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.
Abalone hours
Question: Why are abalone divers and pickers now required to wait until 8 a.m. to begin? Can divers still go spear fishing at the normal legal start time or take early morning photos, then switch over to abalone diving at 8 a.m.? (Anonymous)

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ABALONE FREE DIVER. Photo by Ken Bailey

Answer: The new 8 a.m. start time is an abalone conservation measure. It reduces the number of low-tide days people will be able to take abalone by rock picking (searching amongst rocks for abalone at low tide). During the spring, many low tides occur much earlier than 8 a.m.

This regulation change originated from the concerns of wardens who were witnessing large numbers of fishermen coming each and every low tide and taking large numbers of abalone. In addition to all the legal-sized abalone being taken, people were removing numerous undersized abalone while trying to find legal ones. Because undersized abalone often do not survive being removed and returned, they are likely to die. Thus, the impact on the fishery when this happens is probably much greater than the estimated legal catch (over 200,000 abalone annually in recent years).

Some people were also using the dim light before dawn to hide illegal activities. Wardens believe the later start time will aid them in enforcing regulations by moving early morning abalone fishing activities to hours with better daylight. The effect of the new start time on total catch is uncertain because people could shift to later hours or the days with low tides after 8 a.m. Although there may be a reduction in overall take based on the 8 a.m. start time, the increased enforcement benefit is clearly going to assist with compliance of the regulations. Once the data from the change has been analyzed, CDFW will be able to evaluate what the overall benefit to the abalone resource was.

Divers wanting to go out before 8 a.m. to spearfish or do underwater photography can do this as long as they don't have the means of taking abalone or are searching for abalone before the official state time. If their activities appear to a warden to be taking or searching for abalone before 8 a.m., then they can be cited.

How to stop people who are not obeying the rules?

Question: I was watching two boys catch a lot of trout (at least 40) and they were handling these fish after landing them in the dirt. They would pick and choose which ones to keep and throw back the small ones, most of which soon died. I was appalled by their lack of respect and sportsmanship, and when I approached their father his reply was, “Who are you to say how many we have? We don’t have a full basket!” The last time I needed to call law enforcement to this county park they couldn’t find the park until after the offenders had left. How can we stop these types of people from ruining the opportunities for others? (Gerry)

Answer: The best thing you can do is to record as much information about the location, situation and descriptions of people and the vehicle(s) they are driving (including make, model, color and license plate number). Provide all of this information at your earliest convenience to our CalTIP hotline at 1-888-334-CalTIP(2258). Leave a message if need be, with contact information, and a warden will receive this information. If officers are in the area when you call, they will come. If they are not able to arrive in time to catch the people who are breaking the laws, they will be aware of the situation and looking for the offenders the next time around.

Problems with crows and ravens - depredation permit an option?

Question: Why is there such a limited season on hunting crows? I suspect they are covered under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, but they are a nuisance species. I run into a number of landowners who have problems with crows with regards to crop damage, etc. Many of these landowners say that based on size, they also have ravens which are also damaging. I know there is a crow hunting season, but what about ravens? I also know "corvids" are very problematic predators for song birds and marbled murrelets on the coast. Can landowners get a depredation permit for either species, and if so, where? (Patrick R., Santa Rosa)

Answer: You just missed the hunting season for American crows, which runs from Dec. 7 through April 9. Ravens cannot be hunted. The regulations allow for landowners to destroy (shoot) crows that are damaging farm fields or other crops (CCR Title 14, section 472(d)).

Lifetime license holder moves out of state

Question: If, while a California resident, I purchase either a lifetime fishing or hunting license, will that license still be valid if I subsequently establish residency in another state? (Greg L., Mission Viejo)

Answer: Yes. You must be a resident to purchase the license, but after it is purchased, it will be valid for use in California for the rest of your life, regardless of where you reside.

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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.

Crazy questions
Some of you may ask, “Where do these questions come from? Does she just make them up”? Let me assure you, I COULD NOT make these up!!

The questions I run each week come primarily via e-mail from you WON readers, but also by telephone, and many come from questions I am asked at the ISE, Fred Hall and other outdoor sportsman’s shows I attend throughout the year. I know some questions (like the first one below) may seem pretty crazy, but these come directly from people I meet, talk to and hear from each week. If they are really crazy, I do try to verify them first, and the scenario described in the first question below was independently verified by the local game warden to be true. If I’m not answering questions you are wondering about, please send me an e-mail and I will try to answer it in a future column.

This is the 718th column I’ve written for Western Outdoor News over the past 14 years, and I continue to enjoy writing them and learn something new each week. I hope all of you are, too!

Do surfperch fry count toward the daily limit?

