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Information On Catch And Release, Fake Licenses
California Outdoors 7-24-19
You must have a fishing license to enjoy fishing, regardless of whether you intend to keep any fish you catch.

Is a license required to do catch-and-release fishing?

Question: I am interested in fishing both freshwater and saltwater but plan to do only catch-and-release fishing. Will I still need a license if I’m fishing only for fun and not keeping any of the fish I catch? (Josh)

Answer: Yes, you must have a fishing license to engage in the act of fishing regardless of whether you intend to keep fish. The way it is defined in the regulations, you need a license to even “attempt” to pursue or take a fish or animal.


Did I buy a fake license?

Question: I’ve heard that there’s been an issue with fraudulent websites selling California fishing licenses. I bought my license online earlier this year. I don’t remember what link I used, and now I’m worried that I might have bought a fake license! Should I take it to a California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) office to find out? (Chris)

Answer: Unfortunately, yes, CDFW has recently discovered several unscrupulous vendors who are “brokering” licenses illegally. To date, it appears these sites have been buying real licenses from CDFW on behalf of customers, but charging exorbitant “shipping fees” on top of the price of the license. If you bought a license from one of these sites, it may be that you received a real license, but were overcharged for it. That said – we can only vouch for the authenticity of items purchased directly from a CDFW office, an authorized license sales agent, through our telephone sales agent at (800) 565-1458 or online through our Automated License Data System (ALDS). If you have a printer available, you can buy, print out, sign and carry a temporary license that is valid. If you buy and print out an annual license, the temporary license is good for one month and we will mail your annual license to you. Shorter term licenses such as one-day and two-day can also be printed directly from your computer after making your purchase through ALDS.

If you’re unsure about an online purchase you’ve made and want to confirm that your transaction resulted in the issuance of a valid license, please contact us at CDFW staff can look up your account in the online database using your GO ID.

Please note that the only authorized online sales sites for CDFW products are the CDFW website ( and ALDS ( If the URL doesn’t match one of those two, do not enter your credit card number or other personal information! Also, an authorized CDFW purchase will never require you to provide your social security number.


Grizzly bear tooth

Question: I received a grizzly bear tooth amongst some of my grandfather’s possessions after he passed away. My grandfather grew up here in California and was an amateur geologist and never hunted, so I think he either found or purchased the tooth, although I have no proof. I was wondering if it is legal to possess or sell the tooth here in the state of California. I don’t want to break any laws. (James L.)

Answer: It is legal for you to possess it or give it away, but you cannot try to sell it. The sale or purchase of any bear part in California is prohibited (Fish and Game Code, section 4758 (a)). Even offering it for sale over the Internet is a federal violation that could make you subject to prosecution under the Lacey Act.

Sounds like you have an interesting piece of California’s history, as grizzly bears are extinct in the state — enjoy it!


Carrying a handgun when hunting

Question: I hunt in B1/B2 (pot country) and carry a handgun when I hunt. I have a Carry Concealed Weapon (CCW) permit. Does my handgun ammo need to be non-lead also? (John)

Answer: As long as your firearm is possessed only for your personal protection and not for hunting, the law allows you to carry lead ammunition. Here are the relevant provisions of law that apply to your first question: “Nothing in this section is intended to prohibit the possession of concealable firearms containing lead ammunition, provided that the firearm is possessed for personal protection and is not used to take or assist in the take of wildlife” (California Code of Regulations, section 250.1(c)(3)).


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