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Fish limits on a party boat

California Outdoors Q&A, Carrie Wilson, myoutdoorbuddy.com

was on a party boat a few months ago fishing for rockfish and lingcod. The captain/deckhand announced that we were on this boat limit system and I didn’t completely understand the regulations. I ended up with a bunch of small fish that someone else didn’t want just because they are using bait/flies that catch small fish and they sorted out all the bigger fish prior to telling the deckhand. Then they put all of these dinks into my bag and I was told I had a limit of tiny fish. Could I have opted out of it? (Tom)

Answer: When fishing on the ocean, boat limits apply (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 195(e)). A boat limit for a species or species group is equal to the number of passengers aboard the vessel that are licensed or otherwise authorized to sport fish in ocean waters off California multiplied by the individual daily bag limit authorized for a species or species group. This means that each boat must stop fishing once they have the number of fish on board that collectively equal the number of licensed fishermen on the boat, multiplied by the individual limits. For example, on a boat with 20 licensed fishermen, if the bag limit is 10 fish per person, the boat cannot carry more than 200 fish regardless of who caught them. Each person cannot leave the boat with more than an individual bag limit. That’s why the captain told the deckhand to fill the remainder of the bags to limits with the extra fish caught by other anglers.

fishing boat in ocean, photo by Carrie Wilson
Galley cooks working aboard sport fishing boats can cook and serve their passenger’s fish, under certain conditions Photo by Carrie Wilson

Although this is legal under California law, it may not seem satisfying for people expecting to catch and keep only those fish they catch themselves. Some fishermen are not as successful as others and may be happy to accept fish others have taken, while others would rather only keep what they have caught. It’s a fine balance for the crew who are trying to keep everyone happy. Keep in mind though that you are not obligated to take the fish from the captain. If you don’t mind going in without your limit, the captain cannot order you to take fish. However, this should be discussed with the crew BEFORE fishing has started, if at all possible. If you have decided to only take the fish you have caught, and there is an extra limit of fish on the boat because everyone else who walked off had a limit, the captain may be in violation. You could also advise the skipper when you board the boat that you will not be accepting fish, so don’t count you in on the boat limit.

All I can recommend for next time is to check with the boat captain ahead of time to see what their practice is and if you may not be able to catch all of your own fish. If so, you may decide to check around for another boat and captain. Some boat captains want to be able to bring in the maximum amount of fish so that their catch report shows future passengers that they are successful at finding the fish. Other boat captains may have a different approach. Finding the landing/captain that matches your mindset is a better bet than finding out otherwise once you’ve already paid your fees and are on the boat. (573)

Trading services for smoked fish and fish parts?
Question: I want the spinal cord from a legally caught white sturgeon that was taken from a pier by a sport fisherman. I also want to smoke a good portion of the meat in exchange for some of the smoked fish. Is it legal for my friend to give me the spinal cord? Is it legal to smoke the fish in exchange for a portion of the fish? (Catharine S., Oakland)

Answer: There is no law prohibiting your friend from giving you the spinal cord or any other part of a legally possessed fish, so long as all other laws are followed. However, fish caught under the authority of a sport fishing license cannot be bought, sold, traded or bartered in any manner (Fish and Game Code, sections 7121 and 75). This includes any type of trade or barter of even parts with the expectation of receiving something in return.

Big game hunting with javelins?
Question: I just tried javelin throwing for the first time and it sparked an idea that I could hunt with this for big game mammals. But I can’t find it specified anywhere in the mammal hunting regulations booklet. Does this mean that since it isn’t mentioned it’s illegal to use to take down an animal? (Brent L.)

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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