Question: My family would like to rent a house at Stinson Beach in August. I feel silly asking this, but are sharks a legitimate concern for beach visitors in California? Are attacks more common when there are more people in the water, or have I been watching too many horror movies? (Kate)
Answer: Since 1950, there have been 191 shark incidents in California, 14 of which were fatal. Most of these injuries (and all the fatalities) were caused by white sharks – that’s the species you typically see portrayed as predators on-screen. In reality, marine biologists do not believe that white sharks intentionally target humans as prey. White sharks typically feed on pinniped populations (like seals), and from their vantage point, a swimmer or surfer might look a lot like a seal or sea lion.
Interestingly, even as the state’s population has greatly increased and more people than ever are visiting the beach to surf, swim and scuba dive, the number of shark incidents has not increased proportionally. And while it’s true that incidents have been reported in almost every coastal county, when you consider the number of people who visit the coastline overall, the likelihood of coming face-to-face with a shark is extremely slim. Two much more common dangers are rip currents (which occur statewide) and stingrays (in warmer Southern California waters).
So, before you dip your toes into the ocean, take a look around for any posted warning notices by local authorities. Being informed is part of staying safe. You probably won’t see a shark, but we hope you enjoy the beauty of our spectacular Pacific Ocean.
Is freshwater spearfishing ever allowed?
Question: It is my understanding that spearfishing in freshwater is not authorized in California. Are there any exceptions for spearing invasive species, like pikeminnow at Lake Pillsbury in Lake County? (Landon)
Answer: Freshwater spearfishing is generally prohibited for fish species in California, aside from a half-dozen or so specific exceptions listed in the California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 2.30. For example, freshwater spearfishing is permitted in the Colorado River Sport Fishing District in Southern California for carp, tilapia, goldfish and mullet all year. You’ll find these regulations on page 16 of the 2020-2021 California Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations booklet.
Lake County and Lake Pillsbury are not included among the areas or specific waters where freshwater spearfishing is allowed for fish species. However, if frog gigging is of any interest to you, invasive American bullfrogs – which make fine table fare – may be taken any time of year, in any number, day or night, by spears, lights, gigs, bow and arrow and fishing tackle, among other methods of take identified in the California Fish and Game Code, section 5.05. Bullfrogs can be taken in most parts of the state provided you have a valid California sport fishing license.
Becoming a wildlife officer
Question: I am a recent high school graduate and turned 18 last month. I want to pursue a career as a wildlife officer. Can I join now? What is the process like? (Troy)
Answer: Congratulations on your graduation – we are happy to hear you’re interested in a career with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife! California’s wildlife officers have some of the most diverse jobs in law enforcement. The work could include general patrol, enforcing hunting and fishing regulations, serving search warrants or working undercover to catch wildlife traffickers. Or they could be assigned to one of our Cannabis Enforcement Program Teams, a Special Operations Team or an Office of Spill Prevention and Response Team. If you want a unique and rewarding career in law enforcement, this is the job for you!
The first thing you should do is start your college education, in order to meet the minimum qualifications. These include:
- 60 semester units of college, 18 of which must be in a specialized, related field (criminal justice, biological sciences, natural resources conservation, ecology or something similar). The good news is that you may apply with just 30 units of college earned, as long 18 of those units are in the specialized field (you will need to complete the full 60 units before appointment).
- Status as a United States citizen or permanent resident alien who has applied for citizenship (you must be a citizen at time of appointment).
- A valid driver license.
- No felony convictions or convictions of any offense that precludes you from carrying a firearm under state or federal law.
- Be of sound physical condition, able to pass the Physical Abilities Test (PAT), a medical evaluation and a psychological evaluation.
The steps of the hiring process are as follows:
- State application and unofficial college transcripts
- The POST Entry-Level Law Enforcement Test Battery, also known as the PELLETB written exam
- Background Investigation
- Physical Ability Test
- Panel Interview
- Psychological and Medical Screening
If you successfully complete the hiring process, you will become a cadet and attend the academy. Upon successfully completion of the academy, you will move on to field training, working with veteran officers and trainers. Once field training is complete, you would report to your first assigned district as a solo wildlife officer. It’s a long process, but absolutely worth it!