Cormorants Dining on Trout?

Cormorants are fish eating birds that enjoy feasting on small trout, bass and other aquatic species in many of our lakes and reservoirs. They occur in both inland and ocean waters. Presently, cormorants are migratory birds under protection of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.(Photo: DFG file photo by Laird Henkel)

Question: I watched a Fish and Game hatchery truck stock a nearby lake last week with about 100 pounds of catchable trout. Afterwards between 25-55 cormorants hung out to catch and eat trout over the next few days while anglers caught very few. I want to fish at this lake but truly believe that the trout are already gone. What part of my fishing license fees are dedicated to the feeding of these birds? Is it possible for bigger fish to be stocked that cannot be swallowed by these birds? (John T.)

Answer: Cormorants do eat fish, including the trout that the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) raises and plants with the dollars that come from the sale of fishing licenses. In the past, many fish and game agencies throughout the nation, including the DFG, have tried various control and even eradication programs to reduce cormorant numbers and increase fish populations.
Idaho tried raising trout to16-18 inches on a limited basis to reduce cormorant predation. The cost of feed and extra time tied up in hatchery ponds raising the fish to a larger size was extensive. Bird predation was reduced because of the difficulty of catching and swallowing the larger fish. Since larger but fewer trout were planted, limits were reduced and the water basically become a trophy trout fishery or a catch-and-release fishery with bait restrictions. Other states have tried rotating planting schedules and planting at night during the cormorant nesting season when their food requirements peak according to DFG Information Officer Harry Morse.

In most instances these programs were not effective or were cost prohibitive.

Presently, cormorants are migratory birds under protection of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS.) According to retired Senior Fishery Biologist Dennis Lee, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department petitioned the USFWS, so far unsuccessfully, for broader tools for decreasing the cormorant population. Some groups have called for cormorant population reduction via shooting in areas where dozens, if not hundreds, of these birds congregate to feed. USFWS research in the Great Lakes region has shown that cormorants will avoid such danger by moving to another area where they are not harassed. While that might immediately reduce pressure on an individual body of water, control measures over an entire region would be necessary for effective population reductions.

Unfortunately, DFG does not have a viable solution for reducing cormorants or other types of predation on stocked trout. As an alternative, you might check the DFG’s Web site for trout stocking information and look at our online fishing guide for another nearby lake. Hopefully, these two resources will help you to have a more successful fishing trip free of pesky cormorants.

Is It Legal to Take Non-Licensed Passengers Along to Observe While Fishing?
Question: As an avid fisherman on a private vessel at a slip, I often take friends out hoop netting or fishing. Often these friends are perfectly happy to operate my boat while I tend the fishing line(s) or hoop nets. Do these companions need to have a fishing license as long as we follow the bag limits and limits on nets and lines in the water for a single fisherman? It is often a spur of the moment decision to go out, and sending my guest off to get a license for one or two hours of fishing is inconvenient at best. (Jack Z.)

Answer: It is legal to take non-licensed passengers along to observe you while fishing or hoop netting as long they do not engage at all in any of the actual sport fishing activities. It is only in the commercial fishing industry where those who assist with the boat handling and other tasks need to have their own commercial fishing license.

Possession of Loaded Firearms in a Vehicle
Question: During the MA-1 (muzzleloader/archery only) deer season last December, I was talking with some hunters about the new electronic firing muzzleloaders (CVA Electra). Since they are unlike the normal “cap and ball” guns, how would the law regarding possessing a loaded firearm in a vehicle apply with these guns? (Jeff H.)

Answer: The gun you are describing is one in which the trigger is essentially an electronic switch powered by a 9-volt battery which ignites the powder to fire the projectile. According to tactical weapons specialist Lt. John Nores, removal of the powder, 9-volt battery or projectile from the barrel would make the gun “unloaded” per statute (Fish and Game Code Section 2006).

Are lobster Card Numbers Supposed to be Written on Your Fishing License?
Question: I have heard that people with the new lobster card are being cited for not writing their lobster card number on their fishing license. Presently there is no provision on the license similar to the abalone card calling for this. (Confused in S.B.)

Answer: Lobster card numbers are required to be recorded on the fishing license of the person using the report card (CCR Title 14 Section 1.74c(5)). This means it would be a violation to not write the lobster report card number on the corresponding fishing license. The fact that there is not currently a printed location for the lobster card number to be recorded does not make it legal to ignore the requirement of the law. Fishing licenses are not required for people under the age of 16 so this regulation doesn’t apply to those individuals. Abalone divers have been cited for this violation as well.

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Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game. While she cannot personally answer everyone’s questions, she will select a few to answer each week. Please contact her at

One response to “Cormorants Dining on Trout?

  1. It’s hard to come by experienced people on this subject, but you seem like you know what you’re talking about!

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