Releasing Fish at the End of the Day

DFG Associate Marine Biologist with a nice cutthroat trout. (DFG photo)

DFG Associate Marine Biologist Ken Oda with a nice cutthroat trout. (DFG photo)

Question: I do a lot of shore angling and occasionally catch a few fish that I intend to keep. By the time I’m leaving the lake, though, if I’ve only caught a couple of fish, I don’t always want to take the time to clean them and would prefer to just let them go. Is it legal to release them into the same waters where they were caught if they are still in good health, even if they have been on a stringer or in a floating fish basket for a few hours? Thanks. (Ralph, Riverbank)

Answer: Fish and Game law does not prohibit this practice, but it is not recommended because it can be hard on the fish and they won’t always survive. While putting fish on a stringer may help to keep the fish alive and fresh longer, they are still being put under stress and their gills often damaged. When gills are damaged, especially with trout, fish will still often die even if they appear to be fine when released.

Keep in mind that fish that are released immediately have the best chances of survival. The best thing would be for you to decide at the time you catch your fish whether to keep or release them, and then keep only those you intend to take home and utilize. A fish that has spent time on your stringer or in your floating basket may swim away when you let it go, but there is no guarantee that it will survive. The sooner you can release any fish that you do not want to keep, the more likely it will survive to be caught by another angler on another day.

Scoring Antlers
How are points on deer antlers determined? I would assume a forked horn buck has two points on the forked side and one point for the spike side, but I see in the harvest data most bucks taken have only two points total. (Steven J.)

Answer: Basically, anything that is “branched” in the upper two-thirds of the antler is counted as a point. Eye-guards or other bony projections on the lower one-third of the antler do not count as points.

“Forked horn” refers to the branch (or two points). This can be on one or both sides. According to Deer Program Manager Craig Stowers, the point score is not equal to the cumulative total on both antlers, as it is with whitetails. In the DFG’s deer harvest data reports, we only refer to the antler with the most points (for instance, a four-point or better buck may have four points on one side and a spike on the other).

Tuna Limits
Question: I will be heading out with some friends on their boat to fish for tuna but we are not sure of the limits. I remember they used to be unlimited, but I think limits were put on them not too long ago. (Rob A.)

Answer: Since 2007, tuna have had bag and possession limits. For albacore, the bag and possession limit is 10 fish south of Point Conception (Santa Barbara) and 25 fish north of Point Conception. Bluefin tuna have a 10 fish limit statewide. There is no limit on skipjack tuna. For yellowfin tuna, bigeye tuna and any other other tunas, the limit is 10 (CCR T-14 Section 28.38.)

No Bag Limits for Eurasian Collared Doves
Question: What are the laws regarding shooting Eurasian collared doves, which are now all over the state? My understanding is that when the season opens on Sept. 1 we can shoot 10 white-winged or mourning doves in aggregate per day (double possession limit), and there is no limit on Eurasian collared doves, ringed turtle doves and spotted doves. Does this mean that since the Eurasian collared doves have no limits and are not included in our bag limit of 10, that we can shoot as many as we want during the dove season? (Rick S., Pleasanton, CA)

Answer: Yep, everything you have said is correct. Be sure you have your upland game bird stamp on your hunting license and retain a fully-feathered wing of each bird taken for identification. Additionally, hunters should know there is no open hunting season on common ground-doves, ruddy ground-doves and Inca doves.

Hunting With a Crossbow During Archery Season?
Question: Can I hunt with a crossbow during archery season? (Jake K., Clovis)

Answer: No. Crossbows are treated like firearms during archery season and so they do not qualify as archery equipment for the purpose of taking game birds and game mammals during the archery-only season (CCR Title 14, Sections 354(b) and (g).) Hunters who qualify for and obtain a disabled archer permit are exempt and may use a crossbow during the archery season (Section 354[j]).

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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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