Who's right - the sheriff or me?

Q: Are there any rules on the numbers of fishing rods someone can use for ocean fishing? I had a bad experience recently with an Orange County sheriff who saw me on the Newport Beach jetty fishing with several poles. He told me I was allowed only two poles. I told him I'd seen a sign posted at a nearby pier that said, "Maximum limit three active poles." The officer said the pier was not following the Fish and Game rules. I told him I thought what applies there also applies here in Newport since Fish and Game rules apply statewide. I presume sheriffs can't represent Fish and Game regarding fishing rules and should instead be catching fugitives, bad guys and drug traffickers and not bothering fishermen! I didn't want to argue with an officer with a gun, especially a sheriff who doesn't know the rules, but I felt the officer was harassing me.A: Sheriffs deputies do enforce Department of Fish and Game (DFG) regulations when they see violations, and in this case, the deputy was correct. When fishing in the ocean from a public pier or jetty, DFG regulations allow for only two rods and lines, two hand lines, or two crab nets, crab traps or other appliances for taking crabs (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.88 specifically describes a jetty as a structure that is connected to land … and whose purpose is to form the most seaward protective boundary of an ocean harbor …). If the sign on the nearby pier indicated a three-pole maximum, then it was not a sign that was posted or authorized by the state. City regulations can be more restrictive than state DFG regulations, but not less restrictive. Q: I've heard that you need to be a certain distance from highways and roads when hunting. How far away from the roadway do you need to be before shooting? A: Neither the Fish and Game Code nor the California Penal Code states a specific distance that hunters or shooters need to be from roads. Penal Code section 374(c) most closely addresses this issue as it states, "Every person who shoots any firearm from or upon a public road or highway is guilty of a misdemeanor." In essence, this section makes it unlawful to discharge a gun from the highway surface. "Highway" as defined in the California Vehicle Code is a road that is publicly maintained and open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular travel." Bear in mind, however, that local (e.g. county) ordinances may prohibit the discharge of firearms in certain areas or within certain distances of roads, and in general, most cities do not allow shooting within the city limits. You should check with your county sheriffs office, too. Certainly the most important factor, regardless of the law, is public safety. Well-traveled roads and highways are not appropriate places to shoot. If you were to injure another person or livestock, or damage property, you would undoubtedly be subject to civil and possibly criminal prosecution. While shooting just one inch away from a road may be legal, it may not be safe. Q: A pond on our private duck hunting property was accidentally drained in the last year but has now refilled. Can we have DFG replant it with fish? A: DFG will only plant fish in public waters that are open and available to the public to enjoy. If this is a private pond, you will need to get a private stocking permit from DFG and then buy fish from a commercial fish farm, which may also stock them for you. Q: I recently moved to California from Michigan and am wondering if I will be required to take another hunter safety class to be able to hunt here? Also, during archery season, are you able to hunt from a tree stand or an elevated platform? A: California has no restrictions against using tree stands. And no, you will not need to take another hunter safety course as long as you can show proof that you have passed a hunter safety class in Michigan. If you cannot produce a certificate or proof, you will need to complete another course to get your hunting license. Information regarding Hunter Education courses in your area is available online at www.dfg.ca.gov/huntered/index.aspx. Q: I was looking into buying some land in California to use for hunting, but someone told me that even if you owned the land, you would still have to be drawn to hunt it. Were they correct or full of it? In Texas and in most other states, you can hunt on your own land. A: Yes, it's true. The wildlife belongs to the State of California and not to the landowner who owns the land they may be residing on or passing through. Under the provisions of a Private Lands Management program, however, landowners can improve their property to benefit wildlife, and in return receive additional tags that they may sell or use themselves. These tags may also allow them additional hunting rights that begin before or run after the regular hunting seasons and that allow additional cows, spikes or bucks to be taken. To learn more about the PLM program, please go to www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/hunting/plm.html. Q: While fishing yesterday, we boated very few "keeper" king salmon but caught and threw back several good sized silvers. The skipper said they are not endangered, just protected. The explanation I got was that the state does not want to pay hatcheries to raise them so that's why we can't keep them. The problem is, by the time you bring them up from 75 to 100 feet, de-net and unhook them, they are tired and almost dead … but we still have to throw them back. What a waste of resources. Do you have any information on that? DFG requires the same thing for certain species of rockcod -- we have to throw them back even if they are dead. A: According to Department of Fish and Game Senior Marine Biologist Melodie Palmer-Zwahlen of the Ocean Salmon Project, both California coastal coho (endangered) and northern California coho (threatened) are indeed listed under the Endangered Species Act and the retention of coho (marked or unmarked) in any California ocean fishery is specifically prohibited under the National Marine Fisheries Service's recovery plans for these stocks. Although some of the coho currently being contacted in California waters may be from hatcheries in Oregon and Washington, our own stocks are so depressed that it's not possible to allow a direct take at this time. We do have several hatcheries currently spawning coho as part of a captive broodstock program specifically designed to enhance California coho populations. Sport anglers can help by fishing nearshore and using larger lures to reduce coho encounters. In addition, since coho can be identified by their white gums, coho should be shaken off the hooks while still over the water and not netted or brought onboard. If the fish is hooked deeply, the angler should simply cut the line. Q: If someone gifts abalone that are tagged but the tags are filled out improperly (or not at all), who gets the ticket, the person with the abalone or the original pickers? A: Both individuals can be cited. The individual who took the abalone can receive a citation for failing to tag abalone or improperly tagging abalone. The individual who receives the abalone can be cited for unlawful possession of abalone that are not tagged or improperly tagged. Q: I know that cow decoys may not be used for hunting birds. Does this also apply to hunting deer or other big game? A: No, it is not prohibited when taking mammals (FGC, section 3502 ). There are no Fish and Game laws or regulations on the books regarding using any type of "blind" when taking mammals. Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game. While she cannot personally answer everyone's questions, she will select a few to answer each week. Please contact her at CalOutdoors@dfg.ca.gov.

********** Published: August 12, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 17