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.
DIY Personal Domoic Acid Testing of Crabs?
Question: Is there any kind of Domoic acid test kit available that a consumer can use to test his/her own crabs? I would think there would be a lot of interest in this. I love to catch and eat crabs but also hate risking getting sick! (Bob W.)

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DUNGENESS CRABS FROM the San Francisco Bay Area. Photo by Carrie Wilson

Answer: If you do a google search you will find some kits that state they will detect Domoic acid toxins in shellfish, marine algae and water samples. However, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) cannot comment on the suitability of these products to address your concerns. You can minimize your risk though by following California Department of Public Health (CDPH) advisories. In their recent news release, CDPH advised that meat from Dungeness crabs caught in areas where the advisory has been lifted is safe to consume. However, consumers are advised to not eat the viscera (internal organs, also known as “butter” or “guts”) of crabs.


Crab viscera usually contain much higher levels of domoic acid than the crab body meat. When whole crabs are cooked in liquid, domoic acid may leach from the viscera into the cooking liquid. Water or broth used to cook whole crabs should be discarded and not used to prepare dishes such as sauces, broths, soups or stews (i.e. cioppino or gumbo), stocks, roux, dressings or dips.


To check for current health warnings on the consumption of crabs and other shellfish, I suggest you call CDPH’s shellfish hotline at (800) 553-4133 or visit CDPH’s Domoic Acid health information Web page. This information is always up to date and available via a recorded message 24/7.


If I see a mountain lion, who do I call?


Question: What do I do when I see a mountain lion come on my property? Who do I call? (Darren M.)


Answer: If you see a mountain lion come onto your property, you don't need to call anyone unless the animal is acting aggressively toward you or your family, or if it appears to be sick or diseased. If you feel it is an immediate threat to you, call 911. But mountain lions are usually just looking for deer or other prey animals.


If you do know you have a mountain lion around your home, I suggest you keep small children, pets and other animals in a protective area, especially from early evening through mornings when mountain lions are most active. If the animal is just passing through, as they typically do, you might just watch it and enjoy the unique opportunity you're being given to actually see one. Most people will never have the chance to see one in their lifetimes.


For more information, please check out our living with mountain lions webpage.


Do blue catfish reproduce in California?


Question: Do blue catfish reproduce in California lakes? If not, why? (Mike M., Anaheim)


Answer: Blue catfish can reproduce in lakes provided they have the right cave type of habitats. Spawning blue cats construct nests under overhanging rock ledges along deeply undercut banks and other sheltered places. In lakes that are self-contained where the lake managers purchase the fish from private hatcheries, CDFW cannot be sure if those fish were genetically altered for increased growth. If they were, those fish could be infertile.


Lifetime license still valid if I move out of state?


Question: I was looking into the Lifetime Hunting/Fishing license. This may be a stupid question but if I leave the state of California and change my residency, do I forfeit the whole lifetime license? I assume I must live in California in order to qualify. (Bill)


Answer: No, you won’t forfeit it. Under the provisions of a Lifetime Hunting or Fishing License, your license is valid for hunting/fishing when you return to visit even if you move out of state. You would be required to buy non-resident tags for big game species but the license is still valid. For more on the benefits and privileges of hunting and fishing lifetime licenses, please visit the department website.


Can you harvest abalone for a handicapped individual?


Question: Just curious if there are any provisions in the abalone regulations to allow someone to assist a handicapped person. For example, if the person is unable to dive for abalone, can someone else harvest the catch for them? (Todd J., Milbrae)


Answer: No, an individual may only take or possess one daily limit of abalone (which is three). A diver could take three abalone one day, record and tag them with their abalone report punch card and tags, and then give them to a disabled person who is not able to dive. Then the following day, the diver may go out to get three more abalone for themselves, and again, report them on the punch card and tag them in accordance with the regulations.


There are no restrictions about gifting abalone, but abalone that are given away count toward the giver’s daily bag and annual limits. In addition, anyone who receives abalone as a gift (whether they have a fishing license or not) may only possess one daily bag limit.


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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.


Falcon Hunting from a Moving Vehicle?
Question: Is it legal or illegal to release a hawk or falcon (pursuant to a falconry license) from a moving vehicle to take game or non-game species? I am wondering if falconry road hunting would fall under the same illegal pursuit law that applies to hunting with firearms and archery under section 251. (Harris H., Modesto)

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HARRIS HAWKS ARE commonly used for falconry hunting. Photo by Carrie Wilson

Answer: Yes, your assumption is correct. It would be illegal for a licensed falconer to release hawks or falcons from a moving vehicle because the law states, “No person shall pursue, drive, herd or take any bird or mammal from any type of motor-driven air or land vehicles, motorboat, airboat, sailboat or snowmobile” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 251.)


