How to Avoid a DF&G Citation...

Ken Jones

Staff member
So, have things gotten better or worse?

Date: June 11, 2003
To: PFIC Message Board
From: Paul Grunion
Subject: How to avoid a DF&G citation

The GW controversy has prompted me to do a little preaching the gospel according to DF&G. There are four items that you need to have with you when you are fishing to avoid a DF&G citation.
1. Knowledge of the law. Because of the increasingly complex nature of the angling regulations, the best way to do this is to have a copy of the regs with you. When the new ones come out each year, be sure to look for changes regarding the fish you fish for and the associated species you might catch. You are taking a big chance asking advise from that old-timer down the pier, unless he has a current copy with him. He might not have read the regs in years, if at all.
2. Knowledge of where you are. This might sound silly but regulations change based on geography and if you don't know if you are north or south of Pt. Sur you might have an over limit of Cal halibut. It is more critical in fresh water, where you could be fishing on the south fork of the Trinity river and not know it without studying a map.
3. Knowledge of the species identification of the fish you catch and the fish you might catch. There is a couple hundred species of fish along our coast and many have specific regulations. The best way to learn the fish is to do what birders do. Get a field guide to Pacific coast fishes, and study it. Go through it looking for fish you have caught and learn how to thell them apart from their relatives and other similar looking fishes. Look up the fishes with regulations you might catch, and learn their characteristics. Go to public aquaria and use the guide to identify the local fish you see there. Practice identifying fish you do know with the guide, while you are waiting for the next bite.
4. A measuring device. Carry a ruler at least 28 inches long in case you catch a white sea bass. I recommend that you mark your fishing rod with tape or put a winding of thread at eye level on your fishing rod. put and another mark 12 inches closer to the butt, and 22 inches if you can. When you catch a fish with one of those size limits, hold the fish against the rod with the "nose" at the top mark and raise the rod and fish to compare the tail to the lower mark. This way you can release short fish right away before they hit the deck, or need more handling.

By following this advice you won't be faced with the tough decision of what to do when you catch a beautiful seven pound fish that one guy tells you is a seatrout, another says is a white sea bass, it might be over the legal 28 inches, you don't know if it has a closed season, etc. When you have these doubts, you have to release it to be safe from the embarrassment of a citation.
May all of your meetings with Wardens be pleasant ones!
If you want to understand my perspective, please read my profile.

Posted by surfcaster

And carry a picture id in case a warden decides to harass you like a blond 5'5" jerk warden did to me at Montara Beach. Even though I had the license properly displayed above my belt and was using only one rod and not possessing any fish.

Posted by Red Fish

Knowledge that's the word —#3 mainly. Have some idea of what you are doing when you go fishing (a plan) before hand. O.K.- if your a newbie, no big deal. Still, you are going fishing for rest and relaxation. O.K., still you might ask yourself a few basic questions. 1.) Do I need a license? 2.) And secondly, along with that license, don't some rules apply? 3.) (If) I catch something, what do I intend to do with it?

Now, that comes down to the part about what species of fish are available and what am I targeting if anything? What never ceases to amaze me is that people will catch, keep and eat fish that they can't even identify. I can just see someone now eating the eggs of a scorpionfish and going belly up.

Paul, I feel that people that want to know the rules and play by them (as simple as they may be) will seek this information. You have this whole other category of people that fish on public piers and the delta in this area that are unaware of any rules at all. I blame DF&G partially for this because of the lack of signage at the fishing locale, and anywhere where tackle or bait is sold amongst other things.

Posted by Sinker

Good Info - Even if California is Backwards. Good advice Paul Thanks, Surfcaster I hear ya.There are always good and bad agents. California is one of the most non-friendly sportsman States I have ever lived in or visited. Some California regulations make absolutely no sense either. Like displaying your fishing license above your waist but you hunting license can be in your wallet - HELLO - why is California different from most other States. Display your hunting license on your back, with the license being hunter orange, that way a game warden isn't going to walk up to you to ask for your license and spoke your prey away, they just use binoculars and there ya go, after the kill then go check for tags. Fishing license display, why? If they come up and ask for it they are not going to spook your fish away, when asking for it they can ensure your are using the proper amount of rods and check your catch, plus then anglers can always have their license with them so as they are driving home and see a spot that looks fishy they can just pull over and go for it.

The regulations do not state anything about having to have ID but you are right, every time but once that I have been asked to show my fishing license they then ask for my Drivers License to verify that it is really me I guess. So I have to display my stupid license (which my the way cost me more than a full years Non-Resident Fishing license in Florida) but then still have to dig out my drivers license from my wallet - yeah makes a lot of sense to me. DOH. Think I will go bang my head on the wall some more....

