Wilson: If you take someone's fish, get proof that you didn't catch them

Question: My husband and some friends and I were ice fishing in the Eastern Sierras the second day of the trout opener and we all caught some nice fish. As we were leaving the ice 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 give you his fish, and you were within your rights to accept them. However, without proof that these fish were actually taken legally by another licensed angler, any game warden you might meet in the parking lot or along the way that you showed your fish to would determine that you and your husband had gone over the overlimit.

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 that 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: We mainly fish near shore in the North-Central designated waters, but also fish in the San Francisco Bay and Delta areas. Can you please let me know when, where and under what circumstances a gaff can and cannot be used to boat our fish?

— Mike S.

A: Gaff hooks — defined as any hook with or without a handle used to assist in landing fish without a hook — cannot be used in the landing of any finfish shorter than their minimum size limit (Section 28.65 ). Remember that you're required to have a landing net aboard when fishing from a boat or other floating device to assist in landing any fish that might be smaller than the minimum allowed for that species. These nets must be on the boat or immediately available and have an opening of not less than 18 inches in diameter.

In inland waters you cannot use or even possess a gaff while on the water or within 100 yards of any river, stream, lake or reservoir — except under certain conditions on the Sacramento River.


Q: I have a few small pieces of scrimshaw elephant ivory that my Grandfather gave me in 1960, and an ivory piece that is actually fossilized. Is it legal to sell the pieces in California?

— Ted, Redding

A: No, it is a misdemeanor to sell ivory in California. According to Game Warden Patrick Foy, the section of the penal code that cover this also mentions several other species — such as crocodiles and alligators.

Basically, the law says it is illegal to import into California for commercial purposes, or to possess with intent to sell, or to sell within the state, the dead body or any part of a any polar bear, leopard, ocelot, tiger, cheetah, jaguar, sable antelope, wolf, zebra, whale, cobra, python, sea turtle, colobus monkey, kangaroo, vicuna, sea otter, free-roaming feral horse, dolphin or porpoise (Delphinidae), Spanish lynx or elephant.

Any violation is a misdemeanor with violators subject to fines of not less than $1,000 and up to $5,000 with up to six months in jail.

Wilson is a biologist with the California Department of Fish & Game. Send questions to CalOutdoors@dfg.ca.gov.