All posts by ptirawildlife

Commercial Spiny Lobster Fishery Closure Lifted in State Waters Around Anacapa Island

Today the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Director Charlton H. Bonham lifted the commercial spiny lobster fishery closure in state waters around Anacapa Island, Ventura County as recommended by state health agencies.

According to the memo from the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, analysis of spiny lobster samples by California Department of Public Health (CDPH) laboratories indicates that spiny lobster taken from this area no longer pose a significant human health risk due to elevated levels of domoic acid. The commercial spiny lobster fishery is now open statewide and the CDPH advisory to recreational anglers has been lifted.

For More Information:
Memo from Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (11/16/18)

Media Contact:
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937

Wild Pheasant, Fall Turkey, Second Dove Seasons Set to Open Nov. 10

California’s fall hunting season hits full stride Saturday, Nov. 10 with openers for wild pheasant, fall turkey and the second dove season.

Combined with hunting seasons already open for quail, chukar, snipe, waterfowl, tree squirrel and rabbits, California hunters have plenty of options to pursue some spectacular game species and equally stellar table fare. Few states can match the sheer variety of hunting opportunities available to California hunters in the fall.

Both a valid hunting license and upland game bird stamp/validation are needed to hunt pheasant, turkey and dove. An upland stamp/validation is not required for junior license holders but all hunters are required to have a Harvest Information Program (HIP) validation when hunting migratory game birds.

Ring-necked Pheasant

Since 2012, CDFW has funded scientific research into California’s wild pheasant decline using money from the purchase of upland game bird stamps/validations. The latest findings point to a combination of factors that include changing agricultural crops, upland habitat loss, predation, competition from other species, warming temperatures and pesticides as contributing to the pheasant decline in recent years.

Still, the wild pheasant opener on the second weekend of November remains a popular tradition for many families and an important economic event for some rural communities.

The good news is that some of the best remaining wild pheasant habitat in California is found on state wildlife areas and federal wildlife refuges open to public hunting. Bagging a wild rooster pheasant requires dedication, knowledge and skill, but the end reward makes unmatched table fare.

Several CDFW Type A wildlife areas are especially popular with wild pheasant hunters, including Upper Butte Basin, Gray Lodge, Grizzly Island, Yolo Bypass, Los Banos and North Grasslands.

These areas are all open to pheasant hunting on their normal Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday waterfowl hunt days. The Upper Butte Basin Wildlife Area and the Gray Lodge Wildlife Area will remain open the first Monday of the pheasant season – Nov. 12 – to provide additional hunter opportunities.

Type A wildlife areas in the San Joaquin Valley – Los Banos, Mendota, North Grasslands and the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge – will be open for pheasant hunting on Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays only during the pheasant season.

Three popular northern California federal refuges – Colusa National Wildlife Refuge, Delevan National Wildlife Refuge and Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge – and one San Joaquin Valley federal refuge – Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge – will be open to pheasant hunting the first Monday of the season in addition to their normal Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday shoot days.

The Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge and the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern California, home to some of the most robust wild pheasant populations in the state, are open daily to pheasant hunting throughout the season.

Please check with the individual property for specific details and regulations on each area.

The 2018 general pheasant season runs from Saturday, Nov. 10 through Sunday, Dec. 23. The daily bag limit is two males per day for the first two days of the season and three males per day thereafter. The possession limit is triple the daily bag limit. Shooting hours are from 8 a.m. to sunset.

Nonlead ammunition is required when hunting pheasants anywhere in the state, except on licensed game bird clubs.

Fall Turkey

The chance to provide a wild turkey for Thanksgiving dinner is strong motivation for many fall turkey hunters. The fall season runs from Saturday Nov. 10 through Sunday, Dec. 9, and – unlike in the spring season – both males and females may be taken. The daily bag limit is one turkey of either sex with a season and possession limit of two birds.

Three subspecies of wild turkeys can be found in California – Rio Grande, Merriam’s and eastern – with Rio Grande being the most widespread. Wild turkeys inhabit most counties in California. Shooting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise to sunset.

