Small Game Hunting Restrictions

western gray squirrel in tree
Western gray squirrel. CDFW file photo.

Question: What is the reasoning for not allowing small game (squirrel and rabbit) hunting in the Sacramento River National Wildlife Refuge units? The California squirrel hunting map indicates that the entire north state is an open squirrel zone and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) website does not say anything about not being able to hunt these areas. There is a list of “huntable” game at, but it does not say what you cannot hunt in those units. It is very confusing. (Trevor)

Answer: Although much of northern California is seasonally open to squirrel hunting, there may be areas that are either closed or have additional restrictions. California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 552(a)(6) refers to the Sacramento River National Wildlife Refuge and lists the species for which take is allowed. These species include goose, duck, coot, moorhen, dove, snipe, turkey, pheasant, quail, deer and wild pig from Sept. 1 to March 15. Section 552(a)(6) goes on to clarify that “…hunting of all other species is prohibited…” For additional information, please refer to page 49 of the 2017-2018 Waterfowl and Upland Game regulations booklet or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website at

OK to Transport Crayfish?

Question: Can crayfish be caught in one lake and transported to another lake? Can they be frozen and used for bait later? (Raleigh)

Answer: Yes, for the most part, provided the crayfish were legally caught.

Crayfish are a freshwater crustacean, and legally acquired and possessed crustaceans can be used for bait in almost all inland waters in California (CCR Title 14, section 4.00).

There are regulations governing the method of take. Crayfish may be taken only by hand, hook and line, dip net or with traps not over three feet in greatest dimension. Any other species taken need to be returned to the water immediately. Traps need not be closely attended. Crayfish can be caught year-round, and there is no bag limit on them. (CCR Title 14, section 5.35).

There are special protections in place to safeguard the Shasta crayfish, California’s only native crayfish and an endangered species that lives in the northeastern part of the state. There are restrictions on catching crayfish and using them for bait on parts of the Fall River, Pit River and Hat Creek, for example (CCR Title 14, sections 4.30(c) and 5.35).

There are also special laws and rules in place throughout the state to prevent the spread of Quagga and Zebra mussel infestations. The use of crayfish caught in contaminated water for bait may not be prohibited, but it is illegal to move adult or larval Quagga and Zebra mussels from infested waters.

Is It Illegal for a Minor to Sell his Catch to the Neighbors?

Question: Before I throw cold water on a neighborhood kid’s moneymaking scheme, please advise me if what he is doing is legal. He regularly fishes in Half Moon Bay and is advertising through email to sell the catch to neighbors on an ongoing basis, depending on what he catches. I suspect that he needs a commercial fishing license to engage in this commerce, but I don’t have the regulations to back up my belief. What does such a license entail, by the way? (Anonymous)

Answer: Where to start! What that young person is doing is illegal – likely on many different fronts.

First and foremost, it is unlawful to sell or purchase any sport-caught fish or amphibians taken in the waters of California (Fish and Game Code, section 7121).

A commercial fishing license is required for any resident 16 years of age or older to take fish for commercial purposes or otherwise contribute materially to the activities onboard a commercial fishing vessel (FGC, section 7850).

Furthermore, there is a whole host of additional permits, licenses and stamps required of commercial fishermen depending on where they fish, how they fish and what they fish for. You can see a complete listing of descriptions and fees at the CDFW website (

Additionally, there are regulations for commercial take that often involve different seasons and size limits than what is required of recreational anglers.

These commercially caught fish then have to be “landed” by a licensed receiver before they are sold (FGC, section 8033).

As you can see, it’s no simple undertaking to be a commercial fisherman in California, but these regulations are meant to help conserve the state’s fisheries. The illegal activities you’ve described need to stop. If the individual does not stop, please call our CalTIP number (888-334-CalTIP) so that our wildlife officers can educate this young person.