Keeping an under-sized, dead halibut... Legal? Ethical?

Ken Jones

Staff member
Date: July 20, 2004
To: Pier Fishing In California Message Board
From: shmarmy

Subject: Undersized halibut & Keeping it & Ethics

Yesterday, while I was fishing the Newport Pier... I came across a Japanese fisherman named Baka-San who caught a 21" Hallie. Heaven forbid, it took him almost 5 minutes to unhook the fish. It was well dead by the time the hook was off. I would have helped him, but he had this “scary” look and I just didn't wanna intrude. He told the crowd around him that since it was already dead, he might as well keep it and not waste the hallie. I scattered frantically around the pier trying desperately to seek justice for the hallie but gave up, for there were no DFG peeps in sight. It’s people like that who ruin the sport of fishing for all of us. I so wanted to grab the bucket and toss it down the pier, but realized the ramifications of it and decided not to stoop to his level. It’s so depressing. On another note, I had the awesomest fishing day I could recall in years. I landed 10 macks, 5 YFC, 2 SBB (released), and a 30” cuda (released) on squid. Shmarmy

Posted by 2d

“lol”— Nice name on the guy. Caltip is always an option, although the response rate leaves something to be desired. Confrontation is an option and a personal choice, but, in this day and age, it’s often like rolling dice as to whether it’s worth it. Perhaps a verbal confrontation from within the crowd may have grabbed his attention? Something like “So, you're going to knowingly keep an illegal fish?” would have at least given him pause and let him know that his activity was not going unnoticed, and would have alerted the less informed members of the on looking crowd that such activity is not cool. Good going on the attempts to find justice though. Also, good going on the fishing and landing. Sounds like a blast.

Posted by King_Sakana

Confrontation is risky and may not be worth it. One time I was fishing on the Marina Drive bridge and had a confrontation with some guys about the undersized halibut they caught. They did throw it back and left. Later they drove by and threw a rock and a beer bottle at me. Sometimes it’s not worth it

Posted by 2d

Reason for the “lol.” Sorry, should have posted this earlier. “Baka” is Japanese slang for “stupid.” Kind of fitting.

Posted by zak

Baka is not a slang in Japanese : ) Baka means stupid in Japanese and sometimes it can be really offensive depending on how you use it. In the old days Baka used to have a more harsh meaning but with the younger generation using the word way too often in a subtle case, its meaning is not too offensive nowadays. “I came across a Japanese fisherman named Baka-San”... unless his name was really "baka", in my humble opinion, I feel using the word "stupid" or something similar in English would be better. Say if an English speaking people goes to other countries and if someone in that country speaks English and uses the word “stupid” in their language and you don't understand it (maybe until later) I think I wouldn’t feel good.( If I would not know the meeting of what that people said through the rest of my life then I would probably be happy since I won’t know that I was being called stupid ;P) I don’t think baka is too popular a word (not like Karaoke, sake) that not many people on the message board here knows what it truly means. It might not be a good idea to use such a word that may be taken offensively in another language taking or not taking advantage of the popularity of the meaning. For me I would feel a lot better if someone called me “stupid” instead of say, stupid in another language I would not know. Just my opinion and no offenses at all : ) By the way, I'm a fluent Japanese speaker...This is a fishing message board and don't want to make this long and hey...I also do think the sea/mother nature will not waste a fish (even if it’s dead) thrown back in the sea. : )

Posted by LoPan

I’m just wondering... First off I want to say I CPR all of the fish I catch that aren’t stocked fish like trout and catfish, but I was just wondering what you would have the man do? The fish was dead, would you rather he threw a dead fish into the water? What good would that do? I guess the crabs might have something to eat but if the fish is not going to survive, there is no reason to throw it back. Just a question to think about.

Posted by skipnstones

The ocean does not waste dead fish.

Posted by pescare

There is every reason to throw it back. If, “It was already dead” was a valid excuse for keeping undersized fish, tons of people out there would be doing it. Even more than already do, and that's plenty.

From the DFG Q&A on this site:

24. Is it considered a waste of fish to release an illegal fish that was injured during capture and will probably die shortly after release?

No, this would not be considered “waste of fish” as long as the angler takes adequate care in preventing injury to the fish. There is no provision in the sport fishing regulations that allows an angler to keep an illegal fish, even if the fish is dying or already dead upon capture. All illegal fish must be returned to the water immediately, regardless of condition.

