Question: What are the regulations regarding using a fishing kite from shore or pier to catch fish? We use these specially modified kites to help get our lines farther than we could normally cast them. (Jenny C.)

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Carrie Wilson

Answer: There are no specific regulations prohibiting the use of a kite or other wind-borne device (a helium-filled balloon, for example) to help get your line out to where the fish are.

Littering is a concern, however. Anglers have been cited for using a balloon and then releasing the balloon when a fish is hooked, or when the line reaches the desired distance from shore. As long as you’re not intentionally releasing (or losing) your kite in the process, there is nothing in Department of Fish &Game regulations that would prevent you from using a kite in this manner. There may be local (city or county) ordinances that pertain to this, however, so please check with local authorities.

Question: I live in a residential area and raccoons have begun visiting my backyard at night. They are using my yard as a rest stop in their nightly urban foraging. Our backyard is landscaped, including a grass lawn. I am looking for anything short of cages to discourage them. Is there a nontoxic substance I can spread near their entrance/exit point to discourage their visits? They don’t appear to be eating or digging up anywhere in the yard, but they’ve adopted my yard as their restroom. (John W., Elk Grove)

Answer: We see an upsurge in raccoon sightings and reports this time of year because youngsters born in the spring are now independent of their moms and the adults are building up their fat reserves for the winter.

According to Fish & Game associate wildlife biologist Jeff Cann, you should first remove all attractants from your yard such as pet food, dropped fruit and old garden vegetables, and securely close all garbage cans and compost heap containers. Even water can be an attractant this time of year, so if you have a fountain or fish pond, try to make it off-limits (e.g. electric fence or dry it out). If the raccoons are coming in through holes in the fence, block those entry points with wire, wood or some other barrier.

Keep in mind that raccoons are excellent climbers and are capable of gaining access to yards by climbing fences or using overhanging limbs to bypass fences altogether. Cutting overhanging limbs may help keep them from dropping in.

If the raccoons are climbing over your fence, one deterrent could be to line the top with spikes or sharp tack strips. An easy way to do this is via carpet tack strips, which are essentially a lot of little nails anchored in wood that carpet installers use to stretch carpet over. If you completely line the top of the fence with these, then the raccoons won’t use the top board as a transit way either. A “hot wire” from an electric fence charger at the top of the fence would greatly increase the effectiveness of a fence for excluding raccoons, but you’ll need to find a way to properly ground it.

While these may all seem like extreme measures, the point is to make your yard less hospitable than your neighbors so the pesky critters will move on. Senior wildlife biologist Terry Palmisano also offers that if you’re thinking about chemical detractors, there are no registered toxicants or fumigants that we are aware of available for control of raccoons, but Capsaicin (a chili pepper extract) is registered as a repellent for raccoons. It may be useful in deterring trash-raiding raccoons.

A great place for more information is the University of California Integrated Pest Management Program page on raccoons. Click here to access the site.

Question: My brother and I have two burning questions we have been wondering about. Is it legal to use licorice as fish bait? Also, we observed a man with a syringe injecting air into his bait worms so they would float off the bottom. Is that legal? (Marcus O.)

Answer: Processed food, such as licorice, are legal under bait regulations for inland waters found beginning in section 4.00 CCR, Title 14. It is also legal to inject air into a fishing worm, and many such kits are found at sporting goods outlets. The method can be an effective way to keep a worm off the bottom of lakes with heavy bottom vegetation.

Question: Is it legal to lure lobsters out of a hole with a piece of sardine in your hand? (David C.)

Answer: Sure, you can give it a try, but I don’t know how successful you’ll be. The law says that skin and scuba divers may take crustaceans by the use of the hands only and may not possess any hooked device while diving or attempting to dive for them (Section 29.80). There is no prohibition against waving snacks in front of them.

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