Can't waste one fish specie to help another

Question: On a local fishing message board, there has been discussion specifically on the killing and discarding of Sacramento pikeminnow incidentally caught while fishing for steelhead in the American River. One point of view is that they are a native fish and part of the ecosystem of the Sacramento River and its tributaries, and if you catch them you should be able to keep them for food or release them unharmed. Another point of view is that on the American River, dams have altered the natural ecosystem. As a result, salmon and steelhead had their spawning range greatly reduced and put the fry and smelt in greater peril with predators such as the pikeminnow.

In the past, there has been a bounty on pikeminnows during organized fishing derbies on the river. This was aimed at reducing their population. The Columbia River has a similar annual event to control pikeminnow numbers. What is the Department of Fish and Game's position?

-- George N., El Dorado Hills

Answer: There might be some confusion about Sacramento pikeminnow (formerly known as Sacramento squawfish). DFG senior fisheries biologists Terry Jackson and Scott Downie say there have been efforts over the years to remove them as a non-native predator because they were illegally introduced to the Eel River system around 1979. After that, the DFG conducted various experimental capture and removal efforts on the Eel, and a few private groups sponsored derbies and sometimes offered bounties. But these efforts proved futile. The DFG has not conducted any such efforts on Sacramento pikeminnow in waters where they are native.

The Northern Pikeminnow Management Program began in 1990 and affects parts of the lower Columbia and Snake rivers. This Special Northern Pikeminnow Bounty Fishery (www.pikeminnow.org/info.html) is funded as mitigation by the Bonneville Power Administration and is managed by Oregon and Washington fisheries managers. The program has specific rules and regulations.

Changes in the valley ecosystem caused by diversion and land-use practices have reduced the spawning range of salmon and steelhead. Reduced stream flows, runoff timing, turbidity and higher water temperatures have also created conditions favorable to pikeminnow. However, if the DFG sanctioned removal of native non-game, fish-eating fishes from their historic habitat simply to protect listed species, then we might well expect advocacy to eradicate non-native game fishes (e.g. black bass, striped bass) to soon follow. These actions would not fit well within the law.

California sport fishing regulations say there is no limit on Sacramento pike- minnow, but the fish cannot be wasted. Therefore, any derby or bounty program that wastes Sacramento pikeminnow is in violation of the regulations and illegal.

Also, Sacramento squawfish are a "game fish," and a permit is required before any prizes can be offered to take them.

Q: I have a question regarding taking of wild pigs with a scoped muzzleloader rifle. Hunting regulations allow for the taking of big-game mammals with inline muzzleloading rifles. I understand the prohibition of Section 353(f) against using a telescopic sight on a muzzleloader during a "muzzleloading rifle/archery tag" hunting season. If I use a muzzleloader to harvest a wild pig during a regular hunting season, is it legal to put a scope on the muzzleloader? The regulations do not seem to specifically address this. During my hunter education class, the instructor suggested I ask the DFG for the correct answer. It appears that it would be OK, provided I was not hunting concurrently for deer.

-- George, Santa Cruz

A: Yes, it is legal to take pigs with a muzzleloading rifle that has a scope mounted on it. There are no archery-only or muzzleloading-only seasons for pigs.

Q: Are there any restrictions on using chum while fishing for sharks in San Francisco Bay? As I read Fish and Game Code, Section 27.05, chumming is permitted.

-- Pat C.

A: Yes, you can chum for sharks inside San Francisco Bay.

Send questions to: CalOutdoors@dfg.ca.gov