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.
Night fishing or sleep fishing?
Question: The other night while camping/fishing at Clear Lake, the whole campground was bombarded by a sting of rangers at 4 a.m. waking up campers with flashlights in our eyes to check fishing licenses. I was in my tent looking through the window at my poles and popped out when I heard someone walking up on our campsite. It was a ranger and he said I was not allowed to sleep with my poles in the water (I wasn’t asleep, but that’s beside the point). My poles were about 6-8 feet from me and he told us that if we wanted to sleep we had to reel them in. Our poles had bells on them and glowsticks. He said we weren’t “actively fishing.” Is this correct? Catfishing at night with a bell on your pole and being woken up by a jingle jingle has always been pretty standard stuff. Can you please clarify this? (Adam S., Lodi)

campingandfishingCREATIVE COMMONS PHOTO

Answer: The ranger was correct. If you have your hook and line in the water, it must be closely attended. Angling is defined as taking fish by hook and line with the line held in the hand, or with the line attached to a pole or rod held in the hand or closely attended in such a manner that the fish voluntarily takes the bait or lure in its mouth (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.05). If you are angling with a pole not in your hand, you should be closely attending and watching it and able to immediately grab the rod to reel it in if a fish bites your hook.


The reason for the law is to reduce hooking mortality for fish that swallow a baited hook and then struggle against the line. If the hook is impaled, the line will restrict gill movement. If you were to catch an undersized bass or trout at night, it may not pull hard enough on the line to disturb you from the tent, and then the fish would likely be dead when you checked your line the next morning.


Bottom line … fishing from inside your tent, whether you’re asleep or not, is not considered “actively fishing” or closely attending to your fishing line.


Can restaurants prepare and serve customers’ sport-caught abalone? 


Question: I have a question regarding abalone used for commercial restaurant use. Would it be illegal for someone to catch abalone (legally according to current regulations) on their property, and then sell and serve it to customers at their own restaurant located on their property? Are restaurants allowed to sell wild abalone at all? (Katelyn S.)


Answer: No, it is not legal for someone to catch abalone under a California sport fishing license and then serve it as a meal to a paying customer no matter where the restaurant is located. Fish and invertebrates caught under the authority of a sport fishing license may not be bought, sold, traded or bartered (Fish and Game Code, section 7121). Sport-caught abalone may be given away but cannot be sold in any form, even if it’s being made into a meal.


In most cases, sport-caught abalone,may not even be possessed in a restaurant. The only exception would be if the person who lawfully took or otherwise legally possessed the abalone remained present on the premises while the restaurant cook/chef prepared the abalone for consumption by the person who lawfully took it (FGC, section 2015).


Currently, there is no legal commercial fishery for California’s native abalone (FGC, sections 5521 and 5521.5). However, there are licensed abalone aquaculture farms in the state that raise abalone for the commercial market, as well as commercial fish businesses that import wild-caught and aquaculture abalone into California through a special CDFW importation permit. No non-native, live abalone may be imported into California, though.


Bone collector donates preserved specimens to local schools


Question: I am a bone collector. I have been collecting my entire life but have recently been able to clean and preserve specimens at a museum level. I mainly collect local native species that have fallen victim as "road kill" but I also collect on hikes and at the beach. After I clean and preserve a specimen, I donate it to local schools. I was wondering if there might be any licensing available for this kind of work. I would love to have some documentation to share in the event I run into the authorities. I have a biology degree and happily offer all specimens for educational benefit. Thank you for your time and consideration. (Anonymous)


Answer: To legally do what you are proposing, you will need to have a scientific collecting permit issued through the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to operate as a biological collector for various schools or institutions in need of specimens. See California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 650 for further information. Mountain lions require a special permit. See CCR Title 14, section 251.4.


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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.


Abalone Scouting Before Start Time?
Question: I know I cannot start picking abalone until 8 a.m. I usually get to my spot around 7:30 a.m. If I leave all my gear on the beach, can I search the rocks to locate any abs that might be legal, mark the spots with my gloves and then at 8 a.m. go back and get them? Thanks for your assistance. (Larry P., Paradise)

redabalone
RED ABALONE. (CDFW photo by Derek Stein)

Answer: Abalone may be taken only from 8 a.m. to one half hour after sunset. Take is defined as to “hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill, or attempt to hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill (Fish and Game Code, section 86). Searching and locating abalone prior to 8 a.m. as you describe is prohibited because it would fall within this definition of take.


Estimating distance from shore


Question: I have a question that’s a bit off the wall. If I am on the water, how can I accurately estimate when I am around one mile from shore? Assuming great visibility, if I am on a boat and standing 10-20 feet above sea level and I have 8x binoculars, how can I tell if I am less than or more than one mile from shore? I seem to recall someone saying to estimate half to horizon and then half of that. Does that sound correct? (Craig N.)


