Q and A | Removing Salmon Heads

Each month Carrie Wilson, a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG), answers questions sent in by outdoorsmen on a wide range of hunting and fishing topics. This month, Carrie tackles a range of questions including one about turning in salmon heads, whether or not it’s legal to carry a concealed firearm while fishing, catching crayfish and what to do when you spot a bird with a band on its leg.

salmon heads guns crayfish

Q: I was wondering if it’s mandatory to have to give up my salmon heads when the volunteer fish checkers come around to measure my fish? I thought it was my choice. — Gary B.

A: Yes, it’s mandatory. The surveyors at the dock collecting heads are not volunteers but are paid, trained and educated biologists, and anglers in possession of a salmon with a clipped adipose fin are required to relinquish the head to these DFG employees. Section 8226 reads: “(a) … any person in possession of a salmon with a missing adipose fin, the small, fleshy fin on the back of the fish between the back fin and the tail, upon request by an authorized agent or employee of the department, shall immediately relinquish the head of the salmon to the state, at no charge, for recovery of any coded-wire tag. The head may be removed by the fish owner or, if removed by the official department representative, the head shall be removed in a manner to minimize loss of salmon flesh and the salmon shall immediately be returned to the rightful owner. (b) It is unlawful to intentionally conceal, cull or release into the waters a salmon with a missing adipose fin that it is otherwise legal to possess.”

Q: We do not have a concealed carry permit but while camping we keep a loaded pistol in our camper for personal protection. We would prefer not to leave it in the camper while we are out on the boat fishing. Is it legal to carry a loaded firearm (pistol) on a boat while fishing in the ocean? If so, does it have to be in plain sight or can it be kept in a glove box on the boat? — Lisa G.

A: In general, you may not possess a loaded, concealed handgun when in a public place. There is an exception for licensed anglers and hunters, who are allowed to carry a concealed firearm on their person when engaged in hunting or fishing (see Penal Code, Section 25640). The exemption also allows the carry of an unloaded concealable firearm when going to or returning from a hunting or fishing expedition. A summary of firearms laws is available online at dfg.ca.gov/enforcement under “Helpful Information” in the right margin.

Q: If an area is posted “closed to fishing,” like the stretch of the Feather River between the green bridge in Oroville and the fish hatchery, is it still ok to use crayfish traps there? Or are crayfish traps considered “fishing”? — Al C.

A: No, you cannot use crayfish traps there. According to DFG Lt. Sam Castillo, in this particular area the law says, “Closed to all fishing all year.” The law is inclusive of all species and is not specific to just trout and salmon. Some other no-fishing areas will allow for the take of amphibians, fresh water clams, crayfish and lampreys under CCR Title 14, Section 7.50(a)(2), but this isn’t one of them.

Q: My daughter has a red-shouldered hawk that frequents her deck in San Rafael. The hawk seems to enjoy scanning from the railing for critters it might like to eat. This bird appears to have a silver tag on its right leg just above the claw but I can’t read the writing. I was wondering if DFG or any agencies that you know of have a tagging program for hawks? — Ken M.

A: Yes, there are numerous researchers both in and outside of California that capture and mark birds. According to DFG raptor biologist Carie Battistone, identification bands should be reported to the Bird Banding Lab (BBL) (www.pwrc.usgs.gov/bbl), administered by USGS. If someone sees a marked bird, such as this red-shouldered hawk, they can report it by accessing BBL’s website and clicking the “Report a Bird Band or Marked Bird” link. This national program allows researchers to study bird movement (dispersal and migration patterns), survival, population trends and more. Many bands are reported when a bird is recaptured or dies. Reading the band number can be hard but not impossible on live birds. In addition to silver bands, researchers also use color bands, which tend to be much easier to identify and report.

Carrie Wilson is a 30-year CDFW veteran and an avid outdoor enthusiast, angler and hunter. She is a marine biologist with a strong background of professional experience working in both fisheries and wildlife management. An established award-winning outdoor writer, Carrie enjoys tackling the tough qu...