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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 don’t some deer shed their antlers?
Question: I recently heard about a few Southern California bucks that seem to carry their antlers year round. One person I heard from insisted they were mountain biking and repeatedly saw the same deer in January and in May with a 4x3 rack. While I disagreed with the person telling me this, I admitted I am no biologist and didn't know what they were seeing. Do some deer out here not shed their antlers? I was under the impression that even though nutrition, water and climate might affect when they shed, that deer always shed their antlers. Can you share some info or point us in the right direction to learn more about the antler shedding process here in SoCal? (Al Q.)


Answer: Deer that don't shed their antlers are commonly called "stags". This is usually the result of some kind of injury (or maybe deformity) of the testicles. Testosterone plays a role in both antler development and shedding, so injuries can really affect the types of antlers they have. Weird looking antlers can also result from injury to the antlers while in velvet ... but those kind usually fall off normally and are replaced the next year with "normal" antlers.


So, this proves there are indeed exceptions to every rule — even biological ones!


Incidental take while spear fishing?


Question: What happens if a spearfishing diver spots a large fish and shoots and spears it without realizing until too late that it’s a giant (black) sea bass or another prohibited species? Then after the fish is speared and brought to the surface, the spearfisher identifies they have a fish they can’t take or possess and promptly returns it to the ocean. Has the spearfisher violated any laws?


A fisherman (angler) who catches a prohibited species while fishing for other species can argue that the take was unintentional/incidental. Could the spearfisher successfully make a similar argument? (Steve H.)


Answer: Spear fishermen are responsible for identifying their targets before they pull the trigger and can be held accountable for shooting a prohibited species. They are also responsible for ensuring that any fish they shoot meets the minimum size limit requirements for that species, again, before they pull the trigger.


A short lingcod or illegal giant sea bass, for example, is unlikely to survive after being shot by a spear fisherman who has the ability to select his target carefully; a short or illegal fish is much more likely to survive being hooked and released by an angler fishing from a boat, who cannot selectively target which individual fish he wishes to catch.


If a diver is unsure about the size or identity of the fish he/she’s aiming at, he/she should choose a different target. Shooting a fish that you’re unsure of could be illegal, and we believe that many spear fishermen would consider it unethical, as well.


All of these same principles also apply to hunters. No one with a rifle, shotgun, spear gun or even bow should pull the trigger unless absolutely 100 percent sure that their intended target is of legal size, species, gender, etc. An accurate (or even lucky) shot made, but with an error in judgment, isn’t worth the repercussions of breaking the very laws enacted to protect the state’s fish and game.


Why the health warnings for brown trout?


Question: In the fishing regulations there are safe eating guidelines for Donner Lake. I am trying to figure out why there are different recommendations for brown trout compared to rainbow trout. The guidelines suggest people eat only one serving of browns vs. seven servings of rainbows. Why? (Tim W.)


Answer: The recommendations in our regulation booklet are from the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA). The recommendations are probably from actual studies done by OEHHA of mercury levels in edible flesh from these two species from Donner Lake.


According to Dr. William Cox, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Program Manager of Fish Production and Distribution, we do not plant brown trout in Donner and so those fish are essentially wild and older in the system. Therefore, they have been on natural diets and accumulating mercury from the naturally occurring insects and aquatic life that comprises their food chain.


CDFW does plant rainbow trout in Donner as part of what we call a “put-and- take” fishery. For most of their lives those fish are not eating natural feeds, and are generally not piscivorous like the brown trout, so they accumulate much less mercury. Humans, especially children and women of child bearing ages, need to limit their intake of mercury because it can have serious health effects, including death.


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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.


Ingenious or Illegal?
Question: I am going over abalone laws again for any details that I may have missed and I have one quick question.

Measuring devices: You must have a fixed-arm measuring gauge, capable of spanning an abalone’s shell. It is a violation to take an abalone when not in possession of a gauge, even if the abalone is legal-sized.


As you can see in this picture, the gauge is part of the ab iron. Since it has a fixed-arm that is capable of measuring abalone, I assume this gauge is legal. I just wanted to confirm since I am hearing that people are being approached for this type of gauge. Thanks. (Jerry)


abirongauge


Answer: This gauge does not meet the requirements of a legal abalone gauge and therefore would not be legal by itself. It’s ok for a preliminary measurement, but the abalone fisherman would have to have an additional legal gauge in their possession while taking abalone.


According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Lt. Dennis McKiver, every person taking abalone “shall carry a fixed caliper measuring gauge capable of accurately measuring seven inches. The measuring device shall have fixed opposing arms of sufficient length to measure the abalone by placing the gauge over the shell” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.15(f)).


