Carrie Wilson

Question: I was under the assumption that there are no longer corvina in the Salton Sea. Opening weekend of duck season, I caught a small corvina stuck in the shallows around my duck blind. Are they making a comeback? (Robert)

Answer: The last time corvina was observed in the Salton Sea was in the spring of 2003 during a routine gill netting operation conducted by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). What you saw was very likely a tilapia, which looks very similar to a small corvina. Both have elongated bodies and a dorsal fin that spans the length of the body.

Corvina, croaker and sargo were successfully introduced into the Salton Sea between 1950 and 1956. These planted fish produced successful populations and supported a vibrant recreational fishing industry for several decades. Their demise likely came from a combination of poor water quality characteristics, such as high salinity coupled with high temperatures and low oxygen concentrations. Once corvina, croaker and sargo were no longer in the Salton Sea, the tilapia population took off as they were released from predation and competition pressures. But they overshot the sea’s carrying capacity, which led to historic die-offs in the 2010s.

Declining water quality has contributed to die-offs of tilapia and other remaining Salton Sea fishes, such as sailfin molly and the desert pupfish. Currently, the Salton Sea supports a small population of reproducing tilapia that tolerates these poor conditions, but it’s hard to determine how long the population will be sustained.

Foraging in tidepools?

Question: I would like to know if foraging in tidepools, specifically in the Bay Area and surrounding coastal counties, is legal. I’d like to forage for invertebrates – mussels, goose neck barnacles and the like. Do I need a special fishing license to harvest? (Jerry)

Answer: There is a specific list of “tidepool” or “tidal” invertebrates that can be taken between the high tide mark and 1000 feet seaward. This list is described in California Code of Regulations (CCR) Title 14, section 29.05(b)(1). Animals that are not included on this list — including barnacles — may not be harvested.

In order to forage for any of the invertebrates on this list, you will need a fishing license, and you may need a measuring device if the species you’re after has a size limit (see CCR Title 14, section 29.05(c)).

Be aware that there are additional regulations that apply in specific foraging areas. Most notably, the take of invertebrates is prohibited in state marine reserves and may be prohibited in areas described in CCR Title 14, section 632(b).

Importing stingrays?

Question: My company imports tropical fish. I have a client who wants me to sell freshwater stingray from South America. I would like to know if the State of California has any prohibition on these fish. (Jonas)

 Answer: California’s restricted species laws and regulations are very clear. According to the CCR Title 14, section 671, it is unlawful to import, transport or possess certain live animals not normally domesticated in this state without a permit from CDFW. Cartilaginous fishes in class Elasmobranchiomorphi, family Potamotrygonidae (river stingrays) are specifically listed in section 671, (c)(6)(B), with a note that the Fish and Game Commission has deemed them to be potentially detrimental to native wildlife, the agriculture interests of the state, or to public health and safety.

Individuals and organizations that meet certain specified conditions (the animal is for public exhibition or research, for instance) may apply for a restricted species permit, but importing stingrays for sale to private collectors would not be allowed.

Night driving with flashlights

Question: My wife and I are outdoors lovers and we don’t want to break the law. We often drive back roads or dirt roads in and around Butte County armed with only a flashlight and no weapons to view and enjoy wildlife that wouldn’t be possible to enjoy in the daylight. Is this legal? (Dan)

Answer: Yes, as long as you do not have a method of take (weapon intended for hunting) with you. You may, however, attract the attention of wildlife officers that are on the lookout for poachers using spotlights to find game. These officers may pull you over and detain you to inspect your vehicle to ensure you do not have a method of take. There are also some vehicle code provisions that prohibit the use of a flashlight or headlight on a public highway if it is shone into oncoming traffic or prevents other vehicles from seeing traffic control devices.

Shooting a white tail?

Question: If white-tailed deer were to migrate into California from Oregon or Idaho, could they be shot here on sight since there is no season or provision for that species? (Scott H.)

Answer: No. Since Fish and Game Code, section 3950(a) defines deer as genus Odocoileus, which includes white-tailed deer, white-tailed deer can only be taken under the normal deer hunting provisions for the area in which it wandered.

Carrie Wilson is a marine environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. While she cannot personally answer everyone’s questions, she will select a few to answer each week in this column. Please contact her at CalOutdoors@wildlife.ca.gov.

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