Category Archives: Fisheries

Opening Weekend of Lobster Season Keeps Southern California Wildlife Officers Busy

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Wildlife officers from across Southern California participated in an enhanced patrol for opening weekend of the 2018 lobster season, which began on Sept. 29. The goal was to facilitate a safe and enjoyable start to lobster season and enforce the laws so future generations can also enjoy the sport.

Wildlife officers from inland regions of Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties converged on the coast to pool resources and enhance coverage. Both shore-based patrols and boat patrols were utilized. In total, officers made 2,088 contacts with lobster fishers, gave 165 warnings and issued 106 citations. Citations included overlimit of lobster and other fish, take of undersized lobster and other fish, unlawful take from Marine Protected Areas, lobster report card violations, an unlawful Commercial Passenger Fishing Vessel operation and even a DUI.

One particularly notable case was in San Diego, where wildlife officers on boat patrol pulled up on a vessel with two persons on board. Upon approach, the men started throwing lobsters overboard. The officers quickly boarded the vessel and located 26 lobsters hidden throughout. The men were cited for an overlimit of lobster and report card violations. Another significant bust and citation occurred farther north in Orange County, where two wildlife officers made one case involving 27 lobsters taken the night prior to the opener (thus out of season).

During a large opener like this, the vast majority of individuals contacted by officers are law-abiding fishers and divers who cooperate with law enforcement and are even eager to show off their hard-earned catch. For example, in Dana Point Harbor in Orange County, Warden Andreas Gilbert contacted a group of four lobster free-divers (a free-diver is a diver who holds their breath, dives to the bottom for lobster, sometimes in the dark with a flashlight in one hand, and grabs the lobster with the other). The four were in possession of several legal lobsters and were extremely cooperative with Gilbert. After the contact, they asked to pose for a photo with Gilbert, who happily obliged.

CDFW’s Law Enforcement Division reminds lobster fishers to keep their activities safe. SCUBA divers should make sure their gear is in order and they are healthy and strong enough to safely dive. Most dive shops offer refresher courses for SCUBA-certified divers who may be rusty. At minimum, divers should try on all their gear ahead of time and hop in a pool. And always dive with a buddy – never alone.

Officers are always on patrol, and this year they are keeping a particularly close eye out for incidents of poaching from commercial traps. The State of California has partnered with commercial lobster fishers on permitting and scientific data collection for decades, and strictly regulates commercial lobster fishing in large part to support and protect the resource and industry. Stealing from commercial traps is a serious crime – in addition to being illegal, the behavior is unethical and unsportsmanlike, and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. In July, a San Diego area poacher previously convicted of stealing lobsters from traps was convicted and sentenced to 45 days in jail, was fined $1,000 and all gear seized during the investigation was forfeited by the court. He was also placed on three years probation, during which time he must stay away from the South La Jolla State Marine Reserve.

Please visit CDFW’s lobster information webpage to review helpful information and links to current regulations.

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Capt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (916) 322-8911
Lt. Scott Bringman, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (619) 562-2456

Recreational Spiny Lobster Season to Open Sept. 29

Thousands of lobster fishers are eagerly awaiting the start of the sport season for California’s spiny lobster, which opens at 6 a.m., Saturday, Sept. 29 and continues through March 20, 2019.

According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Marine Environmental Scientist Jenny Hofmeister, the most lobsters last season were caught off Catalina Island. “In the past, San Diego has usually been the most plentiful spot,” she said. “But recently many fishers are finding success out at the islands.”

A lobster report card is required for all persons fishing for lobster and individuals 16 years or older must also possess a valid sport fishing license and ocean enhancement stamp to take lobster south of Point Arguello. Any person using hoop nets from a public pier and children who are under 16 and fishing for lobster do not need a license but must possess a valid lobster report card.

A typical legal-size spiny lobster will average about one pound in weight. Occasionally divers and hoop netters will find lobsters over five pounds (considered trophy size) in California waters. Spiny lobster taken must measure at least 3 1/4 inches in length and are measured in a straight line on the midline of the back from the rear edge of the eye socket to the rear edge of the body shell. The daily bag limit for lobster is seven per person and an individual may not possess more than seven at any time except when a valid declaration for a multi-day trip has been obtained.

Lobster can be taken with hoop nets and by skin or SCUBA divers by hand only. No appliance (such as fish spears or poles) may be used to assist. Additional regulations governing the sport take of lobster and general fishing information can be found in the California Spiny Lobster Fishing brochure.  Lobster fishers should also consult the Marine Protected Area maps for the California coastline to ensure they are not fishing in prohibited waters.

CDFW marine biologists suggest using an oily or aromatic bait to dispense a scent trail that nearby lobsters will follow back to the net. Squid, Pacific mackerel, bonito, anchovies, sardines and even cat food may serve as good bait. A wire mesh bait container will help prevent the loss of bait to fish or other large predators such as seals and sea lions.

Because lobsters are strong and have hair-trigger responses when they sense predators, the best strategy for divers is usually to grab or pin the lobster to the bottom by their body, rather than grabbing it by a leg or antennae which will likely tear off. Although lobsters can regenerate lost limbs, marine biologists have found that these lobsters ultimately produce fewer offspring because of the energy requirements for limb regeneration.

“They definitely can sense your hesitation,” Hofmeister said. “Most of their daily life is spent trying not to get eaten, so they are pretty good at getting away if you aren’t quick enough.”

