Carrie Wilson: Devices for casting bait aren't illegal, unless they shoot it

Question: I saw a commercial about a guy who invented a "fish bait launcher" that launches your fishing line, tackle and bait out 200-plus yards past the surf. It was invented by a dedicated surf-fisher who became handicapped but refused to give up his favorite sport. It looks a lot like the popular old air cannons that could launch large veggies. This one is just large enough to put some small bait in, and is powered by a 12-volt battery, charger and air compressor. I thought air cannons were made illegal in California, no matter what you use them for. Am I right?

-- Chris D.

Answer: If the invention meets certain conditions, it might be legal. According to Lt. John Laughlin, if the launcher does not use any rocket-propelled projectiles or projectiles containing any explosive, incendiary material or chemical substances, it is legal. If it uses ignition or combustion, it violates the law.

Q: I am a sport fisherman with a boat and will be taking people on a camping trip to Catalina soon. Some of the people want to go lobster hoop netting. I know everyone who's fishing for lobsters regardless of age needs a lobster card. What is the rule for people who are just watching and not fishing or assisting in any way? If someone is determined to be in violation of fishing or assisting while without a lobster card, who is fined -- the boat owner or the individual without a card? Thanks for your efforts to keep marine life safe.

-- Jeff

A: Any person fishing for or catching California spiny lobster must have a fishing license and the report card. If they are not assisting, handling the line, pulling the line, baiting the net, shining the light, etc., then they are not fishing or taking spiny lobster and no license or card is needed.

Patrol Lt. Eric Kord says any individual who is seen fishing for spiny lobsters without a lobster card is subject to citation. This could be the owner of the boat if lobsters are in possession and no one admits to taking the lobster. In most circumstances though, the individual is cited for that particular violation.

Q: I have a question regarding the application to become a fishing guide. I had a hunter trespass citation a long time ago that was unintentional. It was a case of poor mapping and unmarked fence lines. I paid my fine and it never went any further. I have never had any other convictions for any sort of law breaking. Does my single hunter-trespass ticket exclude me from applying for guide status? I am interested in teaching others to care for and respect our outdoor privileges and would love to apply for a guide's license. But I don't want to go through the process and pay all the costs only to be denied at the time my application is reviewed.

-- Doug M.

A: Because your citation was 12 years ago, it was your only citation and you took care of the fines, you should not have a problem getting a guide's license. Applicants are evaluated mostly for recent activity (within five years), or repetitive activity. And for applicants who apply but are denied, any application fees are refunded.

Q: I found a four-point buck the local game warden confirmed was a cougar kill. Can I go back in a couple of weeks and get the antlers without getting in trouble?

-- Angel S.

A: Generally, it's OK to collect shed antlers (antlers dropped naturally each year in the late winter or early spring), but the antlers you are asking about are not sheds and are still attached to a recently killed deer. You cannot possess antlers attached to a recently killed deer unless you have taken the deer with a sport hunting license and the appropriate tag during deer season. According to enforcement chief Mike Carion, if the animal had been dead awhile, the season was over and the meat dried up, it would not be an issue ... but that is not the case here. Collecting antlers from a recent kill could lead to enforcement issues because the antlers would not be tagged and would likely be attached to a "fresh" skull cap, which is a violation, especially if outside of the deer season. If you were to find a deer skeleton (obviously aged) it would be OK to take the bones, including the head with antlers.

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

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