Nonlead ammunition is required when hunting turkeys anywhere in the state unless the turkey is taken on the grounds of a licensed game bird club.

Second Dove Season

California’s second dove season runs from Saturday, Nov. 10 through Monday, Dec. 24. Although lacking the fanfare and tradition surrounding the Sept. 1 opener, the second season offers cooler weather, fewer crowds and the chance for a mixed bag of species – quail and rabbit, for example – that often share the same habitat.

Limits remain the same as the early season: Mourning dove and white-winged dove have a daily bag limit of 15, up to 10 of which may be white-winged dove. The possession limit is triple the daily bag limit. There are no limits on spotted dove and ringed turtle dove. Hunting for Eurasian collared dove is legal year-round and there is no limit. Shooting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise to sunset.

Lead ammunition is permitted for hunting doves in 2018. Nonlead ammunition, however, is required when hunting on all CDFW lands. For more information please see the CDFW nonlead ammunition page.

In addition to public hunting opportunities available at CDFW state wildlife areas and federal wildlife refuges, CDFW offers special hunts at the Upland Game Wild Bird Hunts page and through the SHARE program, which provides public hunting access to private land or other landlocked properties. New hunters should visit CDFW’s Apprentice Hunts webpage for additional pheasant hunting opportunities.

Media Contacts:
Scott Gardner, CDFW Upland Game Program, (916) 801-6257
Peter Tira, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8908

CDFW Offering 60 Apprentice Pheasant Hunts Across the State

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is hosting 60 special pheasant hunts this fall and winter to serve new hunters, youth hunters, women hunters, mobility-impaired hunters, families and others with limited experience or opportunity to hunt.

The hunts take place from November through February in almost every part of the state from Siskiyou and Plumas counties in the north to San Diego and Imperial counties in the south. CDFW’s Central Region is hosting 30 of the 60 hunts in Fresno, Kern, Madera, Merced and San Luis Obispo counties.

Six hunts are planned in Los Angeles County, two in Riverside County, two in Napa County, two in Solano County, and two in Yolo County, among other locations. Applications and information are available online at CDFW’s Apprentice Hunts webpage.

Hunters may apply only once for each hunt – either as an applicant or as a guest. Submitting multiple applications will disqualify applicants from the drawing. There is no fee to apply or participate in these hunts. Trained hunting dogs and their handlers are provided on some – but not all – hunts. Participants are allowed to bring their own hunting dogs on some hunts or hunt without a dog.

These special apprentice pheasant hunts are offered in partnership with many volunteer organizations and funded by the sale of the upland game bird stamp/validation required of upland game bird hunters 18 and older.

Additional upland bird hunting opportunities are available at CDFW’s Upland Game Wild Bird Hunts webpage and through CDFW’s SHARE program, which provides public hunting access to private or landlocked properties. Other upland game bird hunting opportunities are available on CDFW wildlife areas without reservations.

Media Contacts:
Peter Tira, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8908
Linda Sandoval, CDFW Wildlife Branch, (916) 445-3452

San Diego Eighth-Grader Ethan Mayes Becomes First to Receive ‘Master Ocean Angler’ Award From CDFW’s California Fishing Passport Program

Thirteen-year-old Ethan Mayes of San Diego has become the first person to earn the title of Master Ocean Angler from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) California Fishing Passport program by catching at least 50 different species of saltwater game fish.

Mayes, an eighth-grade honor roll student, reeled in a black-and-yellow rockfish from the Coast Guard Pier in Monterey on Aug. 13 to record his 50th ocean game fish species.

Mayes’ exuberance at landing the smallish rockfish and scurrying to find a camera to document his catch left tourists and fellow pier anglers a little perplexed about all the excitement over catching a small fish.

“I was so happy to finally do it,” Mayes said of seeing his 50th saltwater species on the end of his line. Mayes caught his 51st species – a cabezon – about an hour later from the same spot. The next day, aboard a Monterey fishing boat, he landed species No. 52 – a yellowtail rockfish – and followed that up less than a week later with species No. 53 – a 50-plus-inch, 15-pound dolphinfish caught outside of San Diego’s Mission Bay aboard a charter boat.

