Using SCUBA to photograph abalone divers?

Red abalone (Photo by DFG Marine Biologist Derek Stein)

Question: I would like to photograph abalone divers diving but I need to use an air tank to obtain the imagery I want. How can I go about this without getting in trouble with Department of Fish and Game (DFG)? (Andrew B., Salt Lake City, UT)

Answer: It is legal for you to photograph abalone freedivers while you are using a tank, as long as you observe a couple of regulations.

According to DFG Associate Marine Biologist Ed Roberts, the California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.15(e) prohibits the use of SCUBA gear or surface-supplied air while taking abalone. If you are using a tank while photographing abalone freedivers, you cannot assist them with taking abalone. You cannot help them pop abalone off the rocks, or spot abalone for them, or do anything else that could be construed as giving assistance in taking abalone. In addition, under this section the possession of abalone is prohibited aboard a vessel that also contains SCUBA gear or surface supplied air. This means you will have to use a separate boat – you cannot board the same boat the abalone freedivers are using while you are using SCUBA gear.

Can mice be used as bait?
Question: Is it legal to use mice as bait for stripers and bass? (Chris M.)

Answer: Despite the fact that there are many artificial lures on the market that look like mice, real mice may not be used in inland waters. Only legally acquired and possessed invertebrates, mollusks, crustaceans, amphibians (except salamanders), fish eggs and treated and processed foods may be used for bait (CCR Title 14, section 4.00). In ocean waters, there are no restrictionson using mice as bait for stripers.

Are 12-gauge BB shotgun shells considered non-lead?
Are 12-gauge BB shotgun shells considered non-lead? Am I able to hunt coyotes with them in the lead-free area? I have not been able to get a clear answer to this question and others regarding the lead-free area. Per regulations, wardens are able to confiscate ammunition from hunters, but can I really be fined for using the wrong ammo if there is no clear information available? Which portion of the law allows items (including muzzle-loading rifles) to be confiscated under suspicion of shooting leaded bullets? I am not trying to get around the law, but I want to understand it so I don’t get in trouble by accident. It seems the law is not well-defined and has caused much confusion. (Colin K.)

Answer: Yes they are considered lead. No you cannot use them in the lead free area. The California Fish and Game Commission defines a “projectile” as any bullet, ball, sabot, slug, buckshot or other device that is expelled from a firearm through a barrel by force. It is illegal to use any projectile that contains more than 1 percent lead for hunting big game or nongame within the affected area. This includes centerfire as well as blackpowder/muzzle-loader and rimfire projectiles. Additionally, for hunting nongame, “shot” and “pellets” are considered projectiles, and lead in these projectiles is prohibited as well.

Shot made from any material other than lead (e.g., steel, bismuth or other non-toxic substances) are not prohibited by this law and may be used in the lead-free zone to take coyotes and other wildlife as authorized in the regulations.

Game wardens are authorized to seize not only ammunition but any other item (including firearms, vehicles, clothing, game, etc.) that may be necessary for evidence in court. The authority to seize evidence is not found in the Fish and Game Code but is found within various federal and state laws and court decisions regarding arrest, search and seizure.

Non-lead ammunition zone information can be found at The site is frequently updated with new information. The site also contains answers to many commonly asked questions, such as your question regarding the use of BB-size shot.

Treble hooks legal for rockfish?
Question: Is it legal to use a treble hook while fishing for rockfish south of the 40.10 line? (Kevin M.)

Answer: Yes. You may use no more than two hooks (a hook is a single hook, or a double or treble hook with multiple points connected to a common shank) and one line (CCR Title14, section 28.55 (d)). If, however, you have salmon on board, then you may only fish with salmon gear. Salmon gear consists of no more than two singsingle point, single shank barbless hooks when fishing for salmon or when salmon are on board (CCR Title14, section 27.80 (a)(2)).

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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

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