When license is lost while fishing, can I keep the fish?

Fisherman fishing from a float tube (Photo courtesy of UDNR)

Question: I had a unique set of circumstances occur this weekend. I was fishing at our local lake and had placed my license on when I departed from the dock. I caught a few fish and had one catfish on the stringer. About mid-morning when I was removing a jacket I noticed my license was gone. I panicked and went back to all the spots I had fished looking for my license. No luck. So here I sat in a boat, with fish and no license. What should I have done? (Ken B.)

Answer: Unfortunately, if you no longer had a valid fishing license in your possession, then it was not legal for you to continue fishing. You should have released any live fish you had in possession and stopped fishing as soon as you realized you no longer had a fishing license. Assuming fishing licenses were sold at the lake, you could have purchased a one-day license in order to continue fishing. If you still had the receipt for your license, you could have obtained a duplicate license at a DFG licensing agent.

Although it wouldn’t have helped you then, the fishing license display law will change on March 1. You will no longer be required to display your license, and you’ll probably find it to be much more secure in your wallet.

Upland Game Bird Stamp needed for private clubs?
Question: I hunt exclusively at a private licensed pheasant club and do not hunt anywhere else outside the property. Do I still need an Upland Game Bird Stamp? (Jim H., Sacramento)

Answer: Yes. According to Game Warden Patrick Foy, the requirements for an Upland Game Bird Stamp do not differentiate between private licensed pheasant clubs and other areas of the state. Everyone who hunts pheasants (or any other upland game bird listed under the California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 313) must have an Upland Game Bird Stamp affixed to their license.

In addition, when hunting on a private licensed pheasant club, you must have a Shooting Permit issued by the game bird club licensee. Every hunter who hunts domestically reared game birds on a licensed game bird club is required to have a valid hunting license in possession, a valid upland game bird stamp and a valid game bird club shooting permit issued by the licensee or an agent authorized by the licensee. The shooting permit must include the hunter’s name, hunting license number, and date(s) permit is valid (CCR Title 14, section 600 [a] [4]).

Is it OK to collect saltwater worms for bait?
Question: I enjoy surf fishing and would like to collect some saltwater worms to use as bait. Are there any restrictions I need to know about? Thanks. (Toru)

Answer: Worms are a type of invertebrate and are covered in Fish and Game Code section 29.05. The daily bag and possession limit is 35 worms. Note that worms may be taken “…except that no worms may be taken in any mussel bed, unless taken incidental to the harvesting of mussels.”

Since running an answer to a question posed recently regarding game wardens’ rights for search and seizure of hunters, we received requests for clarification.
Our game wardens do not have any additional authority to search someone when making regular law enforcement contacts. Absent valid officer safety concerns, there is no search without consent. That being said, any time an officer asks for a consent search, there is a concern for safety or suspicion of a violation or hiding of evidence, etc. The “red flag” reference in the answer was relative to this situation – an increase in an officer’s awareness and alertness would be a normal response to a refusal of such a request.

In the hunting and fishing context, the search authority is much broader. Hunting and fishing are privileges, not rights. The fish and wildlife belong to the people of the state and not to any individual.  Many states, including California, recognize this and have provided a much broader search authority to game wardens when interacting with those who are engaged in hunting and fishing activities.

Searches of containers, equipment and even businesses may be conducted without a search warrant as long as the person involved was clearly associated with hunting or fishing and the search is for equipment used for the take or for fish and wildlife. This search authority is unique and does not apply to any other law enforcement officer in the state.

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Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game. She cannot personally answer everyone’s questions but will select a few to answer in this column each week. Contact her at CalOutdoors@dfg.ca.gov.

2 responses to “When license is lost while fishing, can I keep the fish?

  1. thanks for helping out those who cant find information. anyone who hunts or fishes is constantly running into questions, you keep us out of troubles we dont need. if we are honest with fish and game officials we will be better off. again thanks.

  2. Oh man. Of course if you lost your license, you should get a new one. I don’t know how many fish you caught, but I do not think it is worth risking a fine for the fish.

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