“Ethan has the adventurous spirit and determination needed to travel the state’s waters in search of new fish to catch – which are the hallmarks of a California Fishing Passport Master Angler,” said CDFW’s Mary Patyten, awards administrator for the program. “It really is an amazing feat, especially for such a young angler. He is an extraordinary young man.”

CDFW’s California Fishing Passport program was launched in January 2007 to encourage Californians of all ages and backgrounds to experience fishing for a variety of fresh and saltwater fish and shellfish. The California Fishing Passport booklet is the centerpiece of the program, allowing anglers to record the date, place and species of sport fish and shellfish caught within California waters. Each catch must be verified by a photo or a witness signature. Each catch can then be stamped by an official stamping agent such as a CDFW License Sales Office.

Fourteen different recognition awards can be earned – from the My First Fish Award to the Supreme Master Angler Award available to those who have earned a Master award in at least two other award categories – such as Warmwater Fishing (Inland), Coldwater Fishing (Inland), Ocean Fishing and Shellfish (Inland and Ocean). Mayes previously achieved the Ocean Angler Award – for catching 10 different qualifying species – and the Accomplished Ocean Angler Award – for catching 25 different qualifying species.

With a minimum of 50 different ocean species, however, the bar may be highest to reach Master Ocean Angler status. A Master Coldwater Angler, for example, needs to catch and record just 10 different qualifying fish. A Master Warmwater Angler needs to catch at least 25 different warmwater fish species.

No California angler has yet earned the Supreme Master Angler Award, though Mayes said his next goal is the Shellfish category. Catching at least 15 different qualifying inland and ocean shellfish would earn him the additional title of Shellfish Master and qualify him for Supreme Master Angler status.

Mayes was not born into a fishing family. He began fishing – mostly unsuccessfully – as an eight year old when a family friend gave him a fishing rod and reel for Christmas. His passion for fishing grew and he began logging his catches in the California Fishing Passport program in 2014. His parents have learned to fish to accompany him on his outings and support his passion.

Almost half of the saltwater species Mayes has caught – 26 of the 53 – have been taken off public piers, one of the most accessible types of fishing available in California as no fishing license is required. Mayes honed his saltwater techniques over the years at his home pier – the Shelter Island Pier in San Diego.

As he has gotten older, Mayes has broadened his interests and skillset to include more offshore species. His biggest catch so far is a 125-pound bluefin tuna he caught on an offshore trip with his father. Although saltwater fishing is his primary passion, he also enjoys sailing, tennis, surfing and snorkeling.

Becoming California’s first Master Ocean Angler didn’t become a goal for Mayes until he caught his 25th species.

“That was really a big turning point,” he said. “I was like, wow, this is really happening and I could get to 50 at some point.”

For more information on the California Fishing Passport program, please visit

Media Contacts:
Peter Tira, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8908
Mary Patyten, CDFW California Fishing Passport Program, (707) 964-5026


Photo: San Diego’s Ethan Mayes shows off the black-and-yellow rockfish he caught in Monterey that marked his 50th saltwater species.

CDFW’s Elkhorn Slough Designated ‘Wetland of International Importance’

MOSS LANDING, CA — Congressman Jimmy Panetta, California State Senator Bill Monning, State Assemblymember Mark Stone, and representatives from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, NOAA, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), and Elkhorn Slough Foundation gathered on October 5 at Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve’s Hester Marsh to celebrate the designation of Elkhorn Slough as a Wetland of International Importance by the Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.

With this recognition, the Elkhorn Slough joins 38 other wetland sites in the United States — including the San Francisco Bay estuary — and more than 2,330 sites worldwide, in a network of globally important wetlands designated under the world’s oldest international environmental treaty. The Convention was signed in Ramsar, Iran in 1971, and almost 90 percent of U.N. member states have since adopted the treaty.

“I am proud that Elkhorn Slough is being recognized internationally for what we on the central coast of California have long known, that this wetland is an environmental crown jewel.  This designation is a reminder of the importance of protecting the diverse wildlife and conserving these waters for future generations to enjoy,” said Congressman Panetta.

