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Night Fishing or Sleep Fishing?

California Outdoors Q&A by Carrie Wilson, author badge, myoutdoorbuddy.com

he other night while camping/fishing at Clear Lake, the whole campground was bombarded by a sting of rangers at 4 a.m. waking up campers with flashlights in our eyes to check fishing licenses. I was in my tent looking through the window at my poles and popped out when I heard someone walking up on our campsite. It was a ranger and he said I was not allowed to sleep with my poles in the water (I wasn’t asleep, but that’s beside the point). My poles were about 6-8 feet from me and he told us that if we wanted to sleep we had to reel them in. Our poles had bells on them and glowsticks. He said we weren’t “actively fishing.” Is this correct? Catfishing at night with a bell on your pole and being woken up by a jingle jingle has always been pretty standard stuff. Can you please clarify this? (Adam S., Lodi)

Camp fishing, photo courtesy of CDFW
Camp fishing, photo courtesy of CDFW

Answer: The ranger was correct. If you have your hook and line in the water, it must be closely attended. Angling is defined as taking fish by hook and line with the line held in the hand, or with the line attached to a pole or rod held in the hand or closely attended in such a manner that the fish voluntarily takes the bait or lure in its mouth (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.05). If you are angling with a pole not in your hand, you should be closely attending and watching it and able to immediately grab the rod to reel it in if a fish bites your hook.

The reason for the law is to reduce hooking mortality for fish that swallow a baited hook and then struggle against the line. If the hook is impaled, the line will restrict gill movement. If you were to catch an undersized bass or trout at night, it may not pull hard enough on the line to disturb you from the tent, and then the fish would likely be dead when you checked your line the next morning.

Bottom line … fishing from inside your tent, whether you’re asleep or not, is not considered “actively fishing” or closely attending to your fishing line.

Can restaurants prepare and serve customers’ sport-caught abalone?
Question: I have a question regarding abalone used for commercial restaurant use. Would it be illegal for someone to catch abalone (legally according to current regulations) on their property, and then sell and serve it to customers at their own restaurant located on their property? Are restaurants allowed to sell wild abalone at all? (Katelyn S.)

Answer: No, it is not legal for someone to catch abalone under a California sport fishing license and then serve it as a meal to a paying customer no matter where the restaurant is located. Fish and invertebrates caught under the authority of a sport fishing license may not be bought, sold, traded or bartered (Fish and Game Code, section 7121). Sport-caught abalone may be given away but cannot be sold in any form, even if it’s being made into a meal.

In most cases, sport-caught abalone,may not even be possessed in a restaurant. The only exception would be if the person who lawfully took or otherwise legally possessed the abalone remained present on the premises while the restaurant cook/chef prepared the abalone for consumption by the person who lawfully took it (FGC, section 2015).

Currently, there is no legal commercial fishery for California’s native abalone (FGC, sections 5521 and 5521.5). However, there are licensed abalone aquaculture farms in the state that raise abalone for the commercial market, as well as commercial fish businesses that import wild-caught and aquaculture abalone into California through a special CDFW importation permit. No non-native, live abalone may be imported into California, though.

Bone collector donates preserved specimens to local schools
Question: I am a bone collector. I have been collecting my entire life but have recently been able to clean and preserve specimens at a museum level. I mainly collect local native species that have fallen victim as “road kill” but I also collect on hikes and at the beach. After I clean and preserve a specimen, I donate it to local schools. I was wondering if there might be any licensing available for this kind of work. I would love to have some documentation to share in the event I run into the authorities. I have a biology degree and happily offer all specimens for educational benefit. Thank you for your time and consideration. (Anonymous)

Answer: To legally do what you are proposing, you will need to have a scientific collecting permit issued through the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to operate as a biological collector for various schools or institutions in need of specimens. See California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 650 for further information.

Carrie Wilson is a marine environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. While she cannot personally answer everyone’s questions, she will select a few to answer each week in this column. Please contact her at CalOutdoors@wildlife.ca.gov.

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