Q: I would like to know if it’s OK to jug line fish for catfish in California lakes. Jug line fishing is having a float (such as a one-gallon plastic jug) tied to a series of hooks, all on one fishing line. The hooks are spread 20 inches apart and submerged while the fishing line floats on the water. The line is about 10 feet long and does not drift because it’s tied to the fishing pole main line. The jug is also weighed down for this purpose. I do not see any laws in the fish and game manual that states this is prohibited. (Benjamin T., San Jose)

A: No, the device you describe is considered mousetrap gear and is not legal to use in California. Generally, all fish must be taken by “angling,” which requires the line to be held in the hand, or with line attached to a pole or rod held in the hand or closely attended. There’s also a limit of three hooks per pole (Fish and Game Code, sections 1.05, 2.00 and 2.10).

Scouting Out of Season with a Gun

Q: Before deer season opens, I try to spend some weekends hiking through the areas I intend to hunt to scout for deer, learn their patterns, spot deer trails and become familiar with the land. I am aware that no guns are allowed to be carried during this time.

My question is in regard to protecting myself while scouting out these areas. I have spotted mountain lions a time or two, and this worries me. What does the Department of Fish & Game suggest I bring along to defend myself? Can I bring a handgun, or are all guns prohibited? (Mariel)

A: Generally, Fish and Game laws do not prohibit carrying guns. However, in some circumstances, such as during special archery seasons, while hunting big game under the authority of an archery-only tag, and while training hunting dogs in the field, the possession of firearms is prohibited.

According to retired DFG Capt. Phil Nelms, there are restrictions in the Penal Code that prohibit carrying firearms in certain areas, but these restrictions typically do not apply to people who are legally hunting or fishing. And, even if the season is not open for deer in the area you are scouting, the season for nongame mammals and jackrabbits is open all year. As long as you are in an area where you have permission to be, you may carry a firearm. And, if the area is not closed to the discharge of firearms, the firearm may be loaded. Carrying concealed firearms is generally prohibited, although there are exceptions in the Penal Code.

Additional information regarding the laws for firearms is available from the California Department of Justice publication “Firearms Laws.” Click here to access it online, under the heading “Helpful Information.”

Why Can’t a Hooked Cowcod Be Kept?

Q: When fishing for rockfish, we sometimes hook cowcod. It is the law to release this species, but these fish become floaters and are dead when they are brought to the surface. Why not allow anglers to keep one accidentally hooked fish since they are floaters and will die anyway? (Ted K.)

A: There is no take allowed for cowcod because their population numbers are low and the National Marine Fisheries Service has declared them to be “overfished.” According to associate marine biologist Ed Roberts, the federal rebuilding plan for cowcod stipulates a low harvest limit for the entire state of California per year. Because this harvest limit is so low, there is no room for any directed take of cowcod.

If anglers were allowed to keep cowcod that were taken incidentally while fishing for other species, inevitably unethical anglers would target cowcod and claim they were caught incidentally. This would then cause the small annual harvest limit to be reached very quickly, resulting in the NMFS and the state needing to take action to reduce catches to avoid exceeding the harvest limit. The most likely course of action would be the closure of the bottomfish fishery for all species.

While it seems wasteful to release cowcod caught accidentally, there really is no other way to ensure the total incidental catch amount does not exceed the harvest limit while still allowing anglers to target other bottomfish.

Hunting Hours for Wild Pigs

Q: I plan to pig hunt in Tehama County but am unsure of the hunting hours. The pigs are most active at night. Is it legal to hunt them after dark? (Micky S.)

A: Wild pigs are big game and subject to the same legal shooting hours as deer, bear, elk and antelope. Hunting and shooting hours for these species run from a half-hour before sunrise to a half-hour after sunset (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 352).

— Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish & Game. She can be reached at cwilson@dfg.ca.gov.