and law enforcement issues, as well as expose the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to liability.


If you feel consumption of wild game may be your best solution, you should consider harvesting your own game and then you will ensure your meat will be fresh, contain no introduced chemicals and will be some of the freshest and healthiest meat available. To get started, consider taking one of our hunter education courses (www.dfg.ca.gov/huntered/) and then buy a hunting license. It is legal for a hunter to give you game meat he or she harvested too, but it is not legal to buy, barter, trade, etc. for it.


There are also commercial sources of game meat available, such as from farm-raised deer and elk from Australia and New Zealand, and there may be others that offer farm-raised fallow deer from California.


If hunting and harvesting your own protein is not for you, another option might be to consider shopping in local co-op stores and invest in free range, organic, grass fed beef if commercial meat is a health issue for you.


Turkey decoy


Question: Can you please tell me if it legal to use a turkey decoy with a motorized base in California? They sell them at Bass Pro Shops. (Mike R.)


Answer: Yes, this decoy would be legal to use.


Black perch inquiry


Question: I’ve been hearing reports of surf and jetty anglers catching good numbers of “black perch”, however, I’ve never heard of a black perch. Do you think they are actually catching black rockfish instead? If so, I worry these anglers may be thinking of these rockfish as perch and are therefore applying perch regulations rather than rockfish regulations. Now that the bag limit of black rockfish is lower, people may break the law without knowing it. Can you please find out if black perch are really black rockfish? (Capt. David B., Santa Barbara)


Answer: Thank you for your concern regarding potential impacts to black rockfish by shore anglers. Black perch, Embiotica jacksoni, is a member of the surfperch family and are definitely not black rockfish, Sebastes melanops.


According to CDFW Environmental Scientist Ken Oda, black perch are commonly caught by anglers on jetties, piers and rocky shorelines. They are also taken occasionally by spear fishermen diving in and around kelp. Other species of surfperch often caught with black perch are striped seaperch, rubberlip seaperch and pile perch. San Francisco Bay area fishermen often refer to black perch as "pogies" and in other areas of the state, anglers call them "buttermouths" because their lips are often yellowish in color.


In most areas, anglers may take up to 10 black surfperch as part of a surfperch aggregate limit of 20. But in San Francisco Bay and San Pablo Bay, up to five black surfperch may be taken as part of the aggregate limit of five surfperch (CCR Title 14, section 28.59(c)(1). When it comes to black rockfish, anglers may take no more than five as part of the daily bag and possession limit of 10 fish in combination of all species within the RCG Complex (rockfish, cabezon and greenlings) (CCR Title 14, section 28.55(b)).

For a color photo identification guide of common surfperch that also contains diagnostic features of the black perch, please go to www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/fishid.asp. Another source of interesting information about black perch can be found on the Aquarium of the Pacific website at: www.aquariumofpacific.org/onlinelearningcenter/species/black_perch.


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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 Carrie.Wilson@wildlife.ca.gov.


Cameras and mountain lions
Question: I live in Kern County and last December caught a mountain lion on our security camera. Then, last night about 6:45 pm I saw it walking on the road in front of my home with a cat in its mouth. This is a new experience for me and my research indicates that there is no reason for concern, except to notify neighbors with pets. Can you please give me some guidance on whether I should do anything with this information? (Steve D.)

mountainlion3MOUNTAIN LIONS ARE now secretly living  in and around many California neighborhoods where residents’ security cameras and trail cams frequently capture their images CDFW PHOTO

Answer: These security cameras that people and businesses are installing as well as trail cams are creating quite a buzz about lions. People are now getting the opportunity to realize what lion researchers have recently come to understand, which is that lions live around people more than we think.


According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Senior Environmental Scientist and mountain lion expert Marc Kenyon, we once thought that mountain lions resided solely in the mountains (hence their moniker), but it turns out they have been living all around us. With that in mind, we’ve also come to realize that mountain lions don’t present quite the level of danger that we used to think.


And you’re absolutely correct. Probably the best way to manage this situation is to simply warn neighbors about the presence of a lion. And if you visit our Keep Me Wild web page (www.dfg.ca.gov/keepmewild/lion.html) you can learn how to live and recreate safely among these magnificent creatures.


However, there is always a chance that these animals, like all wild animals, could pose a threat to public safety. Although the risk is extremely small, it still exists and we don’t take it lightly. In addition to following the advice on the Keep Me Wild web page, please be sure to call 911 or your local police if you or your neighbors witness a lion exhibiting any threatening behavior. The local police can typically respond much faster than we can, however they will be in direct contact with us until we can arrive if our presence is necessary.


