After I have my bag limit, can I still fish catch-and-release?

Photo courtesy of USDA NRCS

Question: If I catch my limit of the fish I’m fishing for, can I continue fishing catch-and-release? If my buddy doesn’t have his limit, can I fish for him? If I don’t want to keep the fish, can I fish for other people? (Michael H.)

Answer: When fishing in freshwater, each person is allowed to take only one daily bag limit per day. Once you catch your daily limit for a species of fish, you are done fishing for that type of fish.

If you want to catch and release fish, you must do that before you take the last fish of the limit. If you want to give someone your fish, you may do so but those fish will still count toward your daily bag limit, and the person receiving the fish cannot have more than the legal limit in their possession either.

In addition, if you take an overlimit (for example, seven trout when the limit is five), and you give two to someone else, that person is now in possession of illegally taken fish and could be cited, too, even if they are not over their daily bag limit.

When fishing in the ocean, however, boat limits are allowed for anglers fishing from a boat. This means that all anglers can continue fishing until the total numbers of fish on the boat are equal to the total number of fish allowed for every angler, despite who actually caught each fish. Upon departing the boat, each passenger can only possess one daily bag limit.

Can felons legally hunt?
If I have been convicted of a felony, can I still apply for a hunting license? My felony was considered “white collar” and was non-violent with no weapons involved. (Michael S.)

Answer: Yes, but you must first complete a hunter safety course. Once you have a felony, regardless of the type of crime, you cannot own or possess a firearm. You can obtain a hunting license but will be restricted to shooting archery or crossbow or air rifles only.

Are artificial lures with scent attractants applied still “artificial”?
I have a question about using scented products on artificial lures fished in rivers where only artificial lures are allowed. The question came up recently while fishing for steelhead from my drift boat on the Mattole River in Humboldt County, where “only artificial lures with barbless hooks may be used.” The only definition of an artificial lure I could find was “a man-made lure or fly designed to attract fish.” This definition does not include scented or flavored artificial baits.

Given this, is it legal to apply scented liquids or products to lures while fishing in rivers where only artificial lures may be used? This seems confusing. Does the law prohibit lures with scent impregnated in the lure from the factory, or lures with scent applied by the angler, or both? Any light you can shed on this issue would be greatly appreciated. (North Coast Angler)

Answer: The California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.11 states that an artificial lure “… does not include any scented or artificial baits.” This means that attractants may not be applied to the lure while fishing in waters restricted for artificial lure use.

In addition, some people spray WD-40 on their lures. This substance contains petroleum and is specifically prohibited by law to be deposited or introduced into the waters of the state (Fish and Game Code, section 5650).

Shooting at varmits from a car roof  top?
I know it’s illegal to shoot from your car, but is it legal to park and shoot from the roof of your car for varmints? Thanks. (Harry N.)

Answer:  Shooting from the roof of your car is only allowed if on private property where public access is prohibited. However, you may not take any bird or mammal from a motor vehicle (CCR Title14, section 251). Remember, the definition of “take” includes any attempt to take, such as shooting at the bird or mammal. Therefore, the only shooting allowed would be target shooting. Otherwise, a loaded gun is not allowed in or on a vehicle driving or parked on or along a road or other way open to the public (FGC, section 2006).

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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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