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Outdoors Q&A: Is It Legal to Hunt From a Boat?

The Department Fish & Game answers that question and others about regulations on fishing and hunting.

Question: Is it legal to drift down or anchor a boat in a river to waterfowl hunt? The river is surrounded by unincorporated, privately owned farmland with the occasional home or barn visible from the water. I know you can’t discharge a firearm within 150 yards of a dwelling or near a public road, and I know that all motors must be out of the water. Would drifting be considered forward motion? Should I contact the Department of Fish & Game to inquire about the specific stretch of river I would like to hunt? (Michael K.)

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Carrie Wilson
Answer: It would be legal to drift down with the current or anchor a boat in a river to hunt waterfowl as long as you entered the area legally and were on navigable waters. According to game warden Todd Tognazzini, hunting may not occur while boats are under power or under the influence of power (i.e. gliding from powered forward motion even after ignition is turned off). Only human- or current-powered forward motion is allowed while hunting (ref. F&G Code 3002).

The distance required from a residence or other occupied dwelling is 150 yards, and if the adjacent private land is fenced, cultivated or posted with no trespassing signs at 1/3-mile intervals, you wouldn’t be able to legally enter those lands even to retrieve a downed duck or goose. For specific questions about a particular body of water, contact the closest DFG regional office. Regional office information can be found at

Question: When the Lake Davis poisoning project was completed, did Fish & Game replant a baitfish population as well as restocking the trout? If so, what baitfish were replanted? (Dale S.)

Answer: No, a baitfish population was not put into Lake Davis after the chemical treatment to eradicate northern pike. According to Lake Davis project manager Randy Kelly, Lake Davis has good populations of insects, crayfish and other invertebrates that have supported excellent trout fishing in the past and should continue to do so. Baitfish were not native in that drainage, and bullhead, bass and pumpkinseed are still in the reservoir. The chemical treatment was done at a concentration that was adequate to eliminate all the pike and trout, which are more sensitive than the above warm water species, but was not at a high enough concentration to kill all of the above mentioned fish that survived in the lake.

Use of live or dead baitfish is generally prohibited in the Sierra District, which includes Lake Davis, except as provided in Section 4.30 of the Fish & Game regulations. Lake Davis should provide excellent trout fishing after ice out (when the surface covering of ice on the lake thaws) in the late winter or early spring. About 1 million trout ranging from fingerling size (3 to 5 inches) up to 18 pounds were restocked in the reservoir and surrounding tributary streams after the treatment to eliminate pike. Fishing was very good in 2008 and should be excellent in 2009.

Question: We often see sharks swimming on the surface, and sometimes they even freely swim up right next to our boat. I know it’s legal to spear and harpoon most sharks, so would it also be legal to catch them with a gaff if they are within easy reach with a gaff pole? (Steve S., Carlsbad)

Answer: No, free-gaffing is not a legal method of take for any species of sharks. While the regulations allow for the take of sharks (except white sharks) with spears, harpoons, and bow and arrow fishing gear (Section 28.95), a gaff may not be substituted for a spear or harpoon. In addition to those devices, the law (Section 28.65) allows for sharks to be taken by hook and line or by hand (although “by hand” doesn’t sound like the wisest method to me).

(A gaff is any hook with or without a handle used to assist in landing fish or to take fish in such a manner that the fish does not take the hook voluntarily in its mouth [Section 28.65(d)]).

Question: Some of my favorite hunting areas now have “No Hunting” signs hung on the fence lines. The problem is that the signs are being posted by people who don’t even own the land. That has to be illegal, but I’m not sure what the regulations say. Can you offer some help? (Jack L.)

Answer: It is illegal for someone to post any sign prohibiting trespassing or hunting on any land unless authorized by the owner or the person in lawful possession of the property. By the same token, it is also unlawful for any person to maliciously tear down, mutilate or destroy any sign, signboard or other notice forbidding hunting or trespass on land (ref. FGC Section 2018).

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

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