Bang Sticks for Self-Defense Against Sharks?

White shark (Photo by Callaghan Fritz-Cope / Pacific Shark Research Foundation)

Question: We are spearfish divers and are wondering if bang sticks or power heads are legal to use in self-defense against sharks approaching us? They are like a fold-out stick with a bullet at the end. You press the stick against a shark if it comes in too short, and it fires. There are many companies that will ship them to California but I heard they are a firearm and must be registered. I’ve also heard that because of what they are used for, they are legal and don’t need to be registered. I’ve called a few local police departments to ask but they have no idea. (Christopher)

Answer: California Fish and Game law does not prohibit possession of these devices. However, according to Department of Fish and Game (DFG) retired Captain Phil Nelms, bang sticks and/or powerheads that use an explosive cartridge are firearms. Firearms are not a legal method of take for sharks and can’t be used to take or land sharks, or any other species of fish.

Disabled archery permit?
Question: I have a disability in my right eye which prevents me from being able to view through the peep sights on my bow. However, I’ve learned to use my left eye for shooting my rifle, and have practiced with a crossbow. I would like to be able to hunt during the archery season with my crossbow. How can I legally do this? (Erik, Laytonville)

Answer: DFG may issue, free of charge, a disabled archery permit that allows physically disabled persons to use a crossbow during archery-only season in accordance with California Hunting Regulations (CCR Title 14, section 354). However, and unfortunately for you, the regulation subsection (354(k)) specifically states that the disabled archer permit may be issued to any person with a physical disability that impairs one or both upper extremities (arms) which prevents him/her from being able to draw and hold a bow in a firing position. Since your disability is to your eye and does not prevent you from drawing and holding your bow, you do not qualify for a disabled archer permit.

Fishing for shad with dip nets?
Question: Is it legal to dip net for shad in the Sacramento River?

Answer: Threadfin shad may be taken by dip net in all waters. For American shad, dip nets may be used only within Valley District waters. In all other waters, American shad may be taken by angling only.

How do children without identification cards get report cards?
Question: The new automated licensing system requires that a driver’s license or ID card be presented in order to issue a fishing license and sturgeon report card. Children are required to have their own report card. However, children do not have ID cards. How does a child get a report card or a fishing license if they do not have a driver’s license at the age of 17 or 18, as many city residents do not? (Jared K.)

Answer: You are correct in that children (15 years and under) are required to have their own report card if they are fishing in waters that require a report card. Sport fishing licenses are not required until they reach 16 years of age.

All customers purchasing hunting or fishing license items, applying for any license, tag, permit, reservation or other entitlement issued through the automated licensing system must provide a form of identification to make their first purchase. Youths under 18 years of age that do not have their own identification may use their parent’s or guardian’s ID number or their own birth certificate to establish their record in the system. When they reach 18 years of age, individuals that provided only a parent or guardian’s ID will be required to provide their own identification to purchase licenses.

Acceptable forms of identification include the following (as per CCR Title 14, section 700 4(b)):

• Valid driver’s license or state-issued identification card
• US Birth Certificate
• US Certificate or Report of Birth Abroad
• INS American Indian Card
• Birth Certificate or passport issued from a US Territory
• US Passport
• US Military Identification Cards (active or reserve duty, dependent, retired member, discharged from service or medical/religious personnel)
• Certificate of Naturalization or Citizenship
• Previously issued ALDS license

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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

One response to “Bang Sticks for Self-Defense Against Sharks?

  1. Bang sticks are probably more dangerous to a diver than the sharks. As an avid spearfisher I encourage you to seek out the safest practices that limit shark encounters, such as braining your fish and creating distance between yourself and your stringer via a floatline or buoy system.

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