The Elkhorn Slough, which enters Monterey Bay at Moss Landing and is partially located in NOAA’s Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, has long been recognized by local, state, and federal organizations as exceptional for its biologically rich diversity and unique scientific research studies, as well as the estuary’s recreation, tourism, and education opportunities.

“Elkhorn Slough is a spectacular wetland on the central California coast, hosting a rich diversity of plants and animals and beloved by the local community,” said Mark Silberstein, executive director of the Elkhorn Slough Foundation. “Every day, hundreds of people from kayakers to birdwatchers and other visitors enjoy the sea otters, seals, fish, shorebirds, eelgrass beds, and marshes of the Elkhorn Slough. We’re pleased these wetlands have now earned international recognition.”

To be designated as part of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, a wetland site must fulfill at least one of nine criteria, including hosting more than 20,000 shorebirds at a time, serving as fish nursery habitat, and supporting threatened species. Elkhorn Slough met all nine criteria. The designation was approved by the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this year.

The Elkhorn Slough is a seasonal estuary rich with intertidal marshes, mudflats, eelgrass beds and oyster communities that nourish wildlife. More than 340 species of birds, 100 species of fish, including bat rays and leopard sharks, and more than 500 species of invertebrates have been documented in the watershed. Its distinctive estuarine communities are among the rarest and most threatened habitats in California, and are home to more than 140 Southern sea otters that feed, rest, and raise their pups in these wetlands.

“Healthy wetlands help support healthy economies,” said Paul Souza, regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Pacific Southwest Region. “The rich and diverse ecosystems of Elkhorn Slough help both our wildlife and our local communities thrive. Visitors from across the globe come to the slough to immerse themselves in its serene beauty and observe the wildlife that call the area home, including the southern sea otter, a species that once thrived but faced near extinction in the last century.”

Wetlands like Elkhorn Slough serve key functions in pollution control and food provision, offering green, sustainable, low cost and efficient ways to clean wastewater of impurities and recycle nutrients, and also serve as cradles of biodiversity by hosting young fish and other marine species as well as rice paddies – all of which are critical to the food chain for humans and wildlife worldwide.

The Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve and Elkhorn Slough Foundation hosted the designation ceremony at the Hester Marsh Restoration site, a $6.5 million, 61-acre wetland restoration project nearing completion. Like many of the marshes of the Elkhorn Slough, Hester Marsh was diked and drained for farming during the last century, resulting in a marsh plain elevation too low to support salt marsh. The restoration project provides the elevation needed to support tidal marsh habitat that will withstand changes in sea level over the next century and continue to provide important habitat for fish, plants and wildlife.

“This project is an example of the intensive investment required to restore estuarine functions once lost, while incorporating a design that enhances resilience for future challenges,” said Dave Feliz, manager of Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve for CDFW, which owns the property.

More than 90 percent of California’s wetlands have been lost over the past century. Though today the Elkhorn Slough features the most extensive salt marshes in California south of San Francisco Bay, without restoration its remaining marshes are projected to drown within 50 years due to sea level rise. The current project at Hester Marsh is reviving one of these drowning marshes.

The Hester Marsh restoration project illustrates why the Elkhorn Slough is receiving this prestigious designation as a Wetland of International Importance. Once complete, the project will double salt marsh habitat in a part of the slough frequented by Southern sea otters and their pups — underscoring the Ramsar Convention’s mission for the conservation and sustainable use of wetland ecosystems.

“Few places embody NOAA’s mission of ‘science, service and stewardship’ more fully than Elkhorn Slough,” said Nicole LeBoeuf, acting director of NOAA’s National Ocean Service. “As part of our system of 29 National Estuarine Research Reserves, it offers opportunities for scientific research, community recreation and tourism, and provides habitat for many species. Today’s Ramsar designation shows how we have all joined forces to protect this extraordinary place. Along with our many partners here today, we will continue to protect it and the communities that depend on it.”

Media Contact:
Peter Tira, CDFW Communications, (916) 215-3858