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Fish and Game Q&A: Will I be in violation if I clean lobsters once the boat is docked?

Traditional-hoopnet 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: I run a six-pack charter boat business and we often hoop net for crab and lobster. My deckhands and I make money by cleaning our passengers' catch. This includes both rock crab and lobster. We always wait until we make landfall before we tail the bugs. This year the new regulations say: "(e) Spiny lobsters shall be kept in a whole, measurable condition until being prepared for immediate consumption." What is the definition of immediate consumption? Will I be in violation if I clean the lobsters for my passengers after hitting the dock? (Captain David Y.)

Answer: Yes, prior to this law, there was a big enforcement problem with people who were already on the shore tailing undersize lobsters before the Department of Fish and Game could contact them to measure their catch. Because lobsters must be measured across the back of their carapace rather than the tail region, this was allowing them to get away with possessing short lobsters when the carapace and tails were separated. This is one of the reasons why this section was changed.

According to DFG Lt. Eric Kord, captain of the San Diego-based patrol vessel Thresher, by the letter of the law, "prepared for immediate consumption" means cooked and on a plate ready to be eaten immediately. Or in the case of sushi, it means ready to be eaten immediately raw on a dinner plate. He advises not cleaning or tailing the lobsters for your passengers as doing so would be a violation. If they are stopped by a game warden on the way to their car, they would be cited for illegal possession of tails under this section.

Lt. Kord suggests the following: "You may want to consider 'preparing' them a different way, like perhaps putting the lobster in a container with some ice where the melting ice water can drain out of the container and not drown the lobster, or maybe keep them loosely wrapped/covered in a moist, saltwater towel. By doing this, your customers can enjoy fresh lobsters when they get home or they can just freeze them. If the folks have a long way to drive, I would consider putting them in a wood box with wood shavings. Lobsters are imported from Mexico in this way and survive a surprisingly long time. I personally use ice packs in a cooler when I transport my lobsters a long way. I have left them overnight like that with the cooler lid cracked and they are still quite alive in the morning.

"You could also de-vein the lobsters, bleed them and then freeze them on the boat in a whole condition [carapace still attached to the tail]. At the end of your trip, you can hand the passengers their frozen bugs for their rides home and they are already somewhat cleaned. Then they just snap the tails off of the rest of the body when they get ready to eat them at home."

Q: A friend and I have been invited by some ranchers/farmers in the Klamath Basin area of Northern California to hunt ground squirrels and marmots on their property. Since we will be on private property, my friends are not sure if we will need a license. Where would I find any applicable regulations? (Jeff R.)

A: Ground squirrels and marmots are "nongame" mammals under Fish and Game law. Recreational take of any nongame mammals requires hunters to possess a current hunting license. There are a few license exemptions that allow for the taking of nongame mammals that are damaging property, but in the situation you describe, a hunting license would be required.

Q: After carefully reading the saltwater fishing regs, I’m convinced that I need to carry a net while I’m out bobbing the bays in my float tube. Here’s the pertinent language from page 51 (section 28.65) "No person shall take finfish from any boat or other floating device in ocean waters without having a landing net in possession or available for immediate use to assist in landing undersize fish of species having minimum size limits; the opening of any such landing net shall be not less than eighteen inches in diameter." Does this apply to a float tube too? (Larry S.)

A: Yep!

Q: Please clarify the definition of "loaded" gun that you gave in a recent column. By DFG law, is it OK to have the clip or magazine loaded if no round is chambered? (Will B., Palmdale)

A: Yes. Under DFG law, a gun is "loaded" when there is a live round in the firing chamber but not when there are rounds just in the magazine. Penal code laws are more restrictive, though, when you’re on a public road or in an incorporated area.

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

Photo: Department of Fish and Game marine biologist Travis Buck holds a California spiny lobster caught in a traditional hoop net. Credit: DFG

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Outposts' primary contributor is Kelly Burgess.



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