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Sunday, December 9 , 2018, 5:27 pm | Fair 64º


Outdoors Q&A: No Digging in Mud Without Fishing License

According to Fish & Game laws, even the appearance of digging for clams without a valid license can get you in trouble

Q: I can’t purchase a fishing license this year because of a citation I received last year while helping my friend take his abalone. The penalty was a one-year fishing prohibition, which I deeply regret. I now have been invited to join some friends who will be clamming next weekend, and I would like to know where my limit is to avoid getting into more trouble. Obviously, I am not planning to take any clams that my friends catch, but I would like to join them while they are digging. Is digging mud considered fishing while only my friends who have licenses take clams that they find? I personally love nature, so I hope you can help me. (Jerry)

Carrie Wilson
Carrie Wilson

A: Sorry, Jerry. California Fish & Game law prohibits taking clams without a valid fishing license in your possession. Fish & Game laws also define taking clams to include any activity that can be considered to hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill or attempt to hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill any clam.

According to retired DFG Capt. Phil Nelms, the laws mean that if you’re digging in mud and you don’t have a valid license, you may be arrested. You also may be arrested if you are in the mud and are with people who are taking clams even if you aren’t digging. It would be best to just watch your friends from a distance as they enjoy their clamming experience.

Q: While wandering through a fair in Nevada last week, I found a vendor selling seafood and abalone shells, and the shells still had the sport tags attached. I know that in California there is a law that makes selling abalone shells illegal, but do California laws hold up in another state? Is it legal to sell abalone shells in another state even though they were taken by someone with a California sport-fishing license? (Paul R., Carmel)

A: Abalone and their shells taken under the authority of a sport-fishing license may never be bought, sold, bartered or traded. Although California laws apply only when in California, transporting abalone (including the shells) and any other fish taken in California under the authority of a recreational fishing license across state lines for the purpose of sale is a violation of federal law. This federal law, the Lacey Act, can be enforced by any state wildlife officer who has been deputized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Most California game wardens are deputized.

The Lacey Act (U.S. Code Title 16, Chapter 53, Sections 3371-3378), passed by Congress in 1900, was the first federal law to address wildlife protection nationwide. It is a federal wildlife protection law that makes it unlawful to import, export, transport, sell, buy or possess fish, wildlife or plants taken, possessed, transported or sold in violation of any federal, state, foreign or Native American tribal law, treaty or regulation.

The law allows the federal government to help states, tribes and countries around the world safeguard their wildlife resources. In its original version, the Lacey Act supported efforts by states to protect their game animals and birds. It prohibited the interstate shipment of wildlife killed in violation of state or territorial law.

Those who knowingly violate the Lacey Act face maximum penalties of up to five years in prison and fines as high as $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for organizations. Civil penalties may run as high as $10,000. Those convicted of felony offenses under the Lacey Act may be required to forfeit vehicles, aircraft, vessels or other equipment used to commit the crime in addition to any fish, wildlife or plants involved.

Q: If I want to hunt deer and bear in the D-6 zone during archery season in August, would it be legal to carry a pistol for self-defense protection only? I want to be legal but also don’t want to get killed by a bear just because lawmakers don’t trust me or the hunters of California to use a pistol only in self-defense. (Scott S.)

A: Hunters are prohibited from carrying a firearm while hunting during an archery-only season or under the authority of an archery-only tag. Fish and Game Commission regulations are very clear on this issue. Section 354(h) states: “Except as provided in subsection 353(g), archers may not possess a firearm while hunting in the field during any archery season, or while hunting during a general season under the provisions of an archery-only tag. The exception in 353(g) applies to hunting under a muzzle-loading rifle/archery tag.”

— 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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