California Outdoors Q&As

Crab Trap Thievery

Question: Isn’t it illegal for someone other than the owner of a sport crab trap to pull, move or tamper with the trap and then take the crabs from inside? What about taking someone else’s traps and buoys or cutting off the attached rope? A lot of crab thefts have been going on along the California Central Coast this year and so I have resorted to using padlocks on my trap doors to discourage the theft of the crabs inside. Is there an issue with this? (Mike W.)

Answer: It is illegal to disturb, move or damage any trap, or remove any saltwater crustacean from a trap, that belongs to another person without having written permission in possession from the owner of the trap (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.80 (a)(3) and Fish and Game Code, section 9002(a)).

Regarding the use of padlocks to secure your trap doors and discourage theft, there is no law against it but it is not advised. Unlike commercial crab traps, sport traps are not required to contain a destruct device to allow the crabs to escape in the event the trap is lost. Without this device, a lost trap will remain closed and continue fishing/killing crabs for many years to come.

According to Department of Fish and Game (DFG) Lt. Andy Roberts of the P/V Marlin out of Berkeley, from an ethical standpoint to ensure this doesn’t happen, we suggest using a closing mechanism that will eventually disintegrate and allow any trapped crabs to escape. One suggestion is to tie the lid shut with a single strand of untreated cotton twine size No. 120 or less. If you want to keep using padlocks, another option is one that commercial crabbers use. You can cut away part of the wire mesh for the trap, and then weave cotton twine in the hole large enough for the crabs to escape (for commercial traps the opening has to be five inches in diameter). This way you can still secure the trap, and if your trap is lost it will not continue fishing/killing crabs for years. It will also allow you to remove crabs should your padlock get rusted shut.

If you suspect someone is illegally disturbing your traps, be sure to report this to your local warden or through CalTIP at 1-800-334-2258.

Can Duck Club Members Hunt Specks Beyond the Regular Season?

Question: The current waterfowl season regulations show a special speck and snow goose season from Feb. 18-22 for the Balance of the State. Do people like me who belong to a duck club located in the speck closed zone (usually after Dec. 15) get to hunt specks into February? (Andre)

Answer: No, white-fronted goose hunting is not allowed in the “speck closed zone” (officially the Sacramento Valley Special Management Area, or SMA) during the late season goose hunt (Feb. 18-22).

According to DFG Waterfowl Biologist Melanie Weaver, the SMA is in place to restrict the harvest of Tule white-fronted geese, a larger and somewhat darker colored and far less numerous sub-species of white-fronted geese (there are approximately 15,000 Tule white-fronted geese in the Pacific Flyway). The season for specks in the SMA is now 63 days compared to 48 days in 2004, so the speck season is open more than it is closed in the SMA. There have been five liberalizing changes in the SMA since 1995. Harvest regulation recommendations will continue to be based on the status of the resource.

After early December the bulk of the other far more numerous (about 650,000) white-fronted goose subspecies (Pacifics) have dispersed throughout the greater Sacramento Valley and Delta areas, resulting in the potential for increased harvest pressure on the Tules, the bulk of which remain in the SMA throughout the winter. The need for the closure can be confusing to hunters because the smaller and somewhat lighter colored Pacific white-front population has increased dramatically (from approx 100,000 in the late 1980’s), resulting in liberalized bag/possession and season length regulations in the Pacific Flyway in recent years.

What Shotgun Capacity for Big Game, Turkeys and Waterfowl?

Question: When hunting black bears, pigs, turkeys and waterfowl, what shotgun capacity can I use? (Daniel K.)

Answer: Shotguns capable of holding not more than three shells may be used to take all of the species you mention. For more information, please see sections 311 and 353 in the Hunting Regulations book or look online at

Halibut Hooks

Question: I’m planning to go fishing for halibut and have read that the rig must not exceed two hooks. Can those two hooks be treble hooks?

Answer: You are not limited to two hooks and so treble hooks may be used (CCR Title 14, section 28.65).