Limits apply to birds in your freezer, too

Question: Near the end of this past duck season, DFG wardens visited two of my friends' homes and requested to see the contents of their freezers. My friends said that when they cooperated, and showed the contents of their freezers, they were cited for violating the Fish & Game Code for exceeding the waterfowl "in-possession limits."

Like thousands of other hunters statewide, they each had dozens of legally harvested waterfowl from the three-month waterfowl season stored in their freezers for future consumption.

What is the law regarding the number of waterfowl one can legally keep in their freezer during and after the waterfowl season? It would seem that any interpretation that limits persons to "no more than double the daily bag limit" at any time will result in wanton waste of game that is discarded in the field and from hundreds of freezers — directly in violation of another Fish & Game Code provision that prohibits wanton waste of game.

How can DFG rectify these two provisions when they cite people for their freezer contents? To save and consume their game after the season is such a widespread practice among thousands of hunters in California that nearly every hunter in the state faces the potential of this citation.

Answer: Though this practice might be common, that doesn't make it legal. According Mike Carion, the chief of Northern California Enforcement, some states only count possession limits in the field; but in California the possession limit per person is two daily bag limits.

The law does not allow a hunter to possess more than two daily bag limits at their house or at any time. A possession limit can be donated to others who live in the household, even if they are not hunters. There is no minimum age for a person to retain a possession limit of waterfowl. For example, a hunter with a spouse and two children all living in one house can possess one possession limit for each of the four people (eight daily bag limits). A single person living alone is limited to one limit and in order to legally continue to hunt, he or she must give away the birds or eat them before taking more.

Waterfowl bag and possession limits are federally regulated. States can only adopt regulations that are the same or stricter than federal rules. In California the possession of two daily bag limits — regardless of whether a hunter has hunted for two straight weeks or has hunted that day — applies in the field and at home. Keep in mind, the intent to give birds away does not justify having more than the limit.

Q: The bag limit for white seabass is one fish per person from March 15 to June 15, but some people I've seen are catching a fish in the morning, taking it home and then catching another the same day. That way they never have more than one in possession. Is this legal?

— Marty H., La Jolla

A: No. Anglers fishing south of Point Conception are allowed only one fish per day and in possession between March 15 and June 15. Period. "Possession" includes at home in the freezer (see above). This regulation helps protect these fish while they are spawning. This population appears to be on the rebound due to good management, so it's up to sport fishermen to keep up the good work.

Q: I have been trying for years to find out what time of year a person can take a walk on the beach then turn around to find their footprints glowing in the sand. My grandfather took me to the beach when I was very young to experience this phenomenon, and now that I am older I want my children to experience the same excitement. Could you explain why, where and when this happens?

— Terri P.

A: Associate marine biologist Ed Roberts says the phenomenon is the result of a "bloom" of microscopic algae known as "dinoflagellates." Some species are bioluminescent — meaning they create their own light. These bioluminescent cells flash when disturbed.

Hundreds of millions of these cells can be washed up on the beach after a bloom; they light up when you disturb them by stepping on them. When you see this phenomenon, look at the waves breaking on the beach — they will be glowing as well.

This type of bloom is often associated with the phenomenon known as "red tide." So the next time you hear that a red tide is occurring, you might want to take an evening stroll on the beach to see if your footprints are illuminated as you walk.

Wilson works for the California Department of Fish and Game. Write to: CalOutdoors@dfg.ca.gov