Question: In Santa Barbara a surf fisherman was seen last week eating baby perch squeezed from a gravid female. How do live fry from perch relate to a daily limit in possession if consumed? Also, if dead fry are expelled from a dying gravid female in an ice chest, do they count toward the daily possession limit of ten? If fish are consumed by surf fisherman while they fish is there a requirement to save the carcass to verify minimum size for species and daily catch limit? The surfperch babies squeezed directly into the upturned mouth is a bit disturbing and prompted me to pose these questions. Thanks. (Hills S., Ventura)

carrie_barredsurfpercn
BARRED SURFPERCH GIVE birth to live young from March through July. As few as four to as many as 113 young have been counted per female, but the average is 33. Each fry measures about 2.5 in. long at birth. Photo of CDFW Marine Biologist Ken Oda. COURTESY OF JOE DONATINI

Answer: Disturbing, indeed. The law says the limit is 10 of any one species. Surfperch are livebearers and it is legal for a person to have fish still inside a livebearing species. Technically, fry are not considered individual fish until they are born, so they do not count toward the limit.

However, if the fry are outside the body, then they technically count as a fish. If a female expels fry in a cooler or boat and puts a person over the limit, please return the fry to the water immediately. This will keep you from being over limit and maybe even save a fry or two … or 40.

Barnyard pigeons

Question: What is the law when it comes to shooting common or barnyard pigeons? After discussing this with a number of friends and hunters, no one seems to have a definitive answer. Can you help? (Jeff S.)

Answer: Barnyard pigeons or “rock doves” are the feral progeny of domesticated pigeons, and their take is not regulated by the Fish and Game Code. While there is no limit for barnyard pigeons, don’t confuse them with bandtail pigeons or racing pigeons. If someone hunting barnyard pigeons outside the bandtail pigeon season accidentally kills a registered racing pigeon, they could be in trouble and cited with a misdemeanor (Fish and Game Code, section 3680). The chance of this happening is very low though.

Automatic fishing pole

Question: Can a person use an automatic hook set fishing pole? It would be similar to the action of a mouse trap but with an electric latch that would be activated by the user of the pole holder via a push button switch. The electric latch would unhook and that would cause the pole to spring up and hook the fish. The pole holder would be attended to the whole time and the electric latch would have wires to a switch that a person would have in his hands to activate the latch when a bite is noticed, thus having it in hand and fully in control when the latch is released. Does this sound OK? (Roy D.)

Answer: Sure, give it a whirl! There’s nothing in the Fish and Game Code or Title 14 that prohibits the use of an automatic hook set fishing pole as you have described.

Felon as a hunting chaperone

Question: My wife loves to hunt almost as much as I do. She especially loves duck hunting but is not confident enough to be out there on her own. The problem is I have a felony on my record which prohibits me from being in possession of a firearm. Can I legally just chaperone her as long as I don't have access to the firearm? (Richard W.)

Answer: I think the answer lies with either your probation officer or the courts. California Fish and Wildlife laws do not address this issue. The best thing you can do is contact either your probation officer or refer to the court documents related to your case for information regarding any restrictions that may apply to you.

Slingbow for bowfishing?

Question: Is it legal to use a slingbow for bowfishing? (Leng M.)

Answer: Yes, a slingbow is legal to use to take a limited number of fish species in freshwater and the ocean. For fishing purposes, the arrow must have a line attached to be legal (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.23). In ocean waters, the slingbow can be used for skates, rays and sharks (CCR Title 14, section 28.95). In freshwater systems, the slingbow may only be used for certain species and in specific areas (CCR Title 14, section 2.25).

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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.

Turkey hunting with pellet rifles?
Question: While watching some videos on YouTube about turkey hunting with a pellet rifle, I noticed a guy from northern California stating he was using a nitro piston Remington air rifle which is not constant air or CO2 powered as your regulations state they must be. I believe people are thinking that any pellet rifle that is .177 caliber or larger is all right to use. This guy has videos of multiple hunts in which he is using illegal equipment, thus couldn’t he be considered “poaching” or at least taking game with illegal equipment? It’s sad to see people that are not completely understanding of the rules and regulations, but it also angers me to see people shoot these birds with equipment they should not be using. (Rob G., Folsom)

turkeytomswilson
SPRING TOMS.  Photo by Carrie Wilson

Answer: Thank you for taking the time to contact us about this and the use of the pellet rifle. According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Chief Mike Carion, this topic was recently discussed among our law enforcement leaders, and the group’s consensus is that the regulation allows for “compressed air or gas.” Therefore, since the nitrogen-filled chamber is a compressed gas, it would meet the criteria of the regulations and therefore is not illegal.

This is another example of the regulations not being able to keep up with the advances in technology. We appreciate you bringing this to our attention and we will work to correct the writing of the language of these regulations.

