Be careful when trying to mercifully kill a large halibut

Question: I'd like to try spearfishing for halibut. If I do find a nice one, can you tell me the best way to quickly kill the fish when I get to it in order to minimize any pain? There must be some spot on the fish where I can quickly use a knife and cause less suffering.

— Justin M.

Answer: A well-placed shot with a spear will immobilize a halibut fairly quickly and is probably the most efficient way to kill the fish. Ed Roberts, an associated marine biologist with the Department of Fish and Game, says most spear fishermen don't need to kill their fish after retrieving them because the shot usually does it. To minimize the struggle and ethically kill your halibut, direct your shots to the spine or brain.

On those occasions when you might need to kill a halibut or other "round" fish (as opposed to "flat" fish), bring it to the boat and strike the fish on the top of the head, between the eyes, with a blunt instrument like a "fish billy" rather than with a knife. Trying to use a knife on a small boat can be dangerous.

If you are a novice, it is probably not a good idea to attempt to struggle with and subdue a large, wounded halibut under water with one hand while holding a sharp knife in the other.

If you are determined to try to kill the fish quickly while it is still under water, consider tearing out a gill arch with your hands, or severing it with a knife. Be careful doing this, because halibut have sharp gill rakers and teeth that can cause injury to unprotected fingers. Blood vessels in the arches carry a lot of blood, so severing these vessels causes the fish to bleed to death in short order.

Is putting that much blood in the water a good idea? I'll leave that up to you, but remember that the sound waves created by the struggling, wounded fish may attract the attention of other large predatory fish.

Remember, too, that many of these predators have highly developed sensory systems and these sensations will probably travel farther and quicker through the water than will the blood.

Q: I understand the Eurasian collared dove is an invasive species and there is no limit on them during dove season. I recently noticed a pair of them nesting by my house. Should I destroy them or let them be?

— Gene E., Winton

A: Though Eurasian collared doves are invasive, you should let them be. During the hunting season, there is no bag limit on them, but that is the only period when they can be legally taken. In addition, it is unlawful to needlessly destroy the nest or eggs of any bird.

Q: Can I fish two poles in Tomales Bay or fish any bay as long as I have the second rod stamp?

— Rick

A: In San Francisco and San Pablo bays you can only use one fishing line with no more than three separate hooks or lures. When fishing from a boat, fishing is restricted to daylight hours only (one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset). While fishing from public piers inside San Francisco and San Pablo bays you cannot use more than two rods and lines, two hand lines, or two nets, traps or other appliances for taking crabs.

In ocean waters other than San Francisco and San Pablo bays, you can use as many poles as you can tend for many species, but single-pole restrictions apply to some species such as salmon and rockfish. The second pole stamp only applies when fishing in fresh water.

Q: A turkey hunting friend who lives in Vallejo but has a getaway home above Placerville shot his first turkey last weekend. We know that leaving the beard on to identify the gender is the law, but how about removing the beard at the Placerville location? Is it legal to remove the beard where he cleaned the bird, or did it need to be left intact until he got home to Vallejo? I have a feeling the latter, but need clarification.

— Bill A., San Pablo

A: During the spring hunting season, the beard must be left on to establish that the turkey is legal. It should be maintained on the bird for identification purposes during transportation to its final destination or until it is prepared for consumption. During the fall season, either sex may be taken so the beard is not required.

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