Buying a report card after the catch?

Lake Cuyamaca - Julian, CA (San Diego County)

Photo Credit: Courtesy of CDFW

by California Department of Fish & Wildlife

Question: In Lake Cuyamaca, sturgeon are present, as are large channel catfish. One can buy licenses and report cards in the tackle shop, within a hundred yards of the nearest shoreline. If a sturgeon is caught incidentally to the take of catfish in the lake, would it have to be immediately released, or, upon incidental landing of a legal-size sturgeon, would it be legal to immediately purchase the required report card, and keep the fish? (Chris)

Answer: No. Any required report cards or tags must be purchased prior to taking fish or other wildlife. If you don’t have a sturgeon report card in your possession, you can’t fish for sturgeon, and an incidentally caught sturgeon must be immediately released. The purpose of sturgeon report cards is to help fisheries biologists track catch (and lack thereof) throughout the season. Report cards information must be provided to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) at the end of the season, even if you didn’t catch anything. That information helps our biologists monitor the fishery by telling us where people are fishing, how much effort they’re putting into fishing, how many fish were captured, released or retained, and the size and age distribution of fish caught within the legal slot limit (40-60 inches).

It’s the same situation with hunting tags. Taking a deer or other big game animal without a valid tag – and then purchasing the tag after the fact – is illegal.

On another note, since you mentioned that you’re fishing for catfish – remember there are gear restrictions for white sturgeon. They may be taken using only one single point, single shank, barbless hook on a line (CCR Title 14, section 5.80). If you’re not using that for catfish, and you do decide to get a report card and target sturgeon, make sure to switch to the right gear.

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