Posted by Sinker

This is what happens when you stay out till 4am Fishing and then have to get up at 7. So no I need to learn how to type and spell as well :) or maybe take a nap.

Posted by pierhead

I agree... I think the real reason for the display above the waist requirement is to prevent the warden from having to physically approach you ... if you made the effort to display chances are it is a valid license and therefore not worth their time in checking it out in person. On the other hand if there is no display then they certainly are justified time-wise in climbing down to the beach to further investigate and possibly generate a little revenue for the department. Facts of life.
Makes sense to me ... given how much territory they have to cover in a day. What doesn't make sense in this day and age of budget crisis is why they aren't more aggressive on piers ... lots of revenue can be generated from multi-pole and poaching violations. Its been said that local judges are too forgiving and generally side with the violator ... perhaps if UPSAC did a little educational outreach on the piers there would be less chance of getting a pass by claiming ignorance of the law? Pierhead

Posted by Paul Grunion

Wardens on piers. Most of the time all a Warden gets out of a trip to a pier is a nice walk. If a uniformed Warden starts down a pier, the word spreads ahead; short fish are thrown back and extra lines reeled in. Rebecca Hartman told me she went plain-clothed one time and an angler told her that the @$#$%#$^ Warden's car was in the parking lot so to be careful.I know, she should have driven the personal car or parked far away, but I am just relaying the problem.

Posted by pescare

Wardens on piers. Even so, if they would do it consistently there would be a deterrent effect. Word would spread that the pier is patrolled and at least a portion of the violators would quit. Just like when we slow down when seeing a cop sitting in his car. Ed

Posted by anadromous

"If a uniformed Warden starts down a pier, the word spreads ahead; short fish are thrown back and extra lines reeled in." Better than if they don't show up at all.

Posted by Paul Grunion

Having a visible license. The DF&G always gets heat for this but it was not their idea. The idea was proposed by a large recreational fishing organization, which will remain nameless. They said that if anglers wore the license visible, the Wardens would see who was complying with the license regs. This is not so, because the Warden will ask you to take it out of the holder to see if you have the proper stamps and see if the description fits. The idea was forced on the DF&G by the group saying that the visible license would make nearby anglers realize that they should have one, and peer pressure would force them to buy one. The Department argued that they didn't think it would help enforcement and the public would be upset, but the nameless sportsman’s group was united in their pressure, saying that if the Commission did not adopt it they would tell the press that the DF&G refused an income generating suggestion.

The fastest way for a Warden to match the license with the angler is the driver's license but it is not a requirement. I personally witnessed an angler, being interviewed by a Warden, slip a license to his buddy. The Warden interviewed the second guy and said, "So it says here that your name is Mary and you are 5 foot 2." The embarrassment led to two tickets instead of one. Mary's husband got one for passing the license to his buddy. Paul

Posted by Sinker

Funny Story. So the F&G Commission actually bowed to a Large Recreational Fishing Organization. Were in the heck were they when they started closing down the fishing grounds and determining months of take for the shore and pier anglers as well. Hmmmm, guess they don't represent the Pier and Shore guys, maybe they weren't even saltwater affiliated - I wonder. Paul I wish I knew what you know...

Posted by pescare

Love it Paul "but the nameless sportsman’s group was united in their pressure" Wink, wink. Ed

Posted by Paul Grunion

Nudge, nudge...Say no more. Say no more.

Posted by pescare

Don't forget a current copy of the regs.

Posted by Songslinger

And How About DFG Knowing The Laws, Too?

Posted by pescare

That's why we need our own copy - to defend.

Posted by bigfoot

And we need it on 1 January, not some time in April

Posted by Paul Grunion

There is a printing lag time which prevents publishing Jan 1 but in the future I hope the final version will appear on the DF&G web site during the first week in January. The problem is that in the regulation setting procedure, the final version is decided in December. It used to be that the regulations did not take effect until the end of March. Only recently, with the Federal groundfish regulations being effective January 1, has there been any problem printing them in time. Paul

Posted by nigeria butler

Good advice all.

Posted by gordo grande

Thanks for posting this great advice!


Well-Known Member
The perks of public piers.

Jetties on the other hand is a bit confusing. Per CA DFG Site ( ):

[Additionally, publicly owned jetties or breakwaters that are connected to land, as described above, that have free unrestricted access for the general public and whose purpose it is to form the most seaward protective boundary of an ocean harbor are public piers. Jetties, breakwaters, promenades, sea walls, moles, docks, linings, barriers and other structures that are not the most seaward protective boundary of an ocean harbor, are not public piers.]