Such potentially threatening behaviors include:


Following people closely and secretively


Intently watching children


Twitching tail


Stomping front or hind feet


Approaching people with ears pinned back and hissing


On the ground and refusing to flee when you are shouting at them aggressively and/or blowing a whistle


Also, a mountain lion in a tree or crouching in some vegetation near a trail or a residence doesn’t always reflect a dangerous situation unless some of the behaviors listed above are also noted. More often than not, that mountain lion is simply trying to hide until people pass and it may even feel threatened by the people who are watching it.


Alternate vs total fillet length measurements?


Question: For kelp bass, barred sand bass and spotted sand bass, the marine sport fishing regulations state that the size limit is 14 inches total length or ten inches alternate length. What is the difference between total and alternate length? (Tom R.)


Answer: Total length is the longest straight-line measurement from the tip of the head to the end of the longest lobe of the tail. Tip of the head shall be the most anterior point on the fish with the mouth closed and the fish lying flat on its side. Alternate length is the straight-line distance from the base of the foremost spine of the first dorsal fin to the end of the longest lobe of the tail (California Code of Regulations Title 14, Section 1.62).


Verifying it’s a tom turkey


Question: I know that only tom turkeys may be legally harvested during the spring turkey season, so how do I prove this if questioned? Should I leave a wing or the beard or both on the bird? Please clarify. (Anonymous)


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.


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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 Carrie.Wilson@wildlife.ca.gov.


Why don’t licenses run annually from date of purchase?
Question: Why do fishing licenses run from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31 every year rather than from the date of purchase? For example, a person buys his/her license Dec. 1 only to find it expires the end of the month. Then by Jan. 1, they must purchase a new license for the full price. Why not let it go for one full year from the date of purchase? Hunting licenses too run from July 1 through June 30 of the next year. I think license sales would greatly improve if they were changed from date of purchase to the next year. Can someone give a rational answer, please? (Alan E., Los Angeles)

licensing300

Answer: California has considered changing from a calendar-based sport fishing license to a license that is valid for one year from the date of purchase. But while this seems beneficial, when we looked at the issue thoroughly, we realized that changing to a license that is valid for one year from the date of purchase would significantly reduce funding for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW).


According to CDFW License Program Analyst Glenn Underwood, several other states have made the change to a license that is valid for one year from the date of purchase, and so we contacted these other states to learn from their experiences. We found states that changed from a calendar year license to a license that is valid for one year from the date of purchase experienced a re­duction in license sales from 10 to 30 percent in the three years following implemen­tation. Experts from these states explained license purchasing patterns changed when the license system changed to one year from the date of purchase licenses. Customers tended to wait until the last minute to purchase a license, as they knew it would be valid for one year from that date. Then when their licenses expired, customers again waited to renew until they fished again, creating a gap in licensure. After a few years the sum of the gaps was often greater than a year and a complete license sale was lost.


Changing to a license that is valid for one year from the date of purchase would also reduce federal grant funding. Each state in the country receives federal grant money from the Sport Fish Restoration Act (SFRA) which is funding generated from federal excise tax on sales of sport fishing tackle and motorboat fuels. This program funds critical fish habitat restoration projects throughout the state, providing increased fishing opportunities for California anglers. A tiered system is used to allocate grants to the states. In 2014, California received the maximum grant of $16,287,011, which is five percent of the total available to all the states. Federal SFRA grant amounts are based partially on the number of licenses issued in each state. If California license sales declined by as little as three percent, California’s grant would be reduced to a lower tier and the grant amount would be reduced by approximately $2.7 million to $4.5 million, further reducing CDFW’s ability to manage and protect California’s fisheries.


So, while we realize your license restructuring suggestion is popular, it would create a significant reduction in license revenue and sport fish grant funding for CDFW. The resulting reduction in revenue and grant funding would reduce the CDFW’s ability to manage and protect California’s fisheries; and it would reduce the number of fish CDFW could plant for California anglers.


Live turkey decoys?


Question: Is it legal to use a live turkey as a decoy? I can’t find any regulations on live turkey decoys (Todd W.)


Answer: No. The use of live decoys is prohibited when attempting to take resident game birds (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 311(l)).


What’s acceptable abalone diving gear?


Question: Regarding equipment that is permissible for abalone harvesting, is a buoyancy compensator (BC) with integrated weight system okay to use for diving for abalone as long as there is NO air tank attached? (John D.)


Answer: Yes, a BC is for your safety and is okay to use as long as no scuba or air supply of any kind is incorporated.


Free diving for sea urchins?


Question: As a free diver, am I legally allowed to harvest sea urchins? If so, do I need a permit? Also, where in San Diego County can I legally dive from shore for sea urchins? (Derek G.)


Answer: Sea urchins are legal to take in California with a sport fishing license. The season is open year-round for all species of urchin and the limit is 35 urchins (CCR Title 14, section 29.05). These regulations can be found in the Ocean Sport Fishing regulation booklet, along with coordinates and regulation summaries for marine protected areas in Southern California that are closed to the take of sea urchins.


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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 Carrie.Wilson@wildlife.ca.gov.


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