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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.
A turkey’s age indicators
Question: I am fairly new to turkey hunting and hear everyone always referring to their birds by their beards and spurs. Can wild turkeys be aged based on these trophy characteristics? (Jim C., Modesto)

montereyrioturkeys

PHOTO BY CARRIE WILSON


Answer: Yes and no. There is no absolute standard for identifying a wild turkey’s age, but there are some general guidelines that can be used to provide fairly reliable estimates.


While precisely determining a turkey’s age in years may be difficult, there is a surefire method for distinguishing between adults and juveniles using the last two primary flight feathers. In juvenile birds the feathers will be sharp at the ends. By the time the bird reaches maturity at one year of age, it will molt and the two sharp feathers will be replaced by more rounded ones.


Beyond this, beard and spur length can be used to estimate a bird’s age, but unfortunately, it’s not an exact method. Variables such as subspecies, environmental conditions, and possibly nutrition can alter the length of both the beard and the spur, resulting in a misrepresentation of the bird’s age.


In terms of beards, the general rule of thumb is the longer the beard, the older the bird. But, while a jake (juvenile) will not have a 10-inch beard, a four-year-old turkey may have a short beard due to any number of conditions. If the turkey is in “rough” vegetation, the beard may wear away on the ground more easily when it grows long. If a turkey has long legs, the beard will be able to grow longer before it reaches the ground, where it will naturally face wear and tear. The fact that the beard may have been altered at any time by environmental or circumstantial conditions prevents biologists from using this method as an accurate way of measuring a turkey’s age.


Spur length can also be used to estimate a bird’s age although, like beards, spurs can also wear down. Spur length does tend to be slightly more reliable than beard length, however, because they do not wear as easily.


While both of these methods are not entirely precise, they can provide an approximate age range. These estimates are not reliable for turkeys older than about three or four years though.


Freediving for horseneck (gaper) clams?


Question: I'm an avid free diver and spear fisherman, as well as a frequent clammer. While diving for crabs recently, I noticed a number of enormous clam siphons in the silty mud bottom in 4-8 feet of water. Having previously dug for horseneck clams (Tresus capax) on a number of occasions, it was clear to me that these were horseneck siphons, or "shows". These clams are all well below the low tide line and would thus be impossible to dig in the traditional way. Would it be legal for me to harvest these clams using a homemade PVC "clam gun" to excavate the mud in which they are encased? Looking at the regulations pertaining to horseneck clams, underwater harvest is neither specifically permitted nor forbidden. (Carter J.)


Answer: Yes, you can take clams underwater using a "clam gun" as long as you are free diving. The use of SCUBA is prohibited for the take of clams north of Yankee Point in Monterey County. SCUBA can be used south of Yankee Point. You don’t say where you plan to dive for clams, but you may like to know that there are gaper clams south of Yankee Point.


Here’s what the regulations say:


Invertebrates

29.05. GENERAL.

(d) In all ocean waters skin and Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus (SCUBA) divers may take invertebrates as provided in this article except that in all ocean waters north of Yankee Point (Monterey Co.), SCUBA may be used only to take sea urchins, rock scallops and crabs of the genus Cancer. For the purpose of this section, breathing tubes (snorkels) are not SCUBA.


29.20. CLAMS GENERAL.

(a) Except as provided in this article, there are no closed seasons, bag limits or size limits on saltwater clams.

(b) Fishing hours: One-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset.

(c) Special gear provisions: Spades, shovels, hoes, rakes or other appliances operated by hand, except spears or gaff hooks, may be used to take clams. No instrument capable of being used to dig clams may be possessed between one-half hour after sunset and one-half hour before sunrise, on any beach of this state, except tools and implements used in the work of cleaning, repairing or maintaining such beach when possessed by a person authorized by appropriate authority to perform such work.


Motorized decoys for doves and upland game

Question: Can motorized decoys, such as Mojo be used on doves or other upland game birds?


Answer: Yes.


Fishing with live shad? Cast net?


Question: I live in San Joaquin County and have two fishing questions. First, is it legal to fish with live shad? Second, is it legal to use a cast net/bait net to catch shad and minnows? (Justin)


Answer: A casting net or throw net is unlawful to use or possess in inland waters, but dip nets are authorized for taking certain species of fin fish that can be used as bait (see California Code of Regulations Title 14, sections 4.00 – 4.30 in the Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations available online or wherever licenses are sold). Live shad may be used in the Valley and South Central Districts (CCR Title 14, section 4.10) in waters where taken, but they must be taken with a legal dip net under certain provisions.


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Carrie Wilsonis 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. This column appeared in 2012. Wilson is on vacation for two weeks.


