Mystery Tag Washed Ashore

Crab buoy tag found at Pirate’s Cove. Photo courtesy of Hunter Pinkstaff.

by Carrie Wilson

Question: My Boy Scout troop was recently hiking at Pirate’s Cove in the Marin Headlands, and we found this tag washed ashore. We packed it out, but we’re still wondering what it is. Do we need to return it to the department, or report that we found it? (Hunter Pinkstaff, Boy Scout Troop 227)

Answer: What you’ve found is a buoy tag issued by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). Permit holders in the Dungeness crab commercial fishery use these tags to mark the buoy of each of their traps to show that they are fishing within their trap limits. The tags can be used for up to two seasons and mark the buoy of each of their Dungeness crab traps. Permit holders are issued the total number of tags that are in their trap limit tier, ranging from 175 to 500 traps.

When a tag expires at the end of the two seasons, the permit holder will purchase a whole new set of tags and switch out the expired tags for newly issued ones. Commercial fishermen are not required to return the expired tags at the end of the validation period.

Tags and fishing gear can get detached or dislodged from the trap for a variety of reasons, such as rough ocean conditions or vessel propellers. Since these are expired commercial tags and not research tags, there is no need to report your find to the department. But we appreciate and applaud your troop’s efforts to keep the beaches clean of garbage and litter. We are glad to have the opportunity to solve your mystery!

Fishing with a youth angler
 My 15-year-old wants to go fishing. I want to take him, but I cannot afford a fishing license for myself. Do I have to have one for my boy to fish? (Traci)

Answer: We thank you for taking the time to take your son fishing. We think it is one of the best activities families can do together – it’s great bonding time and generates lasting memories. Any child or young adult 15 years of age or younger does not need a fishing license to fish. All other regulations still apply, such as bag and possession limits. If fishing for sturgeon, abalone, lobster or steelhead (which all need additional report cards), then they will have to purchase those.

To answer your question, you may assist your son with things like setting up gear and teaching how to use the rod and reel but you must be careful to distinguish that you are not actively fishing by avoiding acts like reeling in fish (for that, you would need a fishing license yourself). If you would like to try your hand at fishing alongside your son, you might consider a one-day sport fishing license, which is a less-expensive alternative to an annual license. A one-day license is $15.69, while an annual license is $48.34. You could also fish with him from a public pier (where you do not need a license) or take him out on one of CDFW’s two Free Fishing Days (July 7 and Sept. 1 this year). Read more about this below. Enjoy your fishing trip and good luck to you and your son!

Are report cards needed on Free Fishing Day?
 This Saturday is Free Fishing Day in California, and I’m trying to get my wife to go steelhead fishing with me. She won’t need a license, but will have to have a report card, right? (Ben)

Answer: Yes! CDFW offers two free fishing days each year. For 2018, those dates are Saturday, July 7 and Saturday, Sept. 1. On those days, anyone can fish without a sport fishing license, but you will still need a report card if you’re fishing for steelhead, sturgeon or spiny lobster anywhere in the state, or salmon in the Smith and Klamath-Trinity River systems. All fishing regulations, including bag and size limits, gear restrictions, report card requirements, fishing hours and stream closures, also remain in effect. Fish on!

There’s a typo on my license!
Question: The license agent who sold me my fishing license entered my birthday incorrectly. When I tried to correct him, he refused to change it, so now I’m stuck with a fishing license with the wrong birthday on it. What can I do? (Anonymous)

Answer: You shouldn’t have any problem getting your license corrected if you go through a CDFW license sales office, and there is no charge to correct information. You can find a list of offices online. To fix an incorrect birthday, all you need is a state ID showing your birthdate. Name changes require a marriage certificate or court documentation of the name change.

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 [email protected].

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