Commercial Dungeness Crab Update

The commercial Dungeness crab season in the central management area, Point Arena to the Mexico border, will continue to be delayed due to the presence of whales within fishing grounds and the potential for entanglement. The commercial Dungeness crab season in the northern management area was scheduled to open Sunday, Dec. 1, but was delayed until at least Wednesday, Dec. 16 due to low meat quality. Meat quality testing and delays are a long-standing tri-state industry supported component of the season opener to ensure high quality crab at the start of the fisheries in northern California, Oregon and Washington. In early December, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Director will re-assess entanglement risk in the central management area and evaluate risk in the northern management area to inform the season opener for both areas.

CDFW in partnership with researchers, federal agencies and the fishing industry has conducted surveys from the Oregon state line to the Channel Islands to observe marine life concentrations. CDFW has conducted five aerial surveys since late October and more than 10 vessel-based surveys have been conducted by researchers and the fishing industry. Additional sources of data include observations from a network of observers spread across three national marine sanctuaries.

Based on those data sources, “CDFW, after consulting with the Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group, is enacting a delay in the central management area,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “Available data indicates the whales still remain in the fishing grounds. This risk assessment focused on the central management area because the northern management area was already delayed due to low meat quality. CDFW staff, collaborators and partners have scheduled additional surveys in the next few weeks that, weather permitting, are anticipated to provide the data necessary to reassess whale presence. Our hope is both quality testing and additional marine life survey data will support a unified statewide opener on Dec. 16, just in time to have crab for the holidays and New Year.”

CDFW is planning additional aerial surveys for the first week of December to inform a risk assessment in advance of Dec. 16. When the data indicates the whales have migrated out of the fishing grounds, CDFW stands ready to open the commercial season.

For more information related to the risk assessment process or this delay, please visit CDFW’s Whale Safe Fisheries page.

For more information on Dungeness crab, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/crab.

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Media Contacts:
Ryan Bartling, CDFW Marine Region, (415) 761-1843
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937

Pismo clams

CDFW Reminds the Public Not to Disturb Pismo Clams on Central Coast Beaches

With the re-opening of several State Parks beaches in San Luis Obispo County, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) reminds visitors to avoid disturbing small Pismo clams and rebury any small clams they encounter.

“We have not seen a population boom of this magnitude in decades,” said CDFW Marine Environmental Scientist Derek Stein. “We are hopeful that these young clams could increase the chances of a recreational fishery returning to the central coast.”

Pismo clams were once prolific along central coast beaches, supporting a vibrant recreational fishery. Due to overharvest, illegal removals and other environmental conditions, the fishery has not rebounded to historical levels. Although it is currently legal to harvest clams recreationally, almost no legal-sized clams have been found in recent years.

Pismo clams are frequently encountered by people walking along the beaches or digging in the sand. CDFW encourages the public to leave the clams in the sand to help the population expand. Any disturbed clams should be immediately reburied to increase the chance of survival. Beachgoers may also notice interesting round formations in clam beds. These formations are created by the clams as they expel sand from their siphons and are not caused by other human disturbances. However, the tidal flat environment is sensitive and beachgoers should do their best to avoid disturbing clam beds.

Pismo clams can be harvested with a valid fishing license. Anglers may retain 10 Pismo clams per day if the clams meet the minimum size of 5 inches in greatest diameter north of the San Luis Obispo/Monterey county line, and 4½ inches south of the county line. All undersized clams must be immediately reburied in the area they were found. In Monterey and Santa Cruz counties, the season for Pismo clams starts Sept. 1 and ends after April 30. In all other counties, the season is open year-round. No commercial harvest is permitted.

With the help of the public we can all protect this once abundant and iconic central coast species. If you witness a poaching, wildlife trafficking or pollution incident, immediately dial the toll free CalTIP number, (888) 334-2258, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Tips may also be submitted by texting to tip411 (847411). Anyone with a cell phone may send an anonymous tip to tip411 by texting “CALTIP” followed by a space and the message.

Tips can also be reported through the free CalTIP smartphone app, which operates similarly to tip411 by creating an anonymous two-way conversation with wildlife officers. The CalTIP app can be downloaded via the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.

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Media Contacts:
Derek Stein, CDFW Marine Region, (805) 242-6726
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937

California Fish and Game Commission Meets

At its Oct. 14, 2020 meeting, the California Fish and Game Commission took action on a number of issues affecting California’s natural resources. The following are just a few items of interest from this week’s meeting.

fish and game commission logo

The Commission adopted changes to the statewide sportfishing regulations to make them more user friendly. The regulation is the culmination of years of work by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife including input from stakeholders to overhaul and simplify these regulations. This effort will result in a 52 percent increase in fishing opportunity in special regulated waters and open up significant opportunities for the remaining inland waters across the state. The regulation is expected to take effect March 1, 2021, after final approval by the Office of Administrative Law.

Recreational and commercial groundfish regulations were adopted for consistency with federal regulations.