Is there a list of public jetties where no license is required?

Ken Jones

Staff member
In 2014 I traveled to Sacramento to testify before the Fish and Game Commission on the issue of piers and jetties. Specifically, I asked them to officially declare which piers and jetties were public piers and jetties. I presented the following lists and in response they told the Department of Fish and Wildlife to declare which piers and jetties are public and private. The Department of Fish and Wildlife has refused to do as instructed which which has been a source of irritation for many years.

Here's the updated 2018 list of piers and the 2014 list of jetties I presented to them. (There are a few changes that should be made.)

California Piers — 9/2018
116 Piers

P = Public = No license required — 88
PR = Private = License required — 7
PA = Public Access = Status unclear, license probably required — 16
FW = Freshwater and license required — 5

Currently closed (Sept. 2018) — 10
8 to be fixed (hopefully)
2 probably permanently closed

San Diego County Piers

P — Imperial Beach Pier
P — The Ferry Landing Pier—Coronado
PA — Coronado Mini Piers — Status unclear
P — Bayside Park Pier (Chula Vista)
P — Pepper Park Pier (National City)
P — Embarcadero Marina Park Pier (San Diego)
P — Shelter Island Pier (San Diego)
P — Ocean Beach Pier (San Diego)
P — Crystal Pier (San Diego)
P — Oceanside Pier
P — Oceanside Small Craft Harbor Fishing Pier

Orange County Piers

P — San Clemente Municipal Pier
P — Dana Point Harbor Fishing Pier
P — Newport Pier
P — Balboa Pier
P — Huntington Beach Pier
P — Seal Beach Pier — End section closed

Los Angeles County Piers

P — Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier (Long Beach)
P — Shoreline Aquatic Park Piers (Long Beach)
P — Cabrillo Pier (San Pedro)
P — Green Pleasure Pier (Avalon)
P — Cabrillo Mole (Avalon)
P — Isthmus Pier (Two Harbors) — Recently marked no fishing
P — Redondo Beach Pier
PR — Redondo Sportfishing Pier — Currently closed, no date for reopening
P — Hermosa Beach Pier
P — Manhattan Beach Pier — End closed for Roundhouse renovation
P — Venice Fishing Pier
P — Santa Monica Municipal Pier
P — Malibu Pier
PR — Paradise Cove Pier (Malibu)

Ventura and Santa Barbara County Piers

P — Port Hueneme Pier
P — Ventura Pier
P — Stearns Wharf (Santa Barbara)
P — Goleta Pier
P — Gaviota Pier — Closed, (state) no date for reopening

San Luis Obispo County Piers

P — Pismo Beach Pier
P — Avila Beach Pier — Closed, (Port District) no date for reopening
P — Port San Luis Pier/Harford Pier (Avila)
P — North T-Pier (Morro Bay)
P — South T-Pier (Morro Bay)
P — Dunes Street/Anchor Park Pier (Morro Bay)
P — Cayucos Pier
P — San Simeon Pier

Monterey, Santa Cruz, and San Mateo County Piers

P — Stillwater Cove (Pebble Beach)
P — Monterey Wharf No. 2
P — Monterey Coast Guard Pier/Jetty
P — Seacliff State Beach Pier (Soquel)
P — Capitola Wharf
P — Santa Cruz Wharf
P — Johnson Pier (Halfmoon Bay/Pillar Point)
P — Pillar Point Pier
P — Pacifica Pier

San Francisco City & County Piers

P — Fort Point Pier (San Francisco)
P — San Francisco Municipal Pier
P — Pier 7 (San Francisco)
PA — SF Ferry Building Pier (San Francisco) — Currently closed
P — South Beach Harbor Marina Pier (San Francisco)
P — Agua Vista Pier (San Francisco) — Currently closed
P — Heron's Head Park Pier (San Francisco)
P — Candlestick Point Park Piers (San Francisco)

San Francisco Bay — South Bay Piers

P — Brisbane Fishing Pier
P — Oyster Point Fishing Pier (So. San Francisco)
P — Robert E. Woolley Peninsula Park Pier (Burlingame)
P — Redwood City Marina Fishing Pier
P — Dumbarton Pier (Fremont)

