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Outdoors Q&A: Carrying a Gun While Fishing

Law allows anglers to have firearms while fishing and while hiking to and from the site

Q: I was out fishing at Pine Flat Lake this past weekend and I came across an angler. He had a handgun on his side. I thought he was a warden, but he was fishing about 20 yards from me. He was dressed in civilian clothes (blue jeans and long-sleeve shirt with a fishing vest). I didn’t talk to him or ask him his name. When I got home, I told my cousin about it, and he told me that he heard there’s a clause in Department of Fish & Game policy that makes it OK for anglers to carry a gun (pistol) while out fishing, as long as the pistol is not loaded and as long as the angler possesses a California fishing license. Is this true? (Alex V.)

Carrie Wilson
Carrie Wilson

A: There is a California Penal Code law that allows anglers to carry a gun while fishing and while hiking to and from their angling site. California Penal Code, section 12025 prohibits carrying concealed firearms in California; however, section 12027 provides the following exemption to this prohibition: “Licensed hunters or fishermen carrying pistols, revolvers or other firearms capable of being concealed upon the person while engaged in hunting or fishing, or transporting those firearms unloaded when going to or returning from the hunting or fishing expedition.”

Remember that some areas that allow fishing, such as state and national parks, and some incorporated areas where fishing is allowed prohibit the possession of any firearm. Make sure to check on the local laws where you plan to fish. The California Bureau of Firearms in the Department of Justice posts a summary of California firearm laws online. Click here.

Seeking Fish and Game for Sacred Intention?

Q: I’m a sacred arts practitioner and am seeking to find elk, trout and salmon wild-caught with prayer/sacred intention, for eating and ceremonial purposes. I am aware that it’s illegal to purchase or sell game, so how would I legally go about obtaining such meat? Do I have to hunt it myself, or are there other valid ways of doing this, such as purchasing from licensed sellers? Do indigenous populations have special privileges regarding this for religious reasons? What if said animal is given to me as a gift? (raVen j. l., MA)

A: Wild-caught (taken) elk, trout and salmon can be utilized for these purposes, if acquired legally. According to retired DFG Capt. Phil Nelms, you’re correct that neither elk nor trout (wild-caught) can be purchased, but you can purchase salmon under the regulations for commercial fishing.

You can take these species yourself under normal seasons and license requirements (see Fish and Game Code, section 7151 for free fishing licenses), take the fish without a license on the two designated free fishing days (July 1 and Sept. 6 this year), or you can receive them as a gift from anyone who took them legally.

California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 650(l) is the only law that provides specific authority to possess/utilize wildlife for ceremonial or religious purposes.

Is It Legal to Sport Fish from Commercial Salmon Troller?

Q: An acquaintance of mine runs a commercial salmon fishing troller and offers to take people out sport fishing for salmon during the closed periods for commercial salmon fishing. Is this legal? (L. Andre)

A: It depends on where you’re talking about fishing. According to Lt. Dennis McKiver, the answer is generally no — you can’t sport salmon fish from a salmon-permitted vessel. There are two exceptions, though.

One exception is for commercially permitted vessels that are also licensed as commercial passenger fishing vessels (a CPFV or party boat). Sport fishing on these vessels is allowed only on days when salmon are not also being taken for commercial purposes. To fish for salmon commercially and for sport from the same vessel on the same day would be a violation of the law.

The other exception is for sport fishing in the Klamath Management Zone (as designated by the federal Pacific Fishery Management Council), as long as the commercial salmon season is closed (Fish and Game Code, section 8232.5) and you are fishing at least 24 hours after the cutoff time to land commercial salmon for the season.

How Many Kelp Crabs Can I Keep?

Q: I would like to know the regulation for kelp crabs. Are these crabs legal to keep? If so, do they fall under the rock crab category limit of 35 per day with a minimum size of 4 inches? (William C.)

A: Kelp crabs are not rock crabs, and they fall under the general invertebrate regulations — a daily bag and possession limit of 35 animals, with no minimum size limit.

— Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish & Game. She can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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