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Outdoors Q&A: Anglers With Special Needs

Read on for answers to your questions about state regulations on hunting and fishing.

Question: My 11-year-old son is a special-needs child. He has cerebral palsy and is developmentally delayed. He doesn’t have the dexterity to reel in a fish on his own and often doesn’t have the attention span to stay with it until the fish is landed. He is very interested in fishing, though, and asks to go often. If I help him reel in his fish, which could appear to be reeling it in for him, can we still keep two limits of fish? I also know some adults who have special needs, and of course my son is getting older all the time. Are there programs that will allow them to fish without a license or with reduced-cost licenses? (Ron D., Valencia)

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Carrie Wilson
Answer: This is a tough one and one in which the answers are not completely black and white. Since I know from previous conversations that you’re fishing in freshwater, I would say that if you’re actively assisting your son and actually doing most of the fishing for him (casting, reeling and/or tending the gear), you should probably stick with retaining just one limit between you.

I understand and empathize with your situation as you describe it, but from strictly a law enforcement standpoint, if you have taken one limit yourself, then in order to continue fishing and retain more, your son must be able to clearly do most of his own fishing. Unfortunately, we do not have special provisions in the law right now to allow a parent or guardian to catch their own limits, and then to actively fish for another person who is not physically able so that the special-needs person may then take their own limit.

There is one exception to this rule, though, if you two are fishing together from your boat in ocean waters. Boat limits under Fish & Game Code Section 27.60© will allow the two of you to take and possess two limits of fish regardless of which of you actually does most of the fishing and catching.

Basically, boat limit totals are determined by multiplying the number of people aboard a vessel who are licensed or otherwise authorized to sport fish in ocean waters off California by the individual daily bag limits authorized for a species or species group in those waters. There are some exceptions, so please first read the entire section found on Page 37 of the 2008-09 Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet.

Regarding a fishing license, your son will not need his own until he turns 16. Once he does, we have free fishing licenses available to people with various disabilities that are good for five years, and it sounds like he should qualify. Click here to check out the Department of Fish and Game’s Web site for a list of these licenses and the criteria necessary to apply for them.

Question: I have been a hunter and target shooter for more than 50 years. I’ve heard different agencies blaming fires on sparks caused by bullets striking rocks. I was not aware that lead and copper would cause sparks. Am I missing something, or is this more hype to discourage hunting and target shooting? (Charles M.)

Answer: It is not necessarily the bullet itself but the object contacted that can cause ignition. Fires caused from target shooting could be because of either bullets striking a rock with the geological potential to spark just right or shooting at metal targets that have the potential to start a fire.

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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