Personal Fish Farming

Landowners with private ponds that contain surplus fish may sell those fish to private buyers or pet stores, but only under certain conditions. (Copyright photo: Rick E. Martin

Question: I have a pond in my backyard where the fish have been breeding very successfully, so I have lots of young healthy fish. Can I sell them to private buyers or pet stores? If so, is a license required to sell live fish? (Phil)

Answer: If the fish are species native to California or found in the wild here, you will need to have a Department of Fish and Game (DFG) Aquaculture Permit in order to legally sell or transport them, according to Retired DFG Capt. Phil Nelms. If the fish are a tropical ornamental species legally found in the pet industry in California, maintained in home aquariums for hobby purposes and will not be released into the wild, then no permit is required.

Be aware that there are many non-native species that are common in the pet industry in other states but illegal in California. These species are illegal to import, transport or possess alive. For a list of these species and more information regarding aquaculture permits, please visit our Web site at

Is there such a thing as a “feral cow”?
I have been encountering a herd of feral cows every time I go hiking on the Tehama Wildlife Area over the last four or five years. I have searched through the regulations but cannot find any references to feral cows. My question is: Can I harvest one or will I get charged with a felony for grand theft? (Khris)

Answer: “Feral cows” do not exist in Fish and Game regulations because all cattle are considered domestic (not wild or feral) livestock and are someone’s property. California may have feral pigs but there is no such thing as a feral cow. Cattle all belong to someone until that right of ownership is relinquished, and ranchers do lease cattle grazing rights on public property.

According to DFG Patrol Lieutenant Supervisor Scott Willems, it would be a felony to kill another’s cow without their permission (grand theft) and therefore unlawful for you to “harvest” cattle from the wildlife area, or any other place for that matter, without written permission. When cattle do gain access to a wildlife area, DFG has the authority to relocate them under the provisions of CCR Title 14 Section 550(b)(16).

Bottom line … if you try to do this yourself, you may be arrested for cattle rustling and find yourself in jail for up to six months along with facing a hefty fine.

What are the rules of offshore multi-day permits?
Please help clarify the rules on the offshore Multi-Day Permits with respect to actual time away from shore. If we leave on a Friday at 0900 and return Sunday at 1500, can we take a limit on Friday afternoon, Saturday and Sunday before returning? Does this meet the requirements for a three-day permit (e.g. 12 hours first and last day, Fri/Sat/Sun as three days)? Thanks in advance for the help! (John R.)

Answer: Yes, this would be correct. A Declaration for Multi-Day Fishing Trip requires that the trip is continuous and extends for a period of 12 hours or more on the first and last days of the trip. In addition, no berthing or docking is permitted within five miles of the mainland shore (Section 27.15).

According to DFG Lt. Eric Kord, as long as you leave by noon on the first day (Friday) and return after noon on Sunday, you should be able to take three limits. Only one limit may be taken per day each day though. If you leave later than noon on the first day and/or return earlier than noon on the third day, then the Multi-Day Permit will not apply on those days.

Taking parts of an animal
I’m trying to settle a bet with someone regarding the taking of wild animal parts such as a tail from a raccoon that was killed on the road. What Fish and Game regulations or code do I reference to prove my point that the taking of wild animal parts is prohibited? Thank you. (Stephanie)

Answer: You win the bet. Although Fish and Game Code section 2000.5(a) states the accidental taking of animals by a motor vehicle is not a violation of the law, it does not authorize the possession of any bird, mammal, reptile or amphibian taken by a collision with a vehicle.

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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

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