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. In this column, Carrie tackles a range of questions including one about reporting tagged lobster, hunting off of a road, and even hunting and baiting bears.
Q: While out lobster fishing last weekend, I caught a lobster with a tag attached to it. What should I do with it? — Anonymous, San Diego
A: Most lobster tags are small colored strips of plastic inserted into the underside or back of the lobster. Look closely for a unique identification code (tag number) and phone number (or website) printed on the tag. Please record the date, location where the lobster was caught (GPS coordinates are best, but distance to a recognized landmark will work if you don’t have a GPS), the carapace length of the lobster (to the nearest millimeter, if possible) and the tag number. All four pieces of information (date, location, length and tag number) are important when reporting a tagged lobster to scientists. Lobsters may be brought to the surface to measure. However, if the lobster is less than legal size and is tagged, please quickly record the number on the tag and immediately release the lobster. Do not remove tags from any short lobsters. No undersized lobster (even if tagged) may be brought aboard a boat, placed in any type of receiver or retained in any manner. In 2011 and 2012, scientists from the Department of Fish and Game (DFG), San Diego Oceans Foundation, San Diego State University and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla collaborated with lobster fishermen and volunteers on a project to tag and monitor thousands of lobsters in Southern California. By reporting tagged lobsters, the data can be analyzed to determine current abundance levels, size composition of the population, and movement and growth of individuals over time. To learn more about the tagging programs or to report a lobster tagged with a blue, yellow, or green tag, please visit www.taggedlobster.com.
Q: How far off the road must one be to begin hunting or shoot an animal? I see guys hunting ditches just off the road for pheasants all the time. Also, what constitutes a “road” for this purpose? — Michael O., Woodland
A: There are several laws that apply to what you describe. Most counties regulate the distance from a public roadway a firearm may be discharged under a county ordinance. Many counties require 150 feet, but this is highly variable and you would have to check with your county to find out. It is always unlawful to negligently discharge a firearm, and California Penal Code, Section 374c prohibits the discharge of a firearm from or upon a public road or highway. Fish and Game Code, Section 3004(b) makes it unlawful to discharge a firearm or release an arrow or crossbow bolt over or across any public road or other established way open to the public in an unsafe and reckless manner. Definitions for road and roadway can be found in sections 527 and 530 of the California Vehicle Code.
Q: I live on a 50-acre ranch and want to hunt bears this year. I have been using a single bale of alfalfa as an arrow stop to practice shooting my bow on the ranch. Would this alfalfa bale be considered feed, bait or a material capable of attracting a bear in Section 365 of the regulations? If so, how many days must I wait before hunting bear? — Bret G.
A: Bears are more likely to be attracted to fruits and vegetables and meat products rather than alfalfa. As long as the bears aren’t attracted to the alfalfa then it would not be considered bait. However, if the alfalfa does prove to be an attractant, you will need to completely remove it and not hunt within 400 yards of the area for 10 days. Baiting for bears is prohibited, and this means placing or using any feed, bait or other materials capable of acting as an attractant for the purpose of taking or pursuing bears (California Code of Regulations Title 14, Section 365(e)). A baited area is defined as any area where shelled, shucked or unshucked corn, wheat or other grains, salt, or other feed whatsoever capable of luring, attracting or enticing birds or mammals is directly or indirectly placed, exposed, deposited, distributed or scattered, and such area shall remain a baited area for ten days following complete removal of all such corn, wheat or other grains, salt or other feed.