Answer: Because of swell conditions, it would be nearly impossible to estimate the distance from shore in the method you describe. The most reliable method would be to use a GPS or plotter. You can also use a compass pointed toward known locations on land and triangulate your position fairly accurately on a chart.


When friends share in a hunt, does everyone need licenses and tags?


Question: Let's say I plan to go hunting during the regular season and want to bring a friend or family member along, but I'm the only one who actually plans on taking game. Additionally, let's say that I am the only one in possession of a firearm or archery equipment. Does everyone in my group need to have a hunting license and tag? If no, am I the only one in the group who needs both a license and a tag, and everyone else is okay with just a license? (Jeffrey Y.)


Answer: No one else in your group will need licenses or tags as long as they are only observing and are not carrying a method of take with them.


Koi-Eating Heron Needs a New Home


Question: We live in Valley Center (north San Diego County) and had a koi pond with 75 koi. We now have maybe 20 koi. There's a huge great blue heron that is eating the koi daily. Is there a way for Fish and Wildlife to rehome this bird so that we can save our koi? (Julie Wright)


Answer: Unfortunately, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) does not remove or rehome great blue herons. They are federally protected. Your best bet will be to haze the bird by non-lethal methods and discourage it from hanging around. Try putting wire around and over the top of your pond to keep the heron from easily picking off your remaining fish.


Your fish may also be disappearing due to other unwanted predators. Koi are very enticing menu favorites for a number of other small backyard visitors, including domestic cats and raccoons. Unfortunately, when various small backyard wildlife become nuisance visitors, such as koi-stealing raccoons, or possums under houses, or squirrels in attics, or rattlesnakes in your garage, etc., CDFW cannot usually assist with removal/relocation. For all of these types of animals you would need to contact a pest management company for assistance, or visit UC Integrated Pest Management website for guidance. Their website is www.ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/.


Back to the great blue heron, the USFWS provides guidance and permits for birds causing property damage. This is a common problem at larger live fish facilities, private hatcheries and aquaculture facilities. Check their website at www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/mbpermits.html.


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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.


What information can be collected from banded birds?
Question: While hunting ducks a few months ago at my hunt club, my son shot a double banded wood duck. It had the normal metal band on one leg and on the other leg it had a pink plastic band with the number 9 on it. The club next to us raises wood ducks and we were wondering if it may have come from there? How can I best describe to my kids why some ducks are banded? (Mike O.)

birdbans
PHOTO BY USFWS BIRD BANDS PHOTO BY MATT EWALT, CREATIVE COMMONS

Answer: Bird banding is one of the most useful tools in the modern study of wild birds. Banding birds with uniquely numbered leg rings is meant to reference where and when each bird is banded, its age, sex, and any other information the bander thinks crucial to report to scientists. Information from bands subsequently found and reported provides data on the range, distribution and migration habits, their relative numbers, annual production, life span, and causes of death of countless species of birds. Having this information increases scientists’ ability to understand bird habitat and behavior and assists them in their management and conservation efforts (source: USFWS website).


As far as the bands you found, it depends on what kind of metal band the bird had. If the band was issued from the USFWS, then you can go to their website www.pwrc.usgs.gov/bbl and easily find out where it came from. If it is not a USFWS issued band, that likely means an organization may be providing nesting habitat via wood duck nest boxes, and then banding them as part of a federally-permitted study. Between the two bands, hopefully you can track some information down.


Animal cruelty


Question: My daughter and I were going to the store on Saturday when we noticed a possum that had just crossed the road and was near the gutter on the other side of the road. The car in front of us veered to the other side of the road and ran over the possum on purpose!! I have been told that possums are a protected animal. Who do I contact to report this? I was shocked and very angry that someone would do this on purpose! I have pictures of the car, the license plate and of the possum. I would appreciate any help in this matter. There is no excuse for this kind of cruelty. (Kathi V., Orange County)


Answer: Although opossums are not native to California, they are classified as nongame animals pursuant to Fish and Game Code section 4150, and they may not be taken in the manner you have described (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 472). However, these kinds of violations can be difficult to prove and prosecute because the drivers will likely claim it was unintentional and that they were distracted and swerving because of other issues inside the car such as a coffee spill, dropped cell phone, etc. The driver might also claim he was attempting to avoid the animal but the animal got confused and ran back in the direction the car was veering, which does happen sometimes. Despite these possible scenarios however, what you described could be investigated as an illegal method of take. Hopefully, this was something you will not come across again. But if you do, you can call the 24-hour CalTIP hotline at (888) 334-2258 or report by text message via “tip411 (numerically, 847411).