These abalone irons with attached, short, one inch arms are not “capable of accurately measuring” because the arms are not “of sufficient length to measure the abalone by placing the gauge over the shell.” So, anyone using one of these will need to also have an additional legal abalone gauge in their possession.


All divers must carry an abalone gauge that measures seven inches and remember that any abalone removed from the rock that measures seven inches or more must be retained (CCR Title 14, section 29.15(d)). Wildlife officers frequently find people trophy hunting with only nine or 10 inch gauges in their possession and they end up citing many of these individuals for high grading because they are detaching and replacing abalone that are less than nine or 10 inches, but are otherwise legal to take.


Slingbow for game hunting


Question: Is it legal in California to hunt small and big game with a slingbow, provided it can cast an arrow legal for the game being hunted at least 130 yards? Referring to the California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 354, slingbows do have flexible material (the band), and a string connecting its two ends (of the band) as the nock, to satisfy the legal definition. (Jason L.)


Answer: These slingshot-style bows would not be legal because bows are defined only as longbow, recurve or compound bow (under CCR Title 14, section 354(a)). This product falls under the definition of a crossbow (CCR Title 14, section 354(b)) “or cured latex band” and could be used for hunting under crossbow regulations.


Trout fishing with “dough balls”?


Question: While living back east, we used to use “dough balls” for trout. We made them out of corn meal, flour and water or fish meal, flour and water. Is this a legal bait for trout in California? (Mike)


Answer: Processed foods may be used in California’s inland waters where bait is legal. Where bait is legal, dough balls would be legal.


Resident sport fishing license still legal after moving out of state?


Question: If I bought a California fishing license earlier in the year but then moved out of state, can I still legally fish with that resident license even if I now have an Idaho address? I’ll be coming back and forth during the year to visit family and am hoping this license will be good at least through the end of the year. (James F., Boise, ID)


Answer: Your resident California sport fishing license is valid through Dec. 31, 2014, even if you move out of state.


“Resident” is defined as: Any person who has resided continuously in the State of California for six months or more immediately prior to the date of his application for a license or permit, any person on active military duty with the Armed Forces of the United States or auxiliary branch thereof, or any person enrolled in the Job Corps established pursuant to Section 2883 of Title 29 of the United States Code (Fish and Game Code, section 70).


“Nonresident” is defined as: Any person who has not resided continuously in the State of California for six months immediately prior to the date of his application for a license or permit (FGC, section 57.)


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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.


Protecting wildlife via highway game fences
Question: I have been hunting deer and elk out of state for years. Every western state I have hunted has installed game fencing adjacent to highways where big game frequents and/or migrates. Why in the heck doesn't California do this? I live in Grass Valley and Interstate Highway 49 is always being widened, but never does the work include game fencing or game "underpasses." I have never seen or read any information coming from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recommending game fencing along California highways. (Sven O.)


tuleelkatsanluis

GAME FENCES ARE primarily installed along traditional deer and elk migratory routes. TULE ELK PHOTO COURTESY OF USFWS


Answer: We do install game fencing but don't do it everywhere. Because game fences are expensive, they are primarily installed just along the major migration routes. If designed incorrectly, they can do much more damage than good. Keep in mind that California has more than 2.3 million miles of paved road and it would be impossible to fence all of that no matter how much funding we had available.


According to CDFW Game Program Manager Craig Stowers, CDFW has instead focused primarily on routes that migratory deer move through as they are highly traditional and tend to move through the same areas year after year. Then once we identify where those areas are (mostly by finding road kills, but we can also identify through tracks in the snow and/or telemetry data), we work with CalTrans to mitigate those losses. CDFW has found lots of traditional migratory route areas in the state.


Some good examples of this kind of game fencing work include the miles of fencing and under crossings on I-395 from Bordertown up to the Inspection Station just south of the intersection of 395/89, fencing and undercrossings on I-395 in the Bass Hill Wildlife Area just south of Susanville, the work done in the Loyalton-Truckee deer herd area and the work we completed last year in the I-280 area (in conjunction with Caltrans and UC Davis). Our job on that one was simply to catch the deer, which we did. Caltrans engineers and wildlife experts from UC Davis analyzed the movement data of those deer in an effort to modify roadside fencing and existing undercrossings to cut down the number of deer hit on I-280. Regardless of location, it is a very expensive and time-consuming effort, not only to determine where to install the fencing and/or undercrossings, but also to build them.


Underwater camera to find trout?