If an angler removes a fish from the resource by killing it and does not benefit from its death in some way (such as by eating the fish) or return it to the resource (as in the dead illegal fish example above), then that may be considered a waste of fish. Returning a dead or dying fish to the water that was not intentionally injured or mistreated would not be considered a waste of fish, as other organisms in the marine environment will benefit from the death of the fish.

Using a pier gaff to land a large bat ray from the pier and then throwing it back into the water may be considered a waste of fish. Landing a thornback and letting it bake in the sun on the pier and then kicking it over the side may be considered a waste of fish. Continuing to fish in a location where you are predominantly catching fish that the regulations prohibit you from keeping and are not surviving release may be considered a waste of fish.

Waste of fish is more than just a legal issue, it is an ethical issue that all sport anglers must consider.

Posted by 2d

“There is no reason to throw it back.” The fish and game code is a pretty good reason to throw it back. Say the regs said that undersized fish are all right to keep if they are dead or mortally wounded. What's to keep me from landing an undersized hali, taking my time unhooking it. maybe “accidentally” stepping on it, then declaring it “dead” and keeping it?

Posted by Skyline

“There is no reason to throw it back.” There is also a nice fine if you are caught.

Posted by tranbaby2

The regs are the regs and they’re there for a reason. It goes hand in hand with breaking the law

Posted by fishinnorcal

Yep, throw it back. Ideally, if all people were honest, then one might be able to make a regulation that allows people to keep dead fish regardless of size/limit restrictions. But, this is not the case; it will lead to people purposely taking a long time to unhook the fish, or keeping a gut-hooked fish when the fish can still survive. People will find all sorts of ways to exploit the loophole. Thus, the only real solution is to have a hard-and-fast rule of releasing all fish dead or alive that do not meet restrictions.

Posted by ron

By the sound of it it sounds like the guy may have intentionally killed the fish by taking “extra long” to release the fish. Thus, causing fatal injury to the fish in the process and giving him an excuse to keep it as what he may have intentionally wanted to do at the first place. I've witnessed such blatant acts of ungenuine acts of making it look like you’re going to release an undersized or illegal fish but killing it in the process to keep it. Just sounds too fishy (no pun intended) to be taking 5 minutes to release a fish if you really wanted to ensure its survival. Just my opinion though.

Posted by fishnchips

It seems like he was in no rush to get it back to H2O. 5 minutes is a long time... hallies are pretty hardy fish, if it died on the pier, it was probably out long enough to dry out its gills, and might have been abused. If the hook was deep, simply cut it as close to the hook as possible and return the fish... in my opinion it was neglectful on this guys part. It could have been a quick release unless there was another circumstance not stated.
...that’s why they call it fishin’ not catchin’...good ol’ fishnchips!

Posted by flyaway182000

It is a hard thing to decide whether it was wrong or right? A dilemma in every day’s life.

If I was in the Japanese’s shoes, I couldn’t think of what I could do to make it right. In my culture (buddishm), I’m not allowed to waste food, and to throw away good meat (dead halibut) down for it to rot seem very unease. On the other hand, it is illegal to keep an underside halibut. You still get a fine no matter if the fish is alive or dead. What would you do if something like that happen to you? Throw it back, it is still dead. Keep it, you will get fine.

p.s: if you can't unhook the fish within 20 second, please cut the line as close as possible to the fish, and let the hook and line dissolve over time. It wouldn’t help if you throw back a dead fish in the ocean now would it? (Maybe it would, I don’t know. It makes good food for the little crabs.. hehe.)

Posted by das limpet

It's obvious he killed it on purpose. No one who is skilled enough to catch a halibut is stupid enough to take 5 minutes releasing it.

Posted by pescare

Might have just been cheap and/or lazy. I’ve seen people literally rip the guts out of baby stripers in the Delta rather than cut the line and replace the hook. Take a walk down Antioch Bridge Pier when the schoolies are there and you’ll likely see it.

Posted by kennycrft

I see a lot of people keeping undersize halibut caught on the piers. Its just my opinion, but i think we shouldn’t mention race when we see violations. I’ve seen Orientals, Mexicans and white all keep undersized fish. People who break rules come in all shapes, sizes and races. If you see a violation call the DFG. I know they will be there quickly and maybe after a huge fine that person will think twice about keeping undersized fish.