Filleting halibut aboard my boat?

Question:
If I catch a California halibut and want to fillet it aboard my boat and keep it as fresh as possible, what do I have to do? Someone told me that as long as I leave all of the skin still attached on one side, that would be legal. Is this correct? (Robert L., Long Beach)

Answer:
Yes. For California halibut taken from or possessed aboard a vessel south of Point Arena (Mendocino County), fillets must be a minimum of 16 and three-quarter inches in length and shall bear the entire skin intact. A fillet from a California halibut (flesh from one entire side of the fish with the entire skin intact) may not be cut-in-half fillets. However, a fillet may be cut lengthwise in a straight line along the midline of the fillet where the fillet was attached to the vertebra (backbone) of the fish only if the two pieces of a fillet remain joined along their midline for a length of at least two inches at one end of the fillet (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 27.65(b)(6)).

How old to hunt in California?

Question: How old do you have to be to hunt in California? I know you have to be 12 to hunt big game, but are there any age limits to anything else? How old do you have to be to take the hunter safety class? (Zac S.)

Answer: A person must be 12 years old to apply for a big game tag. There is no specified minimum age to hunt other game, but hunters must be accepted into and successfully complete the prescribed hunter education course. It's up to the hunter education instructors as to what minimum age child they are willing to test, but most recommend 10 years old. The main thing is the child must be mature enough to successfully complete the hunter education course requirements and examination.

Bear Spray

Question: What are the laws in regards to bear spray in the state of California? I moved from Alaska where it was almost necessary to carry bear spray as your first line of defense in order to eliminate the threat rather than resorting to a firearm. Can you please clarify what the law is here in California? I understand personal self-defense against humans is legal as long as its 2.5 ounces or less. But as far as bear spray I just don't know the answer. I am concerned because I still have a can I brought from Alaska with me and would like to know if I am breaking any laws? (Paul P.)

Answer: Nothing in the Fish and Game Code or Title 14 regulations limit the amount of bear spray that may be possessed in California. However, depending upon the ingredients in the spray, there are likely Penal Code or Health and Safety Code provisions that apply. Be aware that the use of bear spray is not allowed within National Parks found within California but is allowed in some parks in other states. CDFW recommends checking with the local sheriff’s office in the area you plan on carrying the bear spray.

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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.

Remote control assistance?
Question: I've seen several remote fish finders that I'm interested in and I'm curious as to whether they're legal in California. I read the regulations about computer assisted fishing, but it talks about using weapons/aiming systems to harm/kill fish. I have four questions to run by you:

1. The fish finder I'm interested in is the Humminbird RF15. It basically is a bobber that doubles as a sonar and transmits wirelessly back to your receiver. It has two holes ... one for the line leading to your rod, and another for your hook. Is this legal in California?

2. Can I attach this sonar to an electric remote-controlled (RC) boat and use the RC boat for positioning the sonar? In this configuration, no hook/rod/reel would be used - it would strictly be used as a fish finder.

3. Can I use an RC boat to carry my lure to deeper water (about 300 feet from shore), then once in position, drop the lure and reel it in as normal with a rod/reel? The only thing the boat is doing in this scenario is taking the lure out, then dropping it. In this configuration the lure would be out of the water until it's dropped. I would then bring the boat in and repeat the process.

4. With the exact setup as described in No. 3 above, can I have the sonar attached to the RC boat?

In all the questions above, the RC boat will never troll - once the hook/bait/lure is released, the RC boat would no longer have any control of the fishing line/hook/bait. (Chris H.)

Answer: Well, I hope you have a patent on these ideas and/or are selling these contraptions because they sound promising and all of the configurations you present appear to be legal.

Are the new Winchester XR turkey loads legal in California?

Question: Winchester has introduced new turkey ammo that is getting good reviews and I would like to try them out but they use a system that encapsulates the shot and therefore the shot is not "loose in the shell". Does this make this type of ammo illegal? What is the purpose of having the shot loose in the shell? (Jim C.)

Answer: This ammo is not legal because the law requires that all shot must be loose in the shell. So if the shot is encapsulated as you describe, then it is considered a slug. The specific section says, “Shotgun shells may not be used or possessed that contain shot size larger than No. BB, except that shot size larger than No. 2 may not be used or possessed when taking wild turkey. All shot shall be loose in the shell” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 311(b)).

While this product violates the letter of the law today, this language was put into place originally for another specific purpose. It was to address a problem in the days of lead shot where buck shot would be wired together with piano wire and to prevent people from coming up with a way to turn shot into a slug (e.g. melted lead, rusted steel, etc.). In the future, these regulations may be rewritten to allow this type of ammunition, but as of now it is still a violation of the law and so you could be cited for using it.

