March 4, 2014

Wilson on Outdoors: No nets allowed when diving for lobster

You cannot legally take fish hoop nets to a fishing location while free or scuba diving.

Question: In regard to catching California spiny lobster, the regulations say the following: Rigid and collapsible hoop nets may be used from piers and boats. When fishing from a boat, five nets per person are allowed with no more than 10 traps on a boat. When fishing from a pier, two hoop nets per person are allowed. Divers are limited to catching lobster by (gloved) hand only.

This leads to my question: Is it legal for a snorkeler/diver/free diver to swim their hoop nets out to the desired location to drop and then retrieve their traps by hand while floating in the water? This seems like a good option for people who do not own boats to set traps and for divers when visibility is so poor it’s impossible to see lobsters to catch by hand. – Joshua

Answer: No, you cannot legally take fish hoop nets out to a fishing location while free or scuba diving. The law says when diving for crustaceans (free or scuba diving), you may take crustaceans by the use of hands only (California Code of Regulations Title 14, Section 29.80(g)). If you are in the water, you are diving. You can scout where you want to set your nets when diving, but then you need to stop diving and get out of the water to set and retrieve your hoop nets. If you don’t want to buy or borrow a boat, you can set traps from a kayak, long board or even a stand-up paddle board. Just be sure to wear a life jacket if you do.

Q: During the last week of deer season, I approached a man riding a four-wheeler who was obviously hunting since he had a rifle case. He was riding down the dry river bed for more than a mile, where it’s private property on both sides of the river. He argued with me that he had a right to be there as long as he stayed under the high-water mark. I told him he could not be there and could not cross private property at all unless if in a boat and didn’t touch the river bar/land. He got huffy so I let it go and he proceeded on his way. What is the law when it comes to a river running through private land? – Heather D.

A: This is a complicated area of the law and will vary based on the characteristics of the waterway, ownership of the land, agencies involved and other factors. In other words, before people get on their ATVs thinking they have the right to ride down dry river beds through private property, they should do some research to see exactly who owns or manages the land, what the characteristics of the dry waterway are and be absolutely sure they have a right to be there and won’t be trespassing. All situations are not the same, and the laws may vary from place to place.

Q: What is the boat limit for taking crabs other than Dungeness? I plan to have between two and four people (all with fishing licenses) on my private boat and need to know the answer to this question. Thank you very much for your help. – Jay T.

A: You may not pool your crabs since boat limits apply only to finfish and not to invertebrates (CCR Title 14, Section 27.60 (c)). With crabs, individual bag and possession limits apply. For crabs of the Cancer genus (excluding Dungeness crabs), including yellow, rock, red and slender, the limit is 35 crabs per person. Each crab must measure a minimum of four inches from edge to edge of the shell at the widest part (except there is no minimum size in parts of Humboldt County).

Q: Can a slingshot be used as a bow or crossbow? Would it be legal to hunt with an arrow and slingshot? – Anonymous

A: Yes, a slingshot can be used as a bow or crossbow as long as it can cast a legal hunting arrow (except flu-flu arrows) a horizontal distance of 130 yards and as long as it meets one definition of bows and crossbows listed in the Title 14 regulations. To be sure your slingshot meets the requirements, go to www.dfg.ca.gov/enforcement, click on “CA Code of Regulations, including Title 14” and look up Title 14, Section 354, subdivisions (a), (b) and (f).

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