San Francisco Bay — East Bay Piers

P — San Leandro Marina Pier
P — Arrowhead Marsh Pier —Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline
P — Doolittle Pier — Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline
PA — Veterans Court Pier (Alameda) — Status unclear
P — Fruitvale Bridge Pier (Oakland), closed
P — Fruitvale Bridge Pier (Alameda), closed
PR — Fortman Marina Pier (Alameda)
PA — Union Point Park Pier (Oakland) — Status unclear
P — San Antonio Pier (Oakland)
PA — Executive Inn Pier (Oakland) — Status unclear
P — Estuary Park Pier (Oakland)
PA — Alice Street Pier (Oakland) — Status unclear
PA — Middle Harbor Park (Oakland) — Status unclear
P — Port View Park Pier (Oakland)
PA — Shorebird Park Piers (Emeryville) — Status unclear
P — Emeryville Marina Pier
P — Berkeley Pier — Closed, (Berkeley), no date for reopening
PA — Vincent Park (Richmond) — Status unclear
P — Ferry Point Pier (Richmond)

San Francisco Bay — North Bay Piers

P — Point Pinole Pier (Richmond)
P — Vallejo Pier (waterfront)
P — McNear Beach Fishing Pier (San Rafael)
PR — Marin Rod & Gun Club Pier (San Rafael)
P — Paradise Beach Park Pier (Tiburon)
P — Elephant Rock Pier (Tiburon)
PA — Greenwood Cove (Tiburon) — Status unclear
PA — Shelter Point Pier (Mill Valley) — Status unclear
P — Sausalito Pier — Closed, no date for reopening
P — Fort Baker Pier (Sausalito)

Marin, Sonoma, Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte County Piers

P — Miller Park (Nick’s Cove) Pier (Marshall)
PR — Lawson’s Landing Pier (Dillon Beach)
P — Spud Point Marina Pier (Bodega Bay), Closed, no date for reopening
PR — Lucas Wharf (Bodega Bay)
PR — Tides Wharf (Bodega Bay)
P — Point Arena Pier
PA — Noyo Harbor Pier (Fort Bragg) — Status unclear
P — Del Norte Street Pier (Eureka)
PA — Commercial St. Dock (Eureka) — Status unclear
PA — Adorni Pier (Eureka) — Status unclear
P — Citizen’s Dock (Crescent City)
P — “B” Street Pier (Crescent City)

Carquinez Strait — West Delta

P — Eckley Pier (Crockett/Port Costa)
P — Martinez Pier
PA — Benicia Ninth Street Pier — Status unclear
P — City of Benicia Fishing Pier (1st St. Pier)
FW — Pittsburg Pier
FW — Antioch Marina Pier
FW — Antioch Pier
FW — Antioch Bridge Pier (Antioch/Oakley Regional Shoreline Pier)
FW — Rio Vista Pier

Public Jetties

“Additionally, publicly owned jetties or breakwaters that are connected to land, as described above, that have free unrestricted access for the general public and whose purpose it is to form the most seaward protective boundary of an ocean harbor are public piers. Jetties, breakwaters, promenades, sea walls, moles, docks, linings, barriers and other structures that are not the most seaward protective boundary of an ocean harbor, are not public piers.”

San Diego County

Mission Bay Jetties — north
Oceanside Harbor Jetties — south and north

Orange County

Dana Harbor Jetty — west jetty (Dana Point SMCA?)
Newport Bay Jetties — east and west jetties
Huntington Harbor/Anaheim Bay — north jetty (inshore)

Los Angeles County

Alamitos Bay — west jetty
San Pedro — San Pedro Breakwater
Catalina — Cabrillo Mole (hook and line only)
• Casino Point — south side
King Harbor — west jetty
Marina Del Rey Jetties — south and north

Ventura County

Port Hueneme — La Janelle Jetty
Channel Islands Harbor Jetties — south and north
Ventura Harbor Jetties — east and west

Santa Barbara County

Santa Barbara Harbor — jetty

San Luis Obispo County

Morro Bay Jetties — south and north

Monterey County

Monterey Coast Guard Pier/Jetty
Moss Landing Jetties — south and north

Santa Cruz County

Santa Cruz Small Craft Harbor Jetties — east and west

San Mateo County

Pillar Point Harbor Jetties — south and north

San Francisco Bay Jetties — although we are not sure if any of the jetties inside San Francisco Bay technically meet the definition of a public jetty, we know several have received unofficial “public” status from wardens over the years. A list of these would also be very helpful.

Sonoma County

Bodega Bay Jetties — east and west

Mendocino County

Noyo Harbor Jetty — north

Humboldt County

Humboldt Bay Jetties — south and north

Del Norte County

Crescent City Breakwater


Well-Known Member
Thanks Ken.

If only DFG could simply list these Public Piers and Jetties on their website. It avoids confusion on BOTH Game Wardens and the Public. Honestly it is a disservice that they have not done so.