Outdoors Q&A

Wilson on Outdoors: Should anglers release lingcod females?

Cal.Outdoors@wildlife.ca.govJune 11, 2014 

Lingcod are a species that, if handled properly, can often be successfully caught and released.

MATT ELYASH — California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Question: Last year before the end of rockfish season, I went on a charter boat out of Berkeley. Some of the lingcod caught were females with eggs. When do lingcod spawn and can keeping these females hurt the fishery in the future? Should we as anglers release females like we do for striped bass? I’m glad to see the size limit dropped and the season longer, but I don’t want to be back to where we were before. – Jason Green

Answer: Lingcod and other groundfish are federally managed. Harvest management plans and stock assessments take into account the removal of both males and females when setting quotas, so fishery managers do factor in the take of females, too.

According to the latest assessment, the lingcod stock has fully recovered from their overfished status. Lingcod don’t get the bends (no swim bladder), so females can be released if handled properly.

In Northern and Central California, the primary reason for the current closed seasons for lingcod in late fall, winter and spring for boat-based anglers is to protect mature females that have moved inshore to spawn, and to protect the mature males that guard the egg nests.

Lingcod are a species that, if handled properly, can often be successfully caught and released. However, unless regulations prohibit keeping the fish (e.g. bag and minimum size limits) or the angler is releasing all fish, if it turns out the fish has been improperly handled or is bleeding and may not survive, the fish should be kept. Releasing bleeding females that may not survive in order to keep males instead just wastes fish and is not a good conservation method.

Lingcod generally spawn from November through February. Females do take longer to mature and they grow to a larger size than males. By some estimates, males only grow to 24-26 inches. Females are legal to keep, so keeping an egg-laden female would be up to that fisherman’s personal ethics.

Bottom line … female lingcod are legal to take and so it’s up to the fisherman to decide whether or not they want to.

Q: Can children under the age of 16 fish without a license, and alone without a licensed adult present? – Jennifer P.

A: Yes. Although no license is required, keep in mind that no matter their age, everyone who fishes must know what the fishing regulations are that apply to the type of fishing they are doing, and have the good judgment to abide by them.

Q: I would like to photograph abalone divers diving but I need to use an air tank to obtain the imagery I want. How can I go about this without getting in trouble with a game warden? – Andrew B., Salt Lake City, Utah

A: It is legal for you to photograph abalone freedivers while you are using a tank, as long as you observe a couple of regulations.

The use of scuba gear or surface-supplied air while taking abalone is prohibited (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.15(e)). Therefore, if you are using a tank while photographing abalone freedivers, you cannot assist them with taking abalone. You also cannot help them pop abalone off the rocks or spot abalone for them, or do anything else that could be construed as giving assistance in taking abalone.

In addition, under this section the possession of abalone is prohibited aboard a vessel that also contains scuba gear or surface supplied air. This means you will have to use a separate boat – you cannot board the same boat the abalone freedivers are using while you are using scuba gear.

Q: My uncle recently passed away and left me in charge of his estate. One of the items he left is a full-size cheetah/ leopard taxidermy. Is it legal for me to sell it? If not what do you recommend that I do with it? – Michael C., Modesto

A: You are allowed to give it away but you are not allowed to sell or trade it (California Penal Code, section 653(o)). You might want to contact a museum, service club or local school to see if they may have a use for it.

Q: I enjoy crabbing and want to go crabbing overnight at the beach. Is this legal? – Ann N.

A: Yes, as long as the beaches don’t have any city, county or beach curfews, it is legal to go crabbing overnight from most beaches. (CCR Title 14, section 29.05(a)).

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 CalOutdoors@wildlife.ca.gov.

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