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Outdoors Q&A: When Does a Stream Become a Lake?

Read on for answers to that question and more about California regulations on hunting and fishing.

Question: I like to fish in lakes where there is freshwater stream inflow. Since regulations differ depending on whether you’re fishing in a stream or in a lake, at what point does a stream become a lake? (Stan J. via e-mail)

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Carrie Wilson
Answer: Technically, where there’s a current, the body of water is considered to be a stream. At the point where the water backs up and becomes slack (no current), the body of water is defined as a lake. Remember that this is defined by the water flow and not necessarily by a geographical area; therefore, this point can change depending on the elevation and time of the year. For example, if it’s the end of the summer and you’re standing in a half-full reservoir, if the water has a current, you’re fishing in a stream.

Question: When I hunt in California, I normally take my 9-year-old son. Can my son carry a BB gun legally with him? He will not be using the BB gun to shoot at any wildlife. It mainly gives him the feeling that he is part of the hunting party. Any information you can provide is greatly appreciated. (Jose R. via e-mail)

Answer: I applaud you for introducing your son to the outdoors and including him in your hunting excursions at such a young age. Unless there is a county ordinance prohibiting the discharge of a BB gun or air rifle in the area where you’re hunting, and as long as he is not shooting at wildlife, it should be fine for your son to legally carry his BB gun with you and the rest of your hunting party. Enjoy your time together!

Question: I heard this past week that NOAA Fisheries Service is planning to require anglers who want to fish in federal waters to now sign up on their federal registry, too. I already have my lifetime California fishing license and have to ask why I may need to now register with the federal government also? Isn’t all of this just double-dipping to generate more money? (Joe A. via e-mail)

Answer: The federal registry requirements for exemption involve information that may not be available at this time. The Department of Fish & Game is reviewing whether the information available about California anglers is sufficient to meet the federal criteria. At this time, it does not appear so. However, the NOAA is soliciting comments on the regulation, and we encourage California anglers to make
their voices heard.

Click here by Aug. 11 to comment.

Question: I know that trout may not be maintained or possessed in a live condition in any container on or attached to any boat, but is it also illegal to have trout on a stringer? We like to keep our catch on a stringer and the stringer in the water to preserve the meat. We do not attempt to keep trout alive with the intent of changing out the smaller ones. We just enjoy a good fish fry. Thank you for any help. (Stas and Holly A., Buena Park)

Answer: Keeping your fish on a stringer in the water is perfectly fine. The fish cannot swim freely when on a stringer, and this method helps keep them fresh until you’re ready for your fish fry.

Question: Can children younger than 16 fish without a license, and alone without a licensed adult? (Jennifer P. via e-mail)

Answer: Yes. Although no license is required, keep in mind that no matter their age, everyone who fishes must know what the fishing regulations are that apply to the type of fishing they are doing, and have the good judgment to abide by them.

Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish & Game. Her DFG-related question-and-answer column appears weekly at www.dfg.ca.gov/QandA/. She can be reached at [email protected]

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