General Provisions & Definitions
California Freshwater Fishing
How to use this book
It is important to note the waters where you intend to fish can have further take, method, gear and closure provisions for various freshwater species. Therefore, it is each angler’s responsibility to verify the regulations for all species in their chosen location(s) and water(s), prior to sport fishing in California waters.
General District Regulations
Next familiarize yourself with the General District Regulations that apply to the Sport Fishing District in which you will be fishing. To determine the Sport Fishing District, use the District Definitions listed and the state map at the end of the book.
Trout, Steelhead or Salmon?
If fishing for trout, steelhead or salmon: Consult the Alphabetical List of Waters with Special Fishing Regulations.
- If the water you intend to fish is on this list, follow the regulations as noted on these pages. If the water you are fishing is a tributary to any lake or reservoir, you must check under both the name of the stream/river and the connecting lake or reservoir.
- If the water or the connecting lake or reservoir is NOT listed in the Alphabetical List of Waters with Special Fishing Regulations, then follow the General District Regulations listed in step 2.
Bass, Sunfish, Sturgeon, or any species other than Trout, Steelhead or Salmon
If fishing for bass, sunfish, catfish, sturgeon, or any species other than trout, steelhead or salmon: Consult the Species Regulations and locate the regulations for the species you want to pursue. Be sure to also check the water where you intend to fish as additional take, method, gear and closure provisions may apply.
If you have any further questions, please contact the local regional office serving the county where you will be fishing. A regional office listing is on the CDFW Contact Information page.
(Regulations seen in RED TEXT are new this year.)
All laws or regulations below are either reproduced verbatim from the Fish and Game Code or from Title 14 of the California Code of Regulations (CCR), as adopted by the Fish and Game Commission under authority of the Fish and Game Code.
1.04. Anadromous Waters.
Anadromous waters are inland waters that are accessible to fish migrating from the ocean.
Angling means take of fish by hook and line with the line held in the hand, or with the line attached to a pole or rod held in the hand or closely attended in such manner that the fish voluntarily takes the bait or artificial lure