Non-hunting friends can't carry your shells

Question: How many shells can a hunter possess while waterfowl hunting? Is it clarified in the regulations that only hunters — as opposed to anyone else with them — cannot possess more than 25 shells in the field during the waterfowl season? If not, a non-hunter could then carry another 25 shells into the field for the hunter to use.

— Rick S., Pleasanton

Answer: Fish and Game Commission regulations restrict the number of shotgun shells permitted in the field on some refuges or wildlife areas. The ammunition restriction does not apply to all areas, but in the areas and refuges listed, the restrictions are twofold:

Hunters may not possess more than 25 shot shells while in the field,

Only persons with a valid hunting permit that day are permitted to possess ammunition in the field.

Therefore, a non-hunter cannot pack in extra shells for the hunter.

Q: Is it legal to fish for both lobsters and crab at the same time using hoop nets for the lobster and a crab pot for the crabs? My concern is that when we return to harbor, a game warden might question which method was used to take which species. The crab pot is a Northern California type that is "soaked" for days and has escape ports. The hoop net is a basic hoop net.

— Joel S.

A: You can fish for lobsters and crabs at the same time but only with hoop nets or by hand. Game Warden Jason Chance says crab traps are legal in the north, but illegal for sport fishermen south of Point Arguello. While most lobsters occur in Southern California below Point Arguello, for any that occur north of this point, crab traps cannot be used.

Q: In a recent column you discussed loaded guns in a vehicle. Can you clarify what a "loaded gun" is? I know that having cartridges/shotgun shells in the chamber is illegal, but what if the cartridges/shotgun shells are just in the magazine of the rifle or shotgun? Do the restrictions also apply while in or upon a vehicle on a public roadway?

— Anonymous

A: Under Fish and Game code, a rifle or shotgun is deemed loaded when there is an unexpended cartridge or shell in the firing chamber, but not when the only cartridges or shells are in the magazine. It is "unlawful to possess a loaded rifle or shotgun in any vehicle or conveyance or its attachments which is standing on or along or is being driven on or along any public highway or other way open to the public."

The California Penal Code is more restrictive, however, and defines "loaded" as being when ammunition is attached to the weapon (even if all shells or cartridges are only in the magazine portion of the weapon and not in the chamber).

Assistant Chief Mike McBride says the consequences can be dependent on circumstances, such as location and type of roadway. In other words, a loaded weapon in a vehicle on a dirt road in the boondocks might be viewed differently than one in a vehicle on a paved road that has a lot of traffic. And a county sheriff might tend to enforce the Penal Code rather than the Fish and Game Code. A warden could do the same if the circumstances justify a particular course of action.

So, it is up to the law enforcement officer to make the call. However, the very safest and most prudent course of action is to have the weapon entirely unloaded.

For more information and to review the California Summary of Firearms Law, contact the California Department of Justice, Bureau of Firearms at ag.ca.gov/firearms/

Q: I read a post from people saying they had caught carp by hand in a lake. Is this legal in California? I have caught trout by hand in streams when I was younger, but wasn't sure if that was legal either. Thanks.

— Nick

A: No, there are no freshwater finfish species that can be legally taken by hand from any California lake waters within the state (only exception: a few fish species are allowed to be caught by hand during specific times in a few non-lake areas).

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