Question: Is it legal to use an underwater camera to look for trout that may be hiding underneath the creek/river bank? Does it matter if it’s used while engaged in the actual activity of trout fishing or when not in possession of a fishing pole? (Jim B., Elk Grove)


Answer: An electronic viewing device, such as an underwater camera, would be legal but a non-electronic viewing device (such as goggles, scuba mask, etc.), would be prohibited for taking fish (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 2.09). There’s an exception, though, under the provisions of spearfishing (CCR Title 14, section 2.30).


Keeping a skunk for a pet?


Question: I live in Alameda and want to know if it is legal for me to keep a pet skunk? We will, of course, have the stink glands removed for obvious reasons. (Beatrice V.)


Answer: No. Wildlife must remain wild and cannot be owned. Generally, animals found in the wild in California can never be kept as pets. Only people who qualify for a restricted species permit may possess wild animals, like skunks. Keeping wildlife is prohibited by Fish and Game laws (CCR title 14, section 671) and California health laws due to a high incidence of rabies in skunks in California. All wildlife, even skunks, belong to the citizens of California and cannot be held, domesticated…or have their scent glands surgically removed!


Trolling for salmon


Question: This last weekend while fishing/trolling with my husband for salmon, we had three fish on board and needed one more for the two of us to have limits. My question is - do we need to fish/troll with just one rod as one of us has a limit, or may we fish with two rods until we catch one more fish? (Donna S.)


Answer: You can use two rods until you catch your final fish because boat limits apply in ocean waters. Boat limits are defined as: “When two or more persons that are licensed or otherwise authorized to sport fish in ocean waters … are angling for finfish aboard a vessel…, fishing by all authorized persons aboard may continue until boat limits of finfish are taken and possessed aboard the vessel” (CCR Title 14, section 27.60(c)).


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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.




Photo captions and credit:



Helicopter Fishing?
Question: You’ve answered readers’ questions several times in the past about the legalities and illegalities of fishing with a remote controlled boat. But my question is about a radio controlled helicopter. I just saw a video on YouTube showing a guy maneuvering his helicopter around a small lake that was dangling a line with a hook and bait on it. The craziest part of this was that he actually caught a sunfish with this rig and the helicopter flew the fish back to him on shore so that he could take it off the hook and release it back into the water. Seems like a great idea but I’m betting it isn’t legal in these parts. What do you say? (Steve C., Chico)

helicopterfishing

Photo from Creative Commons


Answer: All fish caught in freshwater must be taken by angling which means 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). Thus, the remote controlled helicopter could be used as a vehicle to take the line out further but the line would need to be directly controlled by the angler. Depending upon the location where the “helicopter angler” wants to use it, they should first make sure there are no local ordinances or specific rules imposed by the lake property owner or concessionaire prohibiting this practice and the flying of remote-controlled helicopters.


Bow hunting with a concealed firearm?


Question: When bow hunting in California, can you carry a concealed firearm if you possess a concealed carry permit? (DeWayne T.)


Answer: Unless you are an active or honorably retired peace officer, as specified in Fish and Game Code, section 4370(b), you may not carry a firearm during an archery only (AO) deer season or while using an AO tag, regardless of whether the firearm is concealed. Fish and Game Code, section 4370 requires:


(a) In every area in which deer may lawfully be taken during the general open season, there is an archery season for the taking of deer with bow and arrow. … Except as provided in subdivision (b), a person taking or attempting to take deer during such archery season shall neither carry, nor have under his or her immediate control, any firearm of any kind.


(b) A peace officer … whether active or honorably retired, may carry a firearm capable of being concealed on his or her person while engaged in the taking of deer with bow and arrow in accordance with subdivision (a), but shall not take or attempt to take deer with the firearm.


AO tags/seasons are only one option though. You can instead choose to hunt during the general season under a general tag with a bow, and then you could carry a firearm. Hunting under the AO authority grants a special opportunity to archers in exchange for leaving the firearm in camp.


Catching big fish from a pier


Question: While fishing from a public pier without a fishing license, am I allowed to go down onto the beach to land a big fish that I hooked on the pier? (Pete T.)


Answer: No. A fishing license is required when fishing everywhere except from a public pier. Even if you hooked the fish on the pier and only came down onto the beach to land the fish, you would need a valid license to avoid a potential citation. Purchasing an annual fishing license will make this a non-issue; or you may want to buy a pier net to help you land bigger fish from the pier.


Peacocks


Question: Is it legal to trap wild peacocks? If so, is it legal to sell them? Is it legal to kill wild peacocks? (R. Om)


Answer: Peacocks are not protected by California Fish and Game laws and so the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has no regulations regarding trapping, selling or taking them. Check with your local animal control as peacocks are domestic animals.


