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Info Needed On Elk Tags, Sturgeon Fishing
California Outdoors

Why Issue Elk Tags?

Question: Why does the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) issue elk tags? Is it because herds get too large for the land to support them? What is the criteria? Are the animals ever relocated to other far away spots? (Allison H.)

Answer: CDFW does manage elk populations that, for example, get too large or are having conflicts with existing land uses. But that is not the only reason CDFW recommends limited harvest of elk.

CDFW’s mission is to manage California’s diverse fish, wildlife and plant resources, and the habitats upon which they depend, for their ecological values and for their use and enjoyment by the public.

“Too large” is a subjective descriptor, and there are always going to be differing opinions on how many elk are too many. Tags are issued in areas where a limited harvest is appropriate. Historically, the number of tags issued is low compared to the overall population. This allows for a limited harvest while still allowing the population to expand in most areas.

In some areas where the population is causing damage to property or the population is healthy but there is not a lot of room to expand, CDFW will approve a higher level of harvest to maintain the current conditions (this has been the case at Grizzly Island Wildlife Area). Some of the relocations have not been that far from the source population. In recent years, CDFW has augmented existing populations with elk relocated from restricted habitats that cannot expand. This is done in order to prevent elk populations from exceeding their carrying capacity and subsequent habitat destruction, and to assist with genetic diversity.


Sturgeon fishing

Question: If there are three of us in a boat fishing for sturgeon, and I catch a sturgeon and then tag and retain it, do I have to then totally stop fishing or can I rebait my line and fish for other species? (Jim K.)

Answer: If you are in the ocean, boat limits, as described by California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 27.60, do not apply to sturgeon, per section 27.60(c)(6), so you would be done sturgeon fishing for that day but can continue fishing for other species. Boat limits do not apply in inland waters either, so if you are in inland waters, you are also done sturgeon fishing for that day. In either the ocean or bay you may continue to fish for other species, but it would be good practice to switch baits/gear set-up, techniques, etc. so that there is no question of your intent when an officer comes to conduct a compliance check.


Can I keep bones of animals that I find along the road?

Question: I saw an opossum dead on the side of the road (not playing possum, but actually dead!). I wanted to take it home to keep the bones but I left it there untouched because I didn’t know the laws on that. If I find an animal like that, can I take it home and process it? If I can’t, is there anyone I can talk to about keeping the bones after the state processes it? (Wynter P.)

Answer: Road-killed wildlife may not be retained by the driver of the vehicle that hits the animal, nor by anyone else. Only authorized personnel of state and/or local agencies are permitted to dispatch and remove injured or dead animals (Fish and Game Code, section 2000.5). In addition, some teachers or instructors can obtain a scientific collecting permit to retain road killed specimens for educational purposes as specified in CCR Title 14, section 650.


How much digging is too much?

Question: We are heading to the North Coast soon and are planning to camp out and go clamming. How much help can I give my 5-year-old son who will be digging for clams with us for his first time? I want to be able to help him as much as he needs but don’t want the clams he digs up to count against my individual bag limit. Can I use the shovel and dig the hole for him while he uses his hands to dig around further and retrieve the clam? I will just be helping him to access the clam, but he will be retrieving it himself. (Harvey T., Stockton)

Answer: People have been cited for taking an overlimit of clams by doing exactly what you describe above. You can teach your son how to dig, but you cannot dig his limit of clams for him. Part of taking the clam is digging for it, so he would need to do the work. If you feel you are “doing it for him,” you are probably helping him too much.

If he is too young to dig for clams himself, he will probably need to wait until he is old enough to do so. Otherwise, you two can dig for clams together, and we encourage you to do just that so he learns, but they will all become part of your limit.


California Outdoors is a column published by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to answer your questions about California’s many fish and wildlife species, hunting and fishing methods, regulations and opportunities and natural resource conservation. If you have a question you would like to see answered in the California Outdoors Q and A column, email it to