Wednesday, November 25 , 2015, 1:40 am | Fair 55º

Outdoors Q&A: Are Hatchery Fish Healthy?

Logging roads, python skin apparel and bluegill prompt other questions about hunting and fishing regulations.

By Carrie Wilson |

Question: I have been fishing the Owens River Gorge for the past 23 years and the fishing recently has been great, but the fish were full of parasites. I know that area was recently stocked, and I can’t help but feel they stocked it with infected fish. In the more than 23 years I have been camping and fishing the lakes and streams in Bishop, I have never encountered that type of problem. What is going on? (Marie E.)

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Carrie Wilson
Answer: This is a common question asked by anglers. According to Dr. William Cox, the Department of Fish & Game‘s program manager for fish production and distribution, it is also common to think that the problem comes from the hatcheries, which it does not. Hatchery fish are fed a pasteurized diet that eliminates infective stages of metazoan (worm) parasites. None of our hatchery fish has worms. DFG pathologists do many examinations of our hatchery fish before planting to ensure that we are not planting diseased fish, and worms are never found.

When a clean hatchery fish enters natural waters, it can become infected with parasites existing in that water, and usually the source is wild fish residing there. Also, as fish density increases, so does the likelihood that parasites will become a problem. Ironically, as the fishing gets better and better because of more fish, so does the possibility of wormy fish.

The DFG values input from anglers, which gives us good information on the status of our fish and fishery. We are happy to examine anglers’ catches for worms or other parasites or diseases. For more information, call Dr. Mark Adkison at 916.358.2830.

For those fish you’ve caught, they still will be safe to eat as long as you cook them thoroughly. The heat process kills all parasites.

Question: You’ve said before that it is against the law to shoot across public roads or to hunt from a public road. In many years of hunting in the Sierra, it is very common to walk the logging roads to hunt. Do these constitute “public roads”? (Tom R.)

Answer: According to game warden Todd Tognazzini, public roads could be logging roads if vehicles are allowed to travel back and forth, but many logging roads allow only foot traffic. Section 374(c) of the California Penal Code states: “Every person who shoots any firearm from or upon a public road or highway is guilty of a misdemeanor.” Road and roadway are each defined in the Vehicle Code under sections 527 and 530. Generally, a road means an existing vehicle route ordinarily used for vehicular travel, and a roadway means a portion of a highway designed for ordinary vehicular travel.

Question: Is it legal for me to purchase bluegill for my home aquarium? (Johnny, Long Beach)

Answer: According to game warden Patrick Foy, a few sections of the regulations taken in combination prohibit purchase or transport of locally caught bluegill or any warm water game fish for your aquarium.

Aquariums and pet stores are not authorized to sell warm water game fish (Title 14, Section 227), and anglers are prohibited from transporting fish alive from the waters where taken (Title 14, Section 1.63). Transportation of live fish is prohibited in order to prevent the introduction of non-native species into California’s freshwater environment. Many very destructive invasive species present in California’s waters today are related to introduction by irresponsible aquarium owners. As a reminder, never release any fish or algae species into California waterways.

Question: I’ve been told that California bans the sale of python skin apparel, but that it’s not a Fish & Game law. Can you please explain? (David D., New York)

Answer: While the Fish & Game Code contains most of the laws that protect fish and wildlife in the state, there is a section of the California Penal Code that relates to a few select animals. According to Foy, Penal Code Section 653o states it is unlawful to import for commercial purposes, or possess for sale, products made from elephants, whales, many of the big cats, cobras, pythons and several other animals. However, a person who purchased python boots in a lawful manner out of California can legally possess them in California, as long as they are not for sale.

Question: Is it legal to use artificial (plastic) corn cobs to attract waterfowl? I have recently seen this product available in hunting catalogs. (Phil F.)

Answer: Under state and federal baiting laws, plastic corn cobs would not be considered bait.

Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish & Game. Her DFG-related question-and-answer column appears weekly at She can be reached at [email protected]

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