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Fish and Game Q&A: How can I know which fish are legal to keep when fishing at night?

October 21, 2010 |  1:37 pm

An angler at sunset.

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: Sometimes when I’m fishing at night from shore off the coast, I can’t always tell exactly what I’ve caught. Figuring out the difference in the dark between the perches that have different size restrictions can also be hard. I don’t want to break any laws, but I usually like to take one fish home to eat. If I do catch a restricted species of some sort by mistake, how much would I be fined? Also, how can I know exactly what fish are legal to keep and which ones are not? (John N., Malibu)

Answer: You are responsible for anything that you catch and keep. Citation fines can be found on the "Bail and Penalties" link at www.dfg.ca.gov/enforcement/, and then you can expect for additional court fees to be added. The best thing for you (and the fish) would be to plan to fish while it’s still light enough that you can be sure of exactly what you’re catching. Otherwise, you’d better have a mighty good flashlight. Not being able to distinguish what fish you have in the dark is no excuse.

For an easy reference as to which species can be kept and which cannot, log onto the click-able fishing map on the marine region website at www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/fishing_map.asp before you head out to fish. This is a great resource that you can always trust to be current. Just click on the map in the area where you intend to fish and a list of exactly what’s open, what’s closed and which species have special restrictions pops up. Click on any fish species you’re interested in learning more about and you’ll have access to their regulations as well as lots of interesting biological information.

Q: Sometimes when out hunting ducks, we bring the barbecue to cook up a mallard or teal. If I bring out a cleaned bird from a previous hunt and cook it, is this OK? (Jim M., Brentwood)

A: The technical answer is yes, it is OK. Once the bird is taken home (or to a personal abode), the head and wing may be removed. The bird counts toward possession but not toward daily bag unless taken on the same day.

However, according to Department of Fish and Game Assistant Chief Mike Carion, if the bird appears to be fresh and in excess of daily bag for the day, it could lead to further investigation. If the person claimed it had been frozen and thawed, a warden may seize it and have the lab check the blood cells to see if it had indeed been frozen.

If it is in excess of the possession limit, there are no excuses, and the person would be subject to citation.

Q: I can find that with a shotgun I am allowed to have two rounds in the magazine, but I can’t find the regulation on rifles. I would like to know for sure before I go out into the field what I am allowed for both bolt action and semi-auto. Also, is there any restriction on the number of rounds when hunting with a handgun? (Steve)

A: As long as the rifle you’re using is a legal firearm for hunting and the magazine you’re using is legal for the public to possess and is not modified (e.g. police often have larger magazines), then it is legal to use with the capacity available. Same goes for handguns. As long as the guns are legal for hunting and not modified to carry larger loads, then you may use them. Remember that, when hunting in condor country, only non-lead bullets and shells may be used for the take of big game and non-game species. For more information on non-lead requirements, please check out www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/hunting/condor/.

Q: While on vacations, my wife and I enjoy shopping at flea markets, antique fairs and antique stores throughout the state, and I am amazed at the amount of wild game mounts, hides and antlers that are for sale. It is my understanding that selling any part of an animal that can be legally taken in California is against the law. What’s the deal? (T.K., Rancho Murieta)

A: You are correct, with the exception of antlers and hides. Antlers must be cut into blocks before selling. Whole antlers may not be sold. You can’t pick up shed antlers to sell unless you cut them up first. The only other exception is for taxidermists who prepare mounts for clients who never return to retrieve and pay for them. In this case, the taxidermist may sell the mount only for the amount required to recoup their hard costs of preparation. 

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

Photo: An angler at sunset. Credit: Steve Hillebrand / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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