Taking sea cucumbers for personal consumption

Question: Is it legal to take sea cucumbers via SCUBA for personal consumption? (Kenneth T.)

Answer: Yes, you may take a maximum of 35 sea cucumbers while SCUBA diving as long as you are at least 1,000 feet seaward from the mean high tide line on shore. You must also be south of Yankee Point (Monterey County) to take sea cucumbers with SCUBA (CCR Title 14, section 29.05).

Trout for crab bait?

Question: I have some old freezer-burned rainbow trout in my freezer. Is it legal to use trout for crab bait? (Adam B.)

Answer: Yes, as long as the trout in your freezer were legally taken and of legal size, then you can use it as crab bait. Be sure you do not have more than the legal trout possession limit and that all fish meet legal size requirements.

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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 identify hatchery vs wild trout
Question: How can you tell a hatchery trout from a wild trout in Central Valley rivers? The regulations for the Stanislaus River below Goodwin Dam state you can keep two hatchery trout or hatchery steelhead. Hatchery steelhead have clipped adipose fins. If I catch a trout and it has an adipose fin, do I just assume it’s not a hatchery trout? (Judi A.)

klamathwildtrout
AN ANGLER WITH a wild Klamath River steelhead that was soon released. CDFW PHOTO

Answer: Hatchery trout or hatchery steelhead are those showing a healed adipose fin clip (adipose fin is absent). Unless otherwise provided, all other trout and steelhead must be immediately released. Wild trout or steelhead are those not showing a healed adipose fin clip (adipose fin is present) (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 7.50).

Squirrels for crabs

Question: Can legally taken California ground squirrels (a non-game mammal) be used for bait in Dungeness crab traps? (Bret H.)

Answer: Yes, ground squirrels can be used as bait, but remember they are also vectors of a number of flea borne diseases, so use caution when handling them.

Hunting around my house

Question: I live in a rural area. Can I legally hunt within 150 yards of my own residence? Can I hunt within 150 yards of anyone else's if I have their written permission? (Jess K.)

Answer: Yes. These are safety zone restrictions but as long as there are no other local laws or ordinances that prohibit hunting or the discharge of a firearm, then you can hunt within 150 yards of your own residence or any other residence where you have obtained express permission of the owner or person in possession of the premises (FGC section 3004(a).

Fishing during a closed season

Question: In the freshwater regulation hand book under Section 1.38 it states: “CLOSED SEASON. That period during which the taking of fish, amphibians, reptiles, mollusks or crustaceans is prohibited.” This leads to my question regarding whether a person can still fish during a closed season as long they release all the fish they catch? In other words, I would practice catch and release and use barbless hooks to protect the fish from further harm. The regulation restricts the taking of fish, but no fish will be taken. I am very confused. Can you help clarify? (Robin O.)

Answer: Fishing during a closed season is prohibited, period. Even though you don’t intend to take any fish away with you, the definition of take is to “Hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill fish, amphibians, reptiles, mollusks, crustaceans or invertebrates or attempting to do so” (CCR Title 14, section 1.80). Therefore, despite your best methods, even the attempt to fish is prohibited.

There are few exceptions, but the take of crayfish other than with hook and line is authorized when a stream is otherwise closed to fishing (CCR Title 14, section 5.35(e)). Typically, crayfish may be taken only by hand, hook and line, dip net or with traps not over three feet in greatest dimension (CCR Title 14, section 5.35). Most crayfish have no limit and the season is open all year. However, Shasta crayfish are protected and so there are specific river and lake closures listed for their protection in the 2014-2015 California Freshwater Fishing Regulations booklet (see page 21), as well as online at www.dfg.ca.gov/regulations/. Look for subsection (d) of this section for the closed waters to avoid.

Taking crabs by scuba

Question: I am heading to the beach this weekend, I bought a fishing license and I am planning to do some SCUBA diving. Can I take a big bag with me and collect up to 35 rock crabs from the ocean using SCUBA? (Jimmy P.)

Answer: Yes. Take of all crabs of the Cancer genus, except Dungeness crabs, but including yellow crabs, rock crabs, red crabs and slender crabs is allowed all year. While using SCUBA, crabs may be taken by hand only with no hooked devices in possession (CCR Title 114, section 29.80(g)).

The limit is 35 and the minimum size is four inches measured by the shortest distance through the body, from edge of shell to edge of shell at the widest part, except there is no minimum size in Fish and Game districts 8 and 9 (around Humboldt Bay). They may be brought to the surface of the water for measuring, but no undersize crabs may be placed in any type of receiver, kept on the person or retained in any person’s possession or under his direct control; all crabs must be measured immediately and any undersize crabs must be released immediately into the water (CCR Title 14, section 29.85 (b)(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.

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