Question: My husband and some friends and I were fishing in the eastern Sierras on the second day of the trout opener and we all caught some nice fish. As we were leaving the lake to return to our car, one of our friends who had a long drive ahead didn’t want to keep his fish and offered them to us. We already had our limits, but he said, “You can have two limits in your possession so just say you caught mine yesterday.” We took the fish but didn’t feel right about it. Was this actually OK? – Mark S., Torrance
Answer: No, not the way you did it. While you both were allowed to catch a limit of trout on the opening day and another limit on the second day and then have two limits in possession, by accepting his fish as you did, you could have been cited. Here’s why …
Your friend was within his rights to gift you his fish, and you were within your rights to accept them. However, without proof these fish were actually taken legally by another licensed angler, any wildlife officer to whom you showed your fish in the parking lot or along the way would determine you and your husband were in possession of an over limit.
To avoid a misunderstanding like this, the best way to have handled it would have been to ask the angler giving you his additional fish to write you a note clearly stating this. The note should contain the date, his name, address, telephone number and fishing license number so the note and your story could be verified, if necessary. Otherwise, you would likely be cited for being in possession of too many fish.
Q: What is the regulation regarding charity fundraisers and abalone dinners? We are being asked to offer an abalone dinner for six people at a fundraiser and the highest bidder wins. Although different than actually charging a set price for an abalone dinner, is it illegal to accept a “donation” from the highest bidder? – Scott E., Walnut Creek
A: You can sell a dinner to the highest bidder, but it can’t be sold as an abalone dinner. You cannot advertise or sell a dinner to someone or through an auction that gives the buyer or bidder an expectation they will receive abalone for the money they spend. Even if the money is a donation to charity or a nonprofit organization, promising abalone (in any form) for money is not legal. Sport-caught abalone (or other fish and game) cannot be bought, sold, traded or bartered. You cannot commercialize sport-caught abalone in any way. If you were to buy abalone from a commercial abalone farm, you could advertise and promote it as an “abalone dinner.”
The only way to legally do what you are proposing is to make the entire dinner “a donation.” As long as everyone going through the meal line is not “required to pay,” there is no prohibition from calling it an abalone dinner.
Q: I understand some fishermen are taking pictures of their fishing licenses with their mobile phone. If a person forgot to bring his or her license, would a picture be acceptable proof of a license? – Les E.
A: No. California law does not recognize an electronic copy or a picture of a sport fishing license. You are required to have your actual sport fishing license in possession while fishing (California Code of Regulations Title 14, Section 700 and Fish and Game Code, Sections 1054.2 and 7145(a)) and to present your actual license upon request to any wildlife officer who asks (FGC, Section 2012). Fishing and hunting licenses are printed on special waterproof paper to prevent fraudulent duplication. A scanned or digital version of your license on your phone could be easily altered from its original image.
While every angler must have a valid sport fishing license in possession while fishing in California, the law does allow a person diving from a boat to keep the license on the boat, and a person diving from shore may keep the license on shore within 500 yards.
Q: I have a question regarding the type of rifle that is allowed to hunt tree squirrels. Can a Benjamin Discovery PCP air rifle be used to hunt tree squirrels during the open season? – Anonymous
A: Yes, any air rifles may be used for all species of resident small game in California (CCR Title 14, Section 311(f).) The only restriction is for turkey, where the rifle must be at least .177 caliber.