Ultra-lights and fixed wing aircraft harassing wildlife
Question: We live around the Imperial Wildlife Area (Wister Unit) and over the past two years we’ve seen an influx of ultra-light air craft flying over the Imperial Wildlife Area, sometimes very low. For example, on June 15 we saw three ultra-light crafts fly from a local airport and circle all of the wildlife area where there’s water, sometimes getting as low as 25 feet. This spooked all of the waterfowl and shore birds, and most of the shore birds were nesting and harassed by this.

I know there are harassment laws in place for this (Fish and Game Code, section 3003.5) as I contacted California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) wildlife officers, but all of us were uncertain how or if there are any height restrictions for aircraft flying over state wildlife areas. This has also happened during waterfowl season where the ultra-lights were flying within feet of hunters’ spreads of 2,000 or more snow goose decoys.

Can you please help us determine whether there are any height restriction codes prohibiting such activities over state wildlife areas? I have Googled this and have only found Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) results for federal lands and know now that the FAA doesn’t have state wildlife areas listed. (Richard F.)


ultralightcreativeULTRA-LIGHT AIRCRAFT may not be operated at an altitude lower that 500 feet or closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel or structure CREATIVE COMMONS PHOTO


Answer: While there is no specific section in the Fish and Game Code regarding these low-flying aircraft, section 2009 may apply. This section makes it a misdemeanor to willfully interfere with someone who is engaged in the sport of hunting. Given the circumstances you described, this section could be used to prevent these low-flying aircraft from interfering with hunters on state wildlife areas during the open season.


There are also two regulations that may apply to the actions you describe. “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 251.1). Also, “No person shall harass, herd or drive any game or nongame bird or mammal or furbearing mammal. For the purposes of this section, harass is defined as an intentional act which disrupts an animal's normal behavior patterns, which includes, but is not limited to breeding, feeding or sheltering” (CCR Title 14, section 251). These regulations are punishable as misdemeanors.


Low-flying aircraft are regulated by FAA Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) and the US Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). Generally, when flying over other than congested areas (i.e. cities, towns or settlements), they may be operated at an altitude not lower than 500 feet above the surface, except when over open water or sparsely populated areas where they may not be operated closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel, vehicle or structure (FARs, CFR Title 14, section 91.119(c)).


Shipping sport-caught fish home


Question: We have chartered a sportfishing party boat for 25 of our out-of-town clients. If they get their daily bag limits and want their fish shipped home via overnight carrier, would each person have to be present at the shipping office with their fish? If so, would each person need to show their fishing license to the clerk at the shipping office? Would each person’s fishing license need to be packed inside the box with the fish being shipped out? Or could someone from our business have each person’s fishing license/ID and just ship everyone’s fish home for them? (Annette T.)

Answer: Each person would need to be present to check their fish into the shipping office because it is unlawful for someone to transport more than one limit of fish (FGC, section 2347). It’s also illegal for someone to ship more than one limit of fish (FGC, section 2346). While each angler will need to be at the shipping office with their fish, they are not legally required to show their fishing license to the shipper, nor do they need to include a copy of their fishing license inside the box containing their fish (but it’s not a bad idea to do so). The carrier may have their own policy on this, but CDFW does not regulate it. The outside of the package containing the fish must clearly and conspicuously indicate the name and address of the shipper, name and address of the consignee and the number and kind of fish inside the package (FGC, section 2348).


Making your own abalone irons



Question: I would like to make my own abalone irons. What are the specifications to do so legally? (Jim B., Oakdale)


Answer: Abalone irons must be less than 36 inches long, straight or with a curve having a radius of not less than 18 inches, and must not be less than 3/4 inch wide nor less than 1/16 inch thick. All edges must be rounded and free of sharp edges (CCR Title 14, section 29.15[e]).


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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’s required when packing out game?
Question: What are the laws on deboning a bear or deer to pack out the meat? I don’t know of any laws saying I cannot debone a deer or bear as long as I am able to prove that the quarters and heads are all part of the same animal. I'm just looking for clarity as I am heading into X9A for my first time and I plan on hiking into deep country on foot. (Brad P.)

clearlakemuledeer
MULE DEER AROUND
Clear Lake. USFWS PHOTO

Answer: This is a legal practice as long as you can verify what animal the meat belongs to. The only problem that may arise is when people are packing out multiple animals at the same time. If that’s the case, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) asks that hunters keep each animal separate to avoid any misunderstandings.


For deer, you must pack the antlers out with the meat to verify the sex, and the antlers must be tagged. With bears, you must pack the whole head out with the meat so that we can extract a tooth for aging purposes. You are not required to prove the sex of bears.


In addition, all hunters must comply with Fish and Game Code, section 4304, which prohibits needless waste of any portion of the meat that is usually eaten by humans.


Nontraditional measurement devices?