Three new wild trout waters were designated as Trout Heritage Waters, while the designation was removed for one section of waterway.

The Commission heard from stakeholders about extending the sunset date on the current recreational red abalone closure, amending recreational take of crab regulations to provide additional whale and turtle protections in the trap fishery, and amending regulations to allow for additional recreational take of sea urchins. The items were discussions only and no action was taken today.

In a unanimous vote, the Commission determined that changing the status the Mohave Desert Tortoise from threatened to endangered under the California Endangered Species Act may be warranted.

The full commission – President Eric Sklar, Vice President Samantha Murray and Commissioners Jacque Hostler-Carmesin and Peter Silva – was present. President Sklar announced that former Commissioner Russell Burns recently resigned from the Commission and the seat he vacated is now open.

As a reminder, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting budget gap in California, Commission meetings through June 2021 will be held via webinar and teleconference.

The agenda for this meeting along with supporting information is available at fgc.ca.gov. An archived audio file will be available in coming days. The next meeting of the full Commission is scheduled for Dec. 9-10, 2020.

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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 the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (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.

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

October 2020 California Department of Fish and Wildlife Calendar

All calendar items are subject to change as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. Please continue to adhere to all safety protocols including physical distancing, wearing masks and frequent hand washing.

Fire danger is extreme in California currently. Hunters and outdoor enthusiasts are strongly encouraged to check for closures before leaving on any recreational trip.

Various Days — General Bear Season Opens in Select Deer Zones. General bear season opens concurrently with general deer season in the A, B, C, D, X8, X9a, X9b, X10 and X12 deer hunting zones. The general bear season will remain open until Dec. 27, or until CDFW determines that 1,700 bears have been taken. Tooth collection is not required this year, but all hunters must present their bear head and get their tag validated by CDFW personnel. Current bear hunting regulations, in-season updates and general black bear information can be viewed at wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/bear.

3 — California Spiny Lobster Recreational Fishing Season Opens Statewide, 6 a.m. For more information regarding lobster and lobster management, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/conservation/marine/invertebrates/lobster.

3 — General Duck and Goose Season Opens in the Northeastern Waterfowl Zone. For more information about regulations, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/waterfowl.  

3 — Early Canada Goose Season Opens in the Balance of State Waterfowl Zone. For more information about regulations, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/waterfowl

3 — General Deer Season Opens in Zones D19, X1, X2, X3a, X3b, X4, X5a, X5b, X6a, X6b, X7a and X7b. For more information, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/deer.

3 — Archery-Only Deer Season Opens in Zone D12. For more information, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/deer.

3 — Weaving Yesterdays: A Live History Series Virtual Event, 1 to 1:30 p.m. Reserve naturalists and historians will host a Facebook Live series exploring the cultural heritage of Elkhorn Slough. At 1 p.m. on the first Saturday of each month, participants will hear the backstory of a new location around the area. Please visit www.elkhornslough.org/events/weaving-yesterdays-a-live-history-series to view the series schedule and find recordings of previous installments. 

3-4 — Early season Junior Hunt for Quail in the Mojave National Preserve. For more information on upland game bird seasons and limits, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/upland-game-birds.

4 — Last Day of Recreational Ocean Salmon Season from Pigeon Point to the U.S./Mexico Border. All recreational ocean salmon fishing south of Pigeon Point will be closed for the remainder of the year. Recreational ocean salmon fishing remains open between Horse Mountain and Pigeon Point. For more information, please visit the ocean salmon webpage at wildlife.ca.gov/fishing/ocean/regulations/salmon or call either the CDFW Ocean Salmon Regulations Hotline at (707) 576-3429 or the National Marine Fisheries Service Ocean Salmon Regulations Hotline at (800) 662-9825.

7 — California Spiny Lobster Commercial Fishing Season Opens Statewide. For more information regarding lobster and lobster management, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/conservation/marine/invertebrates/lobster.

10 — General Deer Season Opens in Zones D11, D13-15 and D17. For more information, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/deer.

10 — General Bear Season Opens in the Remaining X Zones. General bear season opens for the remaining deer hunting X zones. The general bear season will remain open until Dec. 27, or until CDFW determines that 1,700 bears have been taken. Tooth collection is not required this year, but all hunters must present their bear head and get their tag validated by CDFW personnel. Current bear hunting regulations, in-season updates and general black bear information can be viewed at wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/bear.  

10 — Early Archery-Only Season for Pheasant Opens (extending through Nov. 1). For more information on upland game bird seasons and limits, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/upland-game-birds.

14 — California Fish and Game Commission Meeting. The meeting is to be held via webinar/teleconference due to health and safety concerns related to COVID-19. For more information, please visit fgc.ca.gov.

15-30 — iNaturalist Wildlife Scavenger Hunt. Join CDFW’s Gray Lodge Wildlife Area in a biodiversity scavenger hunt in Butte, Yuba or Sutter counties. In celebration of the Virtual Yuba-Sutter Farm Day 2020, this activity offers kids a way to have outdoor fun while learning about the wildlife in their communities. It targets third graders, but all are welcome to join. Participants will follow clues while observing wildlife, capturing images and using iNaturalist to record what they find. Information and guidance will be posted in the iNaturalist “Journal.” Due to the pandemic, this is a self-led activity. Please visit www.inaturalist.org/projects/yuba-sutter-farm-days-2020-gray-lodge-wildllife-area?tab=about for more information and to sign up.

17 — General Deer Season Opens in Zone X9c. For more information, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/deer.

17 — General Season for All Quail Opens in Zone Q1 and Zone Q3 (extending through Jan. 31, 2021). For more information on upland game bird seasons and limits, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/upland-game-birds.

17 — General Season for Chukar Opens Statewide (extending through Jan. 31, 2021). For more information on upland game bird seasons and limits, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/upland-game-birds.

17 — General Season for Snipe Opens Statewide (extending through Jan. 31, 2021). For more information on upland game bird seasons and limits, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/upland-game-birds.

23 California Wildlife Conservation Board Lower American River Conservancy Program Advisory Committee Meeting, 1 to 3 p.m., via Microsoft Teams Meeting. For more information, please visit wcb.ca.gov.

23 — General Duck and Goose Season Opens in the Colorado River Waterfowl Zone. For more information, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/waterfowl.

24 — General Duck and Goose Season Opens in the Balance of State, Southern San Joaquin Valley and Southern California Waterfowl Zones. For more information, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/waterfowl.

24 — General Deer Season Opens in Zone D16. For more information, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/deer.

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Media Contact:
Amanda McDermott, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8907

Snow geese at Gray Lodge Wildlife Area. CDFW photo/Travis VanZant.

California spiny lobster

Recreational Spiny Lobster Season to Open Saturday, Oct. 3

California’s recreational spiny lobster season is set to kick off Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020 at 6 a.m., continuing through March 17, 2021. California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) marine biologists are hopeful that this could be a bountiful year for divers and hoop netters.

“Scientists have observed that lobsters produce more offspring in El Niño years, and it takes five to seven years for lobsters to reach legal size,” said CDFW Marine Environmental Scientist Jenny Hofmeister. “There was a major El Niño event that started in 2014, so we might see an abundance of legal-sized bugs this year!”

Season-opening weekend is one of the busiest times on the water, as thousands of lobster divers and hoop netters flock to their favorite lobstering spot. Before heading out to the water, be sure you know all the current regulations.

“No one can attempt to take lobster prior to 6 a.m. on Oct. 3. This includes baiting your hoop net or grabbing lobsters with your hand prior to 6 a.m.,” said CDFW Lt. Eric Kord. “With a sunrise at around 6:45 a.m. on the morning of the opener, that means there will be a very short window of time to legally take lobster in the dark, when most lobsters are out.”

A lobster report card is required for all persons fishing for lobster, and individuals 16 years or older must have a valid sport fishing license and ocean enhancement stamp. When finished fishing, changing locations or changing gear type, you must immediately record the number of lobsters kept from that location. Last season, close to 46,600 lobster trips were reported with an average take of about two lobster kept per trip. This average has remained relatively stable since 2008. Santa Catalina Island and San Diego Bay were popular locations for catching lobster with 15.5 percent and 13.3 percent of the total reported recreational catch, respectively.

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 whether any lobsters were caught. If you fill up a lobster report card, you can report it to CDFW and purchase another. Failure to report catch, or lack thereof, from all lobster report cards by the reporting deadline will result in a nonreporting fee of $21.60 when a lobster report card is purchased next season.

Lobster report cards can be purchased online. Report cards cannot be printed at home, so CDFW recommends allowing 15 days for the report card to arrive in the mail. Alternatively, lobster report cards can be purchased at participating sporting goods stores and other approved license sales agents.

The daily lobster bag and possession limit is seven. Any lobster kept must be at least 3 ¼ inches long 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. Everyone taking lobster must have a measuring device capable of accurately determining legal length. A diagram illustrating this can be found on CDFW’s website.

Lobster can only be taken with hoop nets or by hand. No other device (such as spears or poles) may be used. No more than five hoop nets may be possessed by a person when taking spiny lobster or crab from a boat, and no more than 10 hoop nets may be possessed aboard a vessel, regardless of how many people are onboard. When using hoop nets on piers, jetties or other shore-based structures, only two hoop nets may be used.

When taking lobster, please consult the Ocean Sport Fishing Interactive Web Map for the California coastline to ensure you are not fishing in prohibited waters. “It is extremely important that divers and hoop netters know the location and regulations for each Marine Protected Area (MPA) near where they will be fishing. Unfortunately, every year we issue numerous citations to people taking lobster, both divers and hoop netters alike, for unlawful take in an MPA,” said Lt. Kord.

The complete spiny lobster regulations are contained in the 2020-2021 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:
Tom Mason, CDFW Marine Region, (562) 417-2791
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 804-1714