You can't use ancient potions to catch fish in California

Question: There is an old legend that local Native Americans used to grind up the roots of yucca plants and spread them in the water to "stun" fish so they could collect them. Can I use this as a fishing method?

— Jeff, Riverside

Answer: No. Though that might have been how Native Americans historically fished and a seemingly natural method, the use of chemicals of any type is not a legal method of take. Game Warden Patrick Foy says fish must be taken by angling, which is defined under California law as catching the fish by a hook and line with the line held in the hand, or with the line attached to a pole or rod held in the hand so that the fish voluntarily takes the bait or lure.

Adding ground-up root chemicals to the water would also be unlawful because it is generally illegal to put any substance or material deleterious to fish, plant life or bird life into the water. Especially prohibited is the use of Cocculus indicus, the plant from which these legends are derived.

Q: You mentioned in a recent column that regulations state that you can't injure or kill a rattlesnake. But what about if someone is hiking in the back country, hears and sees a coiled rattlesnake and then falls while attempting to retreat? Can another member of the hiking team protect the fallen hiker from the snake by throwing a rock at it? It seems to me to be common sense to protect someone from becoming seriously ill, or worse, especially since it could take several hours to obtain medical assistance. I have been hiking for years and close encounters with rattlers is rare, but it does occur. Also, is it lawful to possess the rattles?

— William T., West Sacramento

A: The regulation referenced in the March 4 column was specific to killing rattlesnakes for commercial sales. This question is entirely different.

Game Warden Kyle Chang says regulations allow for the take of up to two native California rattlesnakes per species (genus Crotalus and Sistrurus) by any resident and by any method of take. The law was written specifically to allow people to kill rattlesnakes for safety reason. The rattles may be possessed because rattlesnakes may be legally taken for non-commercial purposes.

Q: Can rattlesnakes be killed when they are near public areas or crowded campgrounds? If so, what is the correct way to handle a rattlesnake when there are large groups of people and pets nearby?

— David H.

A: Rattlesnakes are natural residents in the ecosystem and important predators that help contain or reduce excess rodent populations. If a rattlesnake is encountered in a public area or campground, the snake should not be killed unless it poses a direct threat to people and pets. It's best to simply warn people to be aware of their surroundings and to restrain their pets. While rattlesnakes can be legally killed under Fish & Game laws, killing rattlesnakes in state parks is prohibited. This section states that no reptiles can be taken in ecological reserves or state parks or national parks or monuments. Different parks may also have their own additional regulations.

Q: I would like a clarification on the use of cast nets in inland waters. I see people using them at Clear Lake and in the delta. As far as I know, it is illegal to use anything larger than a dip net or a trap not more than 3-feet in greatest dimension. Cast nets are not mentioned in the regulation booklet.

— Dave, Clearlake

A: You are correct. It is not legal to use cast nets in inland waters. Cast nets (referred to as Hawaiian-type throw nets) are allowed only in ocean waters north of Point Conception and only for certain saltwater species. The only nets that can be used in freshwater are dip nets, which are not more than 6 feet across, excluding the handle.

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