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Fish and Game Q&A: Can I use ground Yucca plant roots to fish?

March 11, 2010 | 12:39 pm

Native American fishing along the Trinity River, Calif. In support of the California Department of Fish and Game and its effort to keep hunters and anglers informed, Outposts, on Thursday or Friday, posts marine biologist Carrie Wilson's weekly Q&A column:

Question: There is an old legend that local Native Americans used to grind up the roots of Yucca plants and spread them in the water to "stun" fish so they could collect them. Can I use this as a fishing method? (Jeff, Riverside County)

Answer: No. Although that may have been how Native Americans historically fished and a seemingly natural method, today the use of chemicals of any type is not a legal method of take. According to Department of Fish and Game Warden Patrick Foy, fish must be taken by angling, which is defined under the California Code of Regulations, Title 14, section 1.05 as “to take 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 manner that the fish voluntarily takes the bait or lure in its mouth” (exceptions are listed in Section 2 of the fishing regulations, under Fishing Methods and Gear Restrictions).

Adding these ground-up root chemicals to the water would also be unlawful because it is generally illegal to deposit in, permit to pass into, or place where it can pass into the waters of this state any substance or material deleterious to fish, plant life or bird life (Fish and Game Code, section 5650[a][6]). In addition, FGC, section 5650(a)(5) specifically prohibits the use of Cocculus indicus, the plant from which these legends are derived.

Q: I would like a clarification on the use of cast nets in inland waters. I see people using them both at Clear Lake and in the Delta. As far as I know, it is illegal to use anything larger than a dip net or a trap not more than three feet in greatest dimension. Cast nets are not mentioned in the regulation booklet. (Dave, Clearlake)

A: You are correct. It is not legal to use cast nets in inland waters. Cast nets (referred to as “Hawaiian-type throw nets” in the CCR Title 14, section 28.80) are allowed only in ocean waters north of Point Conception and only for certain saltwater species. The only nets that may be used in freshwater are dip nets, which are defined as “webbing supported by a frame, and hand held, not more than six feet in greatest dimension, excluding handle” (CCR Title 14, section 1.42). The specific baitfish capture methods for inland waters are outlined in CCR Title 14, section 4.05.

Q: You mentioned in a recent column that the regulations state you can’t injure or kill a rattlesnake. But what about if someone is hiking in the back country, hears and sees a coiled rattlesnake and then falls while attempting to retreat? Can another member of the hiking team protect the fallen hiker from the snake by throwing a rock at it? It seems to me to be common sense to be able to protect someone from becoming seriously ill, or worse, especially since it could take several hours to obtain medical assistance. I have been hiking for years and close encounters with rattlers is rare, but it does occur. Also, is it lawful to possess the rattles? (William T., West Sacramento)

A: The regulation referenced in the March 4, 2010 column was specific to killing rattlesnakes for commercial sales. This question is regarding a different situation.

According to DFG Game Warden Kyle Chang, regulations allow for the take of up to two native California rattlesnakes per species (genus Crotalus and Sistrurus) by any resident without a fishing license and by any method of take (CCR Title 14, section 5.60[e][2] and FGC, 7149.3). The law was written like this specifically to allow for people to kill rattlesnakes for safety purposes. The rattles may be possessed because rattlesnakes may be legally taken for non-commercial purposes.

Q: Can rattlesnakes be killed when they are near public areas or crowded campgrounds? If so, what is the correct way to handle a rattlesnake when there are large groups of people and pets nearby? (David H.)

A: Rattlesnakes occur naturally in the ecosystem and are important predators that help to effectively contain or reduce excess rodent populations. If a rattlesnake is encountered in a public area or crowded campground, the snake should not be killed unless it poses a direct threat to people and pets. The best course of action is to just warn people to be aware of their surroundings and to restrain their pets. While rattlesnakes may be lawfully taken under Fish and Game laws, killing rattlesnakes in state parks is prohibited under CCR Title 14, section 5.60(a). This section states that no reptiles shall be taken in ecological reserves or state parks or national parks or monuments. Different parks may also have their own additional regulations.

If you have a question you would like to see answered in this column, e-mail it to CalOutdoors@dfg.ca.gov.

Photo: Native American fishing along the Trinity River in California. (Original photogravure produced in Cambridge, Mass. by Suffolk Engraving Co., c1923.) Credit: Department of Fish and Game