Question: I am aware that a person must be able to judge the size of their take, but are there any regulations saying what types of devices the person must carry? For example, I recently observed a group that were crabbing and their only means of measurement was a cut zip tie, but it was indeed the correct minimum length. (Katlyn G., Sausalito)


Answer: It varies, but for crab, the only requirement is that  the device be capable of accurately measuring the minimum size of the species (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.05(c)). But, sometimes the regulations are very specific about the type of measuring device that is required. Persons taking abalone, for example, “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” (CCR Title 14, section 29.15(f)).


An object such as a ruler is capable of accurately measuring rock crab because size limits are “measured by the shortest distance through the body, from edge of shell to edge of shell at the widest part.” For Dungeness crab though, the measurement is “five and three-quarter inches measured by the shortest distance through the body from edge of shell to edge of shell directly in front of and excluding the points (lateral spines).” Because of the curvature of the Dungeness carapace, and the need to measure the straight line distance across a curved surface between the points, a measuring device such as a ruler or zip tie is not accurate. CDFW recommends using a fixed or adjustable caliper for Dungeness crab. It does not have to be commercially purchased and we have seen devices cut out of wood or plastic that work fine.


Sale of valley quail during the offseason?


Question: Is it legal to sell pen-raised valley quail during the offseason to be used to train dogs? The pen-raised valley quail will have CDFW tags that I think only cost a few cents each. (Matthew W., Santa Rosa)


Answer: Interesting question since very few people raise California quail and instead raise bob white. However, the answer is yes, they can be sold if they were bred and raised under the authority of a CDFW Domesticated Game Breeder License (see Fish and Game Code, section 3201). The birds will need to be marked with game bird tags to differentiate them from wild birds. These tags are sold to game bird breeders through our License and Revenue Branch for less than four cents each.


Spearfishing with scuba before free diving for abalone?


Question: If I’m out spearfishing with scuba gear, can I leave the scuba gear in the boat to also free dive for abalone? (Anonymous)


Answer: No. Sport divers are prohibited from using scuba or other surface-supplied air equipment to take abalone, and they cannot possess abalone on board any boat, vessel, or floating device in the water containing scuba or surface-supplied air. There is no problem transporting abalone and scuba gear together while on land. Divers working from boats, kayaks, float tubes or other floating devices who wish to use scuba equipment to spear fish or harvest sea urchins, rock scallops or crabs of the genus Cancer, will need to make a separate trip for abalone.


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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.


Antibiotics in hatchery fish?
Question: I would like to fish at a local stocked pond. Do the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) fish that are stocked there have antibiotics in their systems? Are they fed antibiotics on a routine basis or even on an occasional basis? I just want to be sure any fish I’m catching will be safe to eat. (Connie S., Big Pine)

carrie_troutplanting
CDFW HATCHERY STAFF planting fish. CDFW PHOTO

Answer: CDFW hatchery fish are treated with antibiotics when it is necessary to save their lives. According to Dr. William Cox, CDFW Program Manager of Fish Production and Distribution, this is done on an as-needed basis and using only antibiotics that are approved and registered by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for diseases listed on the label and in fish species approved. This is all done under veterinary prescriptions by CDFW veterinarians. To be approved by the FDA, there are many hurdles to prove human food safety, animal safety and environmental safety. These are all met in the process of becoming registered. So to answer your basic question, none of CDFW’s stocked fish have antibiotics when they are stocked for anglers. They are perfectly safe to eat.


Steel shot for chukars?


Question: A friend told me that we are now required to use steel shot when hunting chukars (Red-legged Partridge). Is this a new regulation? Since these are introduced non-native birds, why shouldn't they be treated similar to the Eurasian doves? Please let me know because I would not want to get a ticket. (Chris J.)


Answer: As you may know, we are in the middle of a transition to nonlead ammunition for all hunting in California. As of July 1, 2016, nonlead ammunition is now required for all hunting on CDFW wildlife areas and ecological reserves and when taking upland game birds with a shotgun, except for dove, quail, snipe and any game birds taken on licensed game bird clubs. In addition, nonlead shot is required when using a shotgun to take resident small game mammals, furbearing mammals, nongame mammals, nongame birds and any wildlife under the authority of a CDFW depredation permit.


In regards specifically to chukar (which are related to Red-legged Partridge but a different species), you are required to use nonlead shot when hunting them with a shotgun from this season on unless you are hunting at a licensed game bird club.


According to CDFW Upland Game Bird Senior Environmental Scientist Karen Fothergill, there is no species-related or ecological reason for the manner in which we are phasing-out lead ammunition. Rather, in order to implement the nonlead legislation in a way that is least disruptive to hunters, we coordinated question and answer sessions at sportsmen’s shows, held meetings with hunting organizations, hosted a series of public workshops throughout the state and sent letters to major ammunition manufacturers before we finalized the implementation plan.


For more information on the phase-out of lead ammunition in California, please visit our website.