When can Dungeness crabs be cleaned?


Question: I know abalone and lobster have restrictions on retaining whole animals until consumption, but I can’t find any restriction in the regulations on cleaning Dungeness crab. I know many boil and serve Dungeness crab whole. However, I find it easier to “back” the crab by cracking the shell into two pieces and removing the organs. Then I boil only the meat parts. When can I legally clean the crab? On the boat, back at the dock at a fish cleaning station, when I am home or after boiling? Thanks. (Dave C. )


Answer: Like with other finfish and shellfish with minimum size requirements, you must maintain the crab in a condition to where it can be identified and measured to ensure it meets any minimum size limit. Crabs possessed on a boat must be kept in such condition that the size and species may be determined (Fish and Game Code, sections 5508-5509). There is no requirement once ashore. Remember, the definition of “Fish” includes wild fish, mollusk, crustacean (crabs), invertebrate, amphibian, or part, spawn or ovum of any of those animals (FGC section 45). Therefore, while on a boat, you can clean the crab by removing the viscera whenever you like but must maintain the crab in a condition where it can be identified and measured across the back to ensure compliance with the size limit.


Where are all of the nesting turkeys?


Question: I know this is the courtship and nesting season for turkeys and that they roost in trees at night, but where do they nest and for how long? I’m seeing lots of toms right now but not many hens and have not found any sitting on nests. How soon before the newly hatched chicks will be out and on their own? Thanks for any insight. (Dwayne J.)


Answer: In most areas, nests can be found in a shallow dirt depression surrounded by moderately woody vegetation that conceals the nest. Hens look for locations close to food and water and with ample cover to safely conceal the hen and her poults (chicks) once hatched. Hens are very leery of predators, such as coyotes and fox, but do leave the nest unattended for brief periods to feed and drink.


Hens will lay a clutch of 10 to 12 eggs during a two-week period, usually laying one egg per day. She will incubate her eggs for about 28 days, occasionally turning and rearranging them, until they are ready to hatch.


A newly hatched flock must be ready to leave the nest to feed within 12 to 24 hours. Poults eat insects, berries and seeds while adults will eat anything from acorns and berries to insects and small reptiles. Turkeys usually feed in early morning and in the afternoon.


For more information on wild turkeys, please check the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) hunting website at www.wildlife.ca.gov/Hunting and the National Wild Turkey Federation website at www.nwtf.org.


Can barnacles be harvested?


Question: I live in San Luis Obispo County and read the fishing regulations where it says barnacles cannot be harvested in the intertidal area. What about other non-intertidal areas, such as piers, jetties, etc.? I thought I read somewhere that the limit was five pounds. (Michael H.)


Answer: The applicable regulation (CCR Title 14, section 29.05) does not allow collection of barnacles “in any tidepool or other areas between the high tide mark (defined as Mean Higher High Tide) and 1,000 feet seaward and lateral to the low tide mark (defined as Mean Lower Low Water).” If you can find barnacles offshore more than 1,000 ft. beyond the low tide mark, by law you may take them. If you found barnacles more than 1,000 ft. beyond the low tide mark and wanted to take them, you would be limited to 35 barnacles per day/in possession, again per section 29.05. There is no five pound limit for barnacles (you may be thinking of the 10 pound limit for mussels).


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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.


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

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TARGET SHOOTING IMPROVES one's shooting skills and accuracy. It is also a great way to introduce someone new to safe gun handling practices and the shooting sports. In this photo, Harry Morse practices his skills at the “Birds Landing Hunting Preserve and Sporting Clays Course” near Fairfield. PHOTO BY CARRIE WILSON

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


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


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


How to prove the sex of a turkey?


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


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


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


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


Catching fish with baited fish traps?


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


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


Spearfishing without a license?


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


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


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


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

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SPRING TOM TURKEYS in Northern California. PHOTO BY CARRIE WILSON

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


Bringing a speargun into California


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


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


Live rodents as fishing bait?


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


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


Hunting Sandhill cranes?


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


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


Kangaroo product ban?


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Where to buy a live largemouth bass?


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


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


Duck blind partner with overlimits


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


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


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


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


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


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