Q: I was traveling in my boat up Butte Creek (a public waterway) recently when I was prevented from continuing because of a tree that had fallen across the creek. I am wondering if it would be legal to cut the tree or its branches so I can pass through with my boat. I consulted two friends who thought I could but for different reasons. One thought I could cut the tree out because it was disrupting the environment, and the other thought I could because I would be unclogging a block in a running stream of water. Neither of their answers was persuasive, so I figured I would ask somebody who really knows the laws. (Tyler R.)

Carrie Wilson

Carrie Wilson

A: Although you may be traveling along a public waterway, removal of the tree blocking your passage is the responsibility of the landowner or the public agency managing the property that the creek flows through. According to Lt. John Laughlin, public waterways allow for boaters to float through public and private properties, but all vegetation is the property and responsibility of the landowners. If safe passage requires more than just pushing the vegetation to the side to allow you through, you’ll need to contact the landowners to deal with it. Depending on the severity of the tree barrier and magnitude of the removal project, the landowner may be required to get a streambed alteration agreement (FGC 1600) from the Department of Fish & Game. A tree should not constitute a fish passage blockage, but if it did, DFG should be contacted.

Sport Shrimping?

Q: I am a resident of Northern California and have been an avid “crabber” for quite a while. For a new adventure, I would like to take up “shrimping” but need some information on where to go, when to go and how to catch shrimp. Is it legal to recreationally catch shrimp? If so, what are the seasons and bag limits? Is there still a viable population of shrimp in California? Thanks for any information to point me in the right direction. (Tony M.)

A: You may take any type of ocean shrimp in California waters, but spot prawns are the most desirable and sought after for eating purposes; others are often used for bait. According to senior invertebrate specialist Kristine Barsky, because California’s spot prawns are found so deep — usually 100 fathoms (600 feet) or more — and the bag limit is only 35, most people are not interested in trapping these shrimp recreationally. Check out the crustaceans section of the ocean sport fishing regulations (beginning on page 55) for the regulations, legal gear, limits and other information you will need to know (CCR Title 14, Sections 29.80 through 29.88).

How to Handle Loaded Guns Around Game Wardens?

Q: I read your answer regarding the loaded gun “on” cars issue, and I was left wondering what the person should have done when approached by the game warden for inspection. Should she have told the warden to wait while she unloaded the gun? Should she have placed the gun on the ground? What is the proper protocol in this type of situation? (Rheannon O.)

A: First of all, vehicles should automatically be considered a poor choice to place or store a loaded weapon. According to Assistant Chief Mike McBride, when a game warden approaches, the first thing you should do is follow the directions the warden gives you. Absent any directions, here are some good options:

» Some folks unload their weapon in a calm manner to show respect for what a loaded weapon can do and respect for the game warden. This shows the warden you are handing him a safe, unloaded weapon.

» Many folks simply hand the weapon to the warden, and that is also acceptable.

» Setting the weapon on the ground is acceptable, but depending on the terrain (mud, sand, etc.), that may not be a prudent choice.

Fishing Without a License from Our Apartment Property?

Q: I live in an apartment complex that sits on Seal Slough in the San Francisco Bay Area. Do I need a fishing license to fish off the shore while standing on the apartment property with my child, who is younger than 16?

A: Yes, you would need a license, but your child would not. Anyone age 16 or older must possess a valid California fishing license to legally fish the public waters of the state. The only exceptions are the two free fishing days offered each year by the state, and fishing from a public pier in ocean waters.

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