Posted by dompfa ben

Agreed. Save your ethnic, racial, gender, weight, age and other descriptive comments about people you feel are in violation for law enforcement. It just aggravates an already upsetting situation, and does little to solve the problem at hand. If I, for example, mention that the angler in question was a “stupid troglodyte”, I have inadvertently insulted cave-dwellers everywhere. If you need some words to substitute, try choosing from this list:

1. Angler
2. Person
3. Poacher
4. Human
5. Individual

I”m certainly not perfect in this regard, but if we all make an effort, we will avoid a lot of unnecessary confrontation amongst ourselves.The best bet is to collect information, and get it to the proper authorities. Document and report, EVERY TIME. If we start building a case file on certain humans and locations, DFG will be more apt to patrol and cite wrongdoers.
DOMPFA: Dominating Positive Fishing Attitude!
Ripple in still water. When there is no pebble tossed, nor wind to blow. -The Grateful Dead

Posted by tranbaby2

DFG regs are not race specific. The person next to you is as capable of complying or breaking these regs regardless of race.

Posted by Mikey

Just playing devil's advocate here, hehe....ok so when the DFG guy asks for a description of the guy who kept the undersized halibut, and let’s say an American Indian is the guilty one who happens to be the only one of that “kind” on the pier, do you just say, “well it was the guy with the two rods and tackle?” Nah, you'd give a description of how he looks. Maybe by telling us on here, we can get an idea what a certain individual or repeat offender looks like, so we can put him in his place. Mike

Posted by dompfa ben

That is my point. Save your descriptions for law enforcement aka DFG, etc. It serves little purpose here.
DOMPFA: Dominating Positive Fishing Attitude!
Ripple in still water. When there is no pebble tossed, nor wind to blow. -The Grateful Dead

Posted by King_Sakana

I fully agree, however are the DFG regs less accessible to some ethnicities more than others? I haven’t been able to find the regs online in languages other than English or even Spanish for that matter. I don't know about printed hard copy versions. Of course this isn’t an excuse for people don’t have a command of the English language, but it may be a contributing factor to trends we may see in rule breaking. Also this makes various ethnicities more prone to suspicion as sometimes our initial reaction to seeing a person with certain traits is “He doesn't know English, so he doesn't know the rules.”

Posted by Mikey

Eh, no excuse...the DFG also doesn’t care if you plead ignorance...keeping an illegal fish is illegal regardless. Mike

Posted by skipper

I think if it's already dead, then might as well keep it

Posted by tranbaby2

Why not try to unhook fish in a water-filled container? Or use circle hooks? There are many methods that can be used to ensure your catch will stay alive thru the unhooking and release process. Much like gaffing a fish if you're not sure it's of legal size or not and keeping it.

Posted by StripeSideChaser

If that were the case, we could just unhook slowly then, any fish we wanted would be dead, and we'd be justified in keeping it...“Now let's see, where did I put those pliers? Hmmm, this is gonna take a while.”
I fish, therefore I lie!

Posted by Ken Jones

Ethically, legally, toss it back!

Posted by jeffgarcia

Interesting story... but it makes me think who decided the legal size is 22'” not 21'” not 20'” maybe even 24'” why?? mike

Posted by oldmanandthesea

The size limit is to let fish get to breeding age. If it is under sized people can’t keep it, period, for all the obvious reasons. If the undersized fish dies the DFG says ocean critters get it and the fish is not wasted. If you do not try to release a short fish alive you are wasting future breeding stock. Keeping short fish or letting fish that you don't intend to eat die on the pier is a huge waste. The law is intended so we don't hear the words of yesteryear "this place is fished out".

Posted by Sinker

Dead or Alive it's Undersized and goes back in the drink PERIOD. Look if you catch a 500lb Black Sea Bass and it dies you don't get to keep it either. I am no expert on religions but the act of throwing the undersized fish back into the sea does not need to be seen as a waste. Mother ocean will use this undersized fish in many, many ways and little if any of it will go to waste. In fact I would venture to say that if you took the fish home, cleaned it and had it for dinner and threw out the guts and carcass that more would be wasted than throwing it back. Just a thought but again as I said I am not sure of how some religions look at that. Just my thought and no disrespect intended.

Posted by gary evans

How can it take 5 minutes to unhook a fish? When I have an undersize fish that looks like it will be difficult to unhook, swallowed hook, I just cut the line and get them back to the water as soon as I can. The hook comes out in time and maybe that will be one I catch in a few months or next year. Save the fish.

Posted by alabama

That hali was playing possum. He ain’t gonna die in five minutes...I had one jump up and bite me on the a dog...way longer than

Posted by pierhead

Ain't that the truth... took my son to Newport/Balboa to show him the dory fisherman and their catches. He spotted a big Halibut lying on ice at the bottom of a boat and wanted to know if they had teeth. I reached over to show him and the dead came to life — he had his answer :)