What are the rules for mounting trail cameras?


Question: What are the rules or requirements regarding putting a trail camera in a public park? We're trying to find a friend's lost dog and have gotten tips that she's in a local public park. No one can ever find her during the day though so we want to put up a trail camera at night to try to confirm if she is there. If it makes any difference, one of the parks where we think she might be is next to an elementary school. I just want to know if it's legal, and if so, if there's anything special that needs to be done to put up the trail camera. (Kevin H.)


Answer: This is not under the jurisdiction of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). This decision will need to be made by the manager or the agency that manages the park as to whether they have any policies that permit or disallow this practice.


Fishing access to the California Aqueduct?


Question: I see many videos on YouTube regarding fishing along the California Aqueduct. As a main water supply line for California, I would think most areas would restrict access. Is there any information I can look up to find where the access areas are? I think most areas on the videos are in Southern California. I am looking for access to the California aqueduct around Central California. (Daniel S.)


Answer: There are many fishing access points along the aqueduct, and many have signs posted as well. To find some of these places, please check out our online fishing guide at www.wildlife.ca.gov/fishing/guide or our mobile fishing guide at www.dfg.ca.gov/mobile.


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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.


Late 8 a.m. start time for abalone unfair
Question: Just a note (complaint) … the start time of 8 a.m. for abalone is very, very unfair. The two lowest tides of the year are in May and June, and you just eliminated them. Rock pickers are put into a shorter collection time and can make even more hurried decisions to take an under-size ab off a rock. You are punishing all rock pickers and putting them in danger by forcing them to dive for abs when they are not good divers (thus, in danger of drowning). The 8 a.m. rule does not adversely affect the divers at all. You already closed off way over half the state of California. There is no way that abalone hunters can wipe out the abalone population. I go rock picking for abalone with six others and we all share these thoughts. (Fred M., San Francisco).

Answer: The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) made recommendations to the Fish and Game Commission (Commission) to reduce the take of abalone because recent scuba surveys had shown lower numbers of abalone at popular abalone sites, particularly in Sonoma County.


According to CDFW Marine Environmental Scientist Jerry Kashiwada, the current Abalone Recovery and Management Plan (ARMP) recommends a 25 percent reduction in the take of abalone when the density (number of abalone in a standard area) reaches the low levels seen in the most recent surveys. Density in the Fort Ross area was so low it reached an ARMP “trigger” for closure to allow the abalone population to recover.


The Commission had a choice between the 8 a.m. start time, reduction of daily limit to two abalone, reduction of the limit on the abalone card, reduction of the season (more closed months), reduction of take for Sonoma and Marin counties or some combination those proposed changes.


The 8 a.m. start time was initially proposed by CDFW wildlife officers who had been seeing large numbers of rock pickers at all low tides and believed that segment of the fishery was unsustainable. The officers observed rock pickers were taking more time to find legal limits, were less likely to get a limit and were removing and returning more short abalone, many of which were unlikely to survive the handling. The later start time also helps officers by eliminating predawn fishing hours when the light is too dim to observe violations. The effect of the new start time was estimated using data from returned abalone report cards, but the actual effect is unknown since it depended on whether many people would shift to later hours. Data from abalone cards returned this year will provide a clearer picture of the effects of the regulation changes.


The timing of low tides is variable from year to year and while the 8:00 a.m. start reduces the number of low tides available, there usually are some days with suitable tides. The lower numbers of abalone being taken by rock pickers may make it easier to find abalone at higher tide levels than in the past. The activities of sport fishermen might not be sufficient to cause extinction of abalone species but they can reduce abalone populations to the point that the abalone are spaced so far apart that their chances of reproducing are very low. At low abalone population levels, many people might stop participating in the fishery because it is too difficult to find abalone. Reducing abalone populations to low levels also makes them more vulnerable to events like the 2011 die-off that affected abalone in much of Sonoma County.


CDFW is currently in the process of developing a Red Abalone Fishery Management Plan and revising sections of the ARMP. For more information, please visit the CDFW Invertebrate Management Project website at www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/redabalonefmp/.


Can a non-hunter carry an unloaded shotgun when with other hunters? 


Question: While hunting on a game bird club, can a non-licensed, non-hunter carry an unloaded shotgun while walking with other hunters? (Anonymous)


Answer: While it may not technically violate the law for you to carry an unloaded shotgun without a license, by doing this with others who have ammunition and are taking game, it will likely generate many questions by the wildlife officer contacting you in the field. Whether or not you have a hunting license is not an element of “take.” You may argue you are not taking game, but the officer has sufficient evidence to prove you are. Do you really want to put yourself through the hassle of going to court? Leave the firearm behind if you want to go with your buddies while they are taking game.


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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 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.


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