Filleting sheephead at sea


Question: I was recently told that I could not fillet a sheephead aboard my vessel since they do not have a minimum fillet length but do have a size limit of 12 inches (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 27.65).


My question is whether it still applies for a large sheephead if the fillet was longer than the 12-inch size limit? I am assuming the reason for not allowing sheephead to be filleted aboard a vessel is because it is difficult to determine the overall size of the fish from the fillet. However, if the fillet is greater than the minimum size limit for the species, it would seem like there should be some type of exception to the no fillet rule, or perhaps there is another reason I’m not considering?


Answer: Only those species listed as allowed to be filleted may be filleted on a vessel. Since California sheephead have a minimum size limit of 12 inches total length but no fillet length specified in the regulations, they may not be filleted while on any boat or brought ashore as fillets, steaks or chunks (CCR Title 14, section 27.65).


If you think this regulation for California sheephead should be revised to allow for a minimum fillet length allowance, you are welcome to bring a proposal before the California Fish and Game Commission for consideration.


Use of blue tarp with decoys


Question: Can I use a blue tarp and place dove decoys around it? I'm hoping the doves will think the blue tarp is water and will be attracted to fly over or land near the decoys. (Anonymous)


Answer: Sure, you can give it a try!


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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.


Tracking Wounded Game with an Electronic Device?
Question: Archery season is starting and before we go out I would like to know if it’s legal to use an electronic tracking device that attaches to an arrow to help track our game. The tracking device separates from the arrow as the arrow contacts the target animal and then enables the hunter to better follow the wounded animal. Are these legal to use? Thanks for any help. (Jared T., Red Bluff)

muledeerinhazeCALIFORNIA MULE DEER. CDFW photo

Answer: No, unfortunately, they are not legal to use. The regulation below restricts the use of computerized or telemetry types of devices to track big game mammals. Because of this, the device you describe is not legal to use in California at this time.


“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. Additionally, no person shall use any motorized, hot-air, or unpowered aircraft or other device capable of flight or any earth orbiting imaging device to locate or assist in locating big game mammals beginning 48 hours before and continuing until 48 hours after any big game hunting season in the same area. No person shall use at any time or place, without Department approval, any computer, telemetry device or other equipment to locate a big game mammal to which a tracking device is attached. ” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 251).


Recorded abalone harvest data wrong on abalone report card


Question: After abalone diving in Mendocino last weekend, I didn’t realize until too late that when I tagged my abalone I mistakenly recorded my abalone catch incorrectly on my abalone report card. I recorded them out of order in the wrong column and then used the corresponding wrong tags. This meant I skipped three of the lower numbered tags. The tags are still on the report card and corresponding recording fields on the report card are still empty. Can I go back and use those missed tags for my next trip? (Atsu I.)


Answer: No, the law requires that “Tags shall be used in sequential order, and shall not be removed from the report card until immediately prior to affixing to an abalone. Any tags detached from the report card and not affixed to an abalone shall be considered used and therefore invalid” (CCR Title 14, section 29.16(b)(4)). You are also required to write “Void” on the Abalone Report Card in the spaces you skipped and then dispose of the three corresponding tags. This is because the law also says, “…(5) No person shall possess any used or otherwise invalid abalone tags not attached to an abalone shell.”


Permit required for fishing contests?


Question: Our club would like to hold a halibut derby in San Francisco Bay and we need information on permits. When and where are they needed and what are the requirements? Do we need a permit for a halibut derby in the Bay or are permits only needed for bass fishing? (Mark S.)


Answer: Permits are not required for saltwater fishing contests. Waters of the Pacific Ocean include all of San Francisco and San Pablo Bays west of the Carquinez Bridge (CCR Title 14, section 27.00). As long as all fishing is done in waters west of the Carquinez Bridge, you will not need a fishing contest permit.

Fishing contest permits are required for various fishing contests in freshwater. For information on the requirements when holding fishing contests in inland waters, how to obtain fishing contest permits and for the actual permit application forms, please visit our Fishing Contests, Tournaments and Derbies website.


Do fishing boat passengers need fishing licenses if not fishing?


Question: As an avid fisherman on a private vessel at a slip, I often take friends out hoop netting or fishing. Often these friends are perfectly happy to operate my boat while I tend the fishing line(s) or hoop nets. Do these companions need to have a fishing license as long as we follow the bag limits and limits on nets and lines in the water for a single fisherman? It is often a spur of the moment decision to go out, and sending my guest off to get a license for one or two hours of fishing is inconvenient at best. (Jack Z.)

Answer: It is legal to take non-licensed passengers along to observe you while fishing or hoop netting as long they do not engage at all in any of the actual sport fishing activities. It is only in the commercial fishing industry where those who assist with the boat handling and other tasks need to have their own commercial fishing license.


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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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