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Department of Fish and Game Q&A Column with Carrie Wilson

Carrie Wilson

The Shrinkage Factor?

Question: A friend of mine recently caught a legal (23 inch) halibut
and put it in his cooler to take home. At the end of the day we showed
it to a fellow angler and to our surprise the halibut had shrunk to 21.5
inches and was now illegal to keep!

Is there a way to keep the fish so that it actually remains legal after
capture or should we just stop fishing and take it home?

Thanks for all your comments and advice that helps keep us on the
straight and narrow!!! (David F.)

Answer: It seems very improbable, David, for a 23-inch fish to shrink
that much. I think instead it was most likely either measured
incorrectly initially or else after it was dead.

Measurements should be taken in a straight line with the mouth closed
(1.62 CCR, Title 14). Perhaps the first time you measured the fish, the
mouth was not completely closed. Then the next time the fish was
measured, the mouth was closed. That might explain the 1.5-inch

Either way, there are no provisions in the regulations to allow for
"shrinkage." If the fish is shorter than the minimum length (22 inches
for California halibut) when the warden measures it, regardless of how
long it supposedly was when it was caught, the angler may be cited. Once
in a while a fish left in open air will have the tail curl slightly as
it dries, but the whole fish will not shrink.

Game Warden Todd Tognazinni suggests it is always best to lay the
measuring device down or have pre-marked measurements on a flat surface
to measure the fish against. Also, don’t measure the fish over the
contour of its body as that will not give a straight line measurement
and will instead yield an extra length.

If you still have concerns and believe that fish do shrink that much,
then maybe you should consider only keeping halibut that are larger than
24 inches long, to allow for shrinkage (or inaccurate measurements).

License to Fish and Hunt on Private Land

Questionn: I just bought a place in the north state with a lot of
acreage and streams running through it. I plan to hunt and fish on it
and am wondering if I still need to buy the appropriate licenses and
tags even though I will be fishing and hunting on my own property?
(Daniel B.)

Answer: Yes. The reason is because the fish and wildlife belong to all
of the people of the state of California and not to the landowners. Just
because you may have fish and wildlife living on your land or just
passing through, you do not own those fish or animals. Thus, even if you
are hunting and fishing only on your own property, you will still need
valid California hunting and fishing licenses, along with any tags
appropriate for what you're hunting or fishing for. You are also
required to abide by all California fishing and hunting regulations,
seasons, bag limits, etc.

Bag Limits for Multiple Days

Question: When fishing in the ocean, I know what the bag limits are
but my question is how many bag limits can you have when fishing
multiple days? Is your possession limit one bag limit for each day you
fish? I usually go fishing for at least two days, always stay within my
daily limit, but sometimes will have two limits (one for each day) in my
ice chest upon leaving. Thanks. (Terry C.)

Answer: You may only take one bag limit per day and retain only one
limit in your possession. Just because you’re fishing multiple days,
you may not then take and retain multiple limits. Keeping more than one
bag limit, even in your cooler, at any time could cause you to be cited
for an overlimit of fish.

If your trip is aboard a boat which takes you away from shore for
multiple days, you may file a “Declaration for Multi-day Fishing
Trip” form with DFG prior to your trip. This form allows the angler
up to three daily bag and possession limits of saltwater fin fish, etc.
Provisions of this declaration require that you not return to shore or
to berth or dock your boat within five miles of the mainland shore
during your trip period. Your multi-day trip must also be continuous
over several days and extend for a period of 12 hours or more on the
first and last days of the trip. You can read all about the Declarations
for a Multi-Day Fishing Trip in section 27.15 of the California Ocean
Sport Fishing Regulations book (page 29) or online at

Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of
Fish and Game. Her DFG-related question and answer column appears weekly
at While she cannot personally answer
everyone’s questions, she will select questions to answer.

Carrie Wilson is a 20-year DFG veteran and an avid outdoor enthusiast, angler and hunter. She is a marine biologist with an ample background of professional experience working in both fisheries and wildlife management. An established award-winning outdoor writer, Carrie enjoys tackling the tough questions from the public and will be regularly tapping into the expertise of the DFG’s game wardens and many fisheries, wildlife and marine biologists to best cover all the topics.