Lobster report cards must be returned or submitted online to CDFW at the end of each season by April 30, regardless of whether the card was used or any lobster were caught. Fishers who fill up a report card can turn in their card and purchase another. Failure to report catch from all cards by the deadline will result in a nonreporting fee that is charged when you purchase a report card next season.

“Reporting your catch is so important for managing the recreational lobster fishery,” Hofmeister said. “Our goal is to ensure that we can all be catching lobster decades from now, and to do that we need to know how many are being caught, where you are catching them, and what it took to get them. That is why we want to know about all of your trips – including the ones where you get skunked.”

The complete spiny lobster regulations are contained in the 2018-2019 Ocean Sport Fishing regulations booklet, found on CDFW’s website and wherever fishing licenses are sold. A lobster fishing FAQ and other biological information specific to California’s spiny lobster can also be found on the CDFW website.

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Media Contacts:
Jenny Hofmeister, CDFW Marine Region, (858) 467-4214
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988

 

CDFW Issues Reminders for Salmon Anglers in the Central Valley

Fall-run Chinook Salmon fisheries are currently open in several rivers in the Central Valley, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is reminding anglers to be aware of regulations regarding possession of Spring-run Chinook Salmon, as well as the bag and possession limits specific to the Mokelumne River.

Spring-run Chinook Salmon in the Feather River

Spring-run Chinook Salmon are protected by both the state and federal Endangered Species Acts. The largest population occurs in the Feather River where the Feather River Hatchery has a tagging program for this protected run.  Spring-run Chinook Salmon are tagged and released in the low-flow channel of the Feather River to allow them the opportunity to spawn in an area of the river that is closed to fishing. However, they sometimes stray from the closed section of the river and are subsequently caught and kept by anglers.

CDFW asks anglers to return any tagged spring-run Chinook Salmon to the river. (See photo for identification.)

Mokelumne River Bag and Possession Limits

The bag limit for fall-run Chinook Salmon on the Mokelumne River is two fish, and the possession limit is four fish, as per the 2018-2019 Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations.

The bag limit for fall-run Chinook Salmon on the American, Feather and Sacramento rivers is one fish, and the possession limit is two fish, as per the 2018-2019 Supplement Sport Fishing Regulations.

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Media Contacts:
Colin Purdy, CDFW, North Central Region, (916) 358-2943
Karen Mitchell, CDFW Fisheries Branch, (916) 445-0826
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988

 

Feather River Hatchery Fish Ladder to Open Sept. 14

The fish ladder at Feather River Hatchery in Oroville will open Friday, Sept. 14, signaling the start of the spawning season on the Feather River.

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) hatchery workers will open the gates in the ladder about 8 a.m. and will take more than 3 million spring-run eggs and 12 million fall-run eggs over the next two months in order to produce Chinook salmon for release next spring.

The hatchery is open from sunrise to sunset. Visitors can observe the salmon through the viewing windows and from the observation deck located at the base of the fish barrier dam. At the main side of the hatchery, visitors can observe CDFW technicians performing the spawning process. Thousands of schoolchildren tour the Feather River Hatchery each year. For more information about spawning schedules and educational opportunities at the Feather River Hatchery, please call (530) 538-2222 or visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/fishing/hatcheries/feather-river. For information about hatchery tours, please call (530) 534-2306.

For more information about California’s fish hatcheries, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/fishing/hatcheries.

Media Contacts:
Penny Crawshaw, Feather River Hatchery, (530) 538-2222
Kyle Orr, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8958

California Fish and Game Commission Meets in Fortuna

At its August 2018 meeting in Fortuna, the California Fish and Game Commission (Commission) took action on a number of issues affecting California’s natural resources. The following are just a few items of interest from the meeting.FGC logo

Commission President Eric Sklar, Commissioner Jacque Hostler-Carmesin and Commissioner Peter Silva were present. Commission Vice President Anthony Williams and Commissioner Russell Burns were absent.

In response to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) findings of declining density and poor ocean conditions, in December 2017, the Commission adopted regulations to close the recreational abalone fishery for the 2018 season. Unfortunately, ocean conditions are not improving for California’s red abalone, and populations continue to decline due to severe starvation conditions. Consequently, on Aug. 22, the Commission voted unanimously to authorize publication of notice of intent to amend regulations to extend the fishery closure sunset date for the recreational red abalone fishery another two years (through April 2021). They will take action on whether or not to extend the closure the season at their December meeting.

On Aug. 23, The Commission voted unanimously to list the Humboldt marten as endangered under the California Endangered Species Act.

The Commission also received an update from CDFW regarding cutting-edge rehabilitation techniques being utilized on wildlife severely burned in wildfires. Typically wildlife finds ways to flee from wildfire and CDFW does not anticipate large scale population declines associated with the fires. However, some animals have been deemed suitable for rehabilitation and have been taken in for treatment. Thus far, three bears and one mountain lion have been treated for burns with sterilized tilapia skin. CDFW released a time-lapse video of one of the bears undergoing the treatment.

The full Commission summary and supporting information can be found at www.fgc.ca.gov. An archived video will soon be available.

The California Fish and Game Commission was the first wildlife conservation agency in the United States, predating even the U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries. There is often confusion about the distinction between CDFW and the Commission. In the most basic terms, CDFW implements and enforces the regulations set by the Commission, as well as provides biological data and expertise to inform the Commission’s decision-making process.

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