Carcass possession limits?


Question: I fish for rockfish out of Santa Barbara and afterwards freeze the carcasses to use for crab bait. I am aware of the daily bag limit for rockfish but have not found any regulations for the left over carcass (head, body, skin and guts). Are there any possession limits for rockfish carcasses? (Jim P.)


Answer: Although the general rule is once the meat has been removed and consumed or given away and you only have a carcass, it no longer counts as part of your possession. However, even parts of fish are legally considered “fish.” The letter of the law is you may not possess more than a daily bag limit of fish. So, if you catch fish and take them home to clean and you freeze the carcasses for use as bait in the future, be sure you do not take more than a possession limit of carcasses with you when you go crabbing.


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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.



Limits from different waters, same day
Question: I enjoy your weekly column in Western Outdoor News and now I have a question that I hope you can answer. When fishing for striped bass at a local lake where there is a 10 fish limit with no size restriction, what happens if on the way home I stop at the Delta to fish for catfish and a wildlife officer checks me out and I have 10 striped bass already? How do I prove I caught them at say New Hogan Lake several miles away and not the Delta? Another thing, if I catch eight striped bass at the lake, can I still catch two more out of the Delta? Thanks for your consideration. You keep writing them and I'll keep reading them!! (Mark S., Tracy)

Answer: A fisherman could lawfully catch eight striped bass at a lake and then catch two more in Delta waters during the same day for an overall possession of 10 fish. There is nothing in the Fish and Code or regulations to prohibit a person with 10 striped bass from stopping to fish for catfish in the Delta. However, you should expect any wildlife officer who contacts you will conduct a thorough investigation of the source of your fish. I can only suggest you try to keep those fish caught at the lake clearly separate and even stow them away in your car in a separate cooler. Also, if the lake is one where you can get a receipt showing you fished there first, then it helps give you a little more evidence. Because this can be difficult for you to prove, and unless you want to take those fish home before heading out again to the Delta, I suggest you do whatever you can (e.g. pictures or video on your phone) to prove the fish were caught in different waters. Then if a wildlife officer questions you, the situation will be more clear.


Shotgun magazine capacity


Question: I know when bird hunting, you are allowed two shells in the magazine and one in the chamber. Are the rules any different when hunting big game with a shotgun? (Brian H.)


Answer: No, the rules are the same. The law says shotguns capable of holding not more than three shells firing single slugs may be used for the taking of deer, bear and wild pigs. In areas where the discharge of rifles or shotguns with slugs is prohibited by county ordinance, shotguns capable of holding not more than three shells firing size 0 or 00 buckshot may be used for the taking of deer only (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 353(b)).


Spearfishing for white seabass


Question: As a spear fisherman, could I complete a two fish limit for a boat with two divers? For example, let’s say the other guy gets sick, can I go shoot a second fish for his limit of one? (Alex V.)


Answer: No. Boat limits only apply to anglers (hook and line fishermen). If you speared more than one daily bag limit you could be cited for taking an “overlimit” of fish.


Free fishing group permits


Question: I have some sponsors interested in helping host some fishing events to benefit military men and women who have returned from duty overseas and now have combat-related injuries or disabilities. Can any special provisions be made to waive license fees for the troops during these hosted fishing trips? What about for these veteran individuals who just want to go fishing on their own? Would you be so kind to explain what opportunities there may be and who I would contact? (Randy H., La Granada)


Answer: Yes, there are “Free Group Fishing Permits” available allowing for free fishing under certain conditions and the requirements for these permits are very clear and specific (Fish and Game Code, section 7151 [d-e]). With this approved form, the following persons may fish under this authority:


* Mentally or physically disabled persons

* Active duty military personnel receiving inpatient care in a military or Veteran’s Administration hospital

* Veterans with service connected disabilities 


Fish and Game Code, section 7151(d) allows for these special sport fishing permits to be issued to groups of mentally or physically handicapped persons under the care of:


1. A certified federal, state, county, city, or private licensed care center, or 2. Organizations exempt from taxation under Section 501(c)(3) of the federal Internal Revenue Code, or 3. Schools or school districts.


Employees of private licensed care centers, tax-exempt organizations, schools or school districts are also exempt from Section 7145 only while assisting physically or mentally disabled persons fishing under the authority of a valid license issued pursuant to this section.


For more on free and reduced-fee fishing licenses, please go towww.dfg.ca.gov/licensing/fishing/sportfishingfreereduced.html. The Free Group Fishing Permit application forms can be obtained through our License and Revenue Branch office in Sacramento.



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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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