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Outdoors Q&A: Is It Illegal to Interfere with Someone’s Fishing Experience?

State laws forbid intentionally disrupting the legal hunting efforts of others

Q: My girlfriend and I were recently surf fishing locally when some other “fishermen” showed up demanding we leave as it was their fishing spot. Things escalated quickly when one of the anglers cast his line over mine and intentionally cut it. From there the situation degraded with the other party making threats of death and bodily harm. All this over a barred perch fishing spot! The police got involved, and the instigator ended up going to jail charged with a felony (for the threats).

I understand there are state laws that forbid individuals or groups from intentionally interfering with the legal hunting efforts of others. I believe these regulations were primarily created in response to anti-hunting groups trying to both intimidate legitimate hunters and scare away game from being accessible. Do these same laws apply to legal fishing?

Are the above-mentioned laws Fish and Game codes or some other California state statute, and are violations of these laws misdemeanors or felonies? I’d like to know if my legal fishing efforts were interfered with and whether I should ask the city attorney to add any additional charges. (Dan F., Venice, CA)

A: You are correct in your understanding of laws regarding interfering with hunting, and these same laws protect any individual engaged in shooting, hunting, fishing, falconry, hunting dog field trials, hunting dog training or trapping where the activity is taking place — even for surf perch!

According to Department of Fish & Game Lt. Todd Tognazzini, Fish and Game Code, section 2009 is the law you are referring to, and it is punishable as an infraction but escalates to a misdemeanor for a second conviction in a two-year period.

The law is a little different than most Fish and Game Code sections in that the warden has to establish that the offender has specific intent to interfere with the activities listed. In addition, “interfere with” is defined in the law as any action that physically impedes, hinders or obstructs the lawful pursuit of these activities, including but not limited to:

» 1. Actions taken for the purpose of frightening away animals from the location where the lawful activity is taking place

» 2. Placing or maintaining signs, gates, locks or barricades that prohibit or deny access to lands without authorization from the landowner or lessee or an authorized designee of the landowner or lessee

» 3. Placing food on lands not belonging to the person for purposes of eliminating the lawful ability to hunt because of the presence of bait.

Hunting with Swords

Q: I was curious about the laws behind using a sword (or any blade in excess of, say, 20 inches in length) as a means of take, primarily as a secondary line of defense against another predator (or an extremely angry wild pig). I know it sounds odd, but curiosity abounds! (Mark S.)

A: Swords and knives are not a legal method of take for big game and are thus illegal, including when hunting an extremely angry wild pig. Legal methods of take for big game (such as wild pigs) are defined in the 2011-12 California Mammal Hunting Regulations booklet under sections 353 and 354.

Stuffing Wild Owls

Q: I found a dead great horned owl while on a walk with my dad last night. I’d like to get it stuffed but heard it might be illegal to do this. What are the rules when it comes to possessing an owl body? (Morgan)

A: You are correct that this owl, or any part of it, is illegal to possess. These birds are protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Fish and Game Code, sections 3503.5 and 3800. The only way to legally possess the owl and/or to get this animal stuffed is if you can qualify for a California scientific collection permit, which means the animal must be used for education or scientific research. Otherwise, you must leave it where you found it.

Can Game Wardens in the Field Find My License Through My CDL?

Q: Under the new electronic license system in California, do I still need my fishing license with me, or is my California driver license all that I need? What about the enhancement stickers and second rod stamps? Are all of these accessible by wardens in the field? (Josh V.)

A: No, by statute, you still must have the actual license in your possession. The licenses are not tied to the CDL database system, so game wardens have no way of looking them up. If you are caught without proper licenses and stamps in your immediate possession, you are likely to be cited.

— 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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