California Outdoors Q&A

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  • October 21, 2021
small, stout bird with head plume

Quail hunting

Q: How many shotgun shells am I allowed to have in my shotgun when quail hunting? I want to know if my gun needs a plug installed.

A: The short answer to your question is -- yes, you need a plug in your shotgun.

California Code of Regulations (CCR), Title 14, section 311(a) states that only shotguns “incapable of holding more than three shells in the magazine and chamber combined” may be used for taking resident small game species that include quail, pheasant, rabbits, squirrels, etc. Furthermore, the regulation goes on to specify the type of plug required. “If a plug is used to reduce the capacity of a magazine to fulfill the requirements of this section, the plug must be of one piece construction incapable of removal without disassembling the gun.”

And then there are federal regulations requiring a maximum three-shot capacity in shotguns when hunting migratory birds such as doves, snipe, ducks and geese. These are spelled out in Code of Federal Regulations, Title 50, part 20. Hope this helps.

Bakersfield lake

Q: I saw photos online of a fish with odd looking teeth that was caught in a lake in Bakersfield. Some people thought it might be a piranha. Did the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) look into this?

A: Yes, they were great photos, which made it easy to identify the fish as a pacu. Pacus are a popular tropical aquarium species that often outgrow their tanks and are unfortunately released by owners who no longer want them. Pacu and piranha can be differentiated by the shape of their mouth and teeth. When the mouth of a pacu is opened the gap between the upper and lower lip form a squarish gap, whereas on the piranha the upper and lower lip form a V-shape. And while pacu teeth may appear sharp, they are no comparison to those of piranha, which are as sharp as razors.

Winter cold water temperatures probably would have taken the fish out if the angler hadn’t. Based on their tropical water temperature requirements, we do not anticipate pacus, or piranha either, are capable of invading California waters. For more information, visit our Don’t Let it Loose campaign online.

Russian River coho

Q: What’s the status of the coho salmon population in the Russian River?

A: Before the Russian River Coho Salmon Captive Broodstock Program (RRCSCBP) began at Warm Springs Hatchery in 2001, coho salmon were close to extirpated from the Russian River basin. Only a few juveniles remained, and these juveniles were used to start the broodstock program.

Over the past 10-15 years, adult coho returning to the Russian River have fluctuated from approximately 100 to more than 700 a few years ago, with an average of around 300-500. The recent drought has resulted in fewer than 300 adult coho returning in winter 2020/21. The majority of these adult returners are fish that were released as juveniles in Russian River tributaries through the RRCSCBP. The program released between 100,000 and 230,000 coho annually, with an average of approximately 180,000.

The number of adult coho in the Russian River is indeed very low and very likely the result of a relative lack of suitable habitat, and especially a lack of adequate water, especially during the dry summer months. The latter problem obviously is exacerbated by the current drought conditions. Recovery of the endangered Central Coast coho salmon will require continued habitat restoration, combined with other management actions such as population enhancement through genetically guided conservation hatchery intervention.

Kayaking for crabs

Q: I want to catch crab from a kayak and am confused by the regulations. I live in Los Angeles, and I want to go off the coast and use crab traps and hoop nets. Are these allowed?

A: State regulations do not allow for the use of traps to recreationally take any species of crabs in Southern California south of Point Arguello in Santa Barbara County. You may use hoop nets to recreationally take crabs south of Point Arguello, provided you follow the regulations in CCR, Title 14, section 29.80(b). Visit CDFW’s Invertebrate Fishing Regulations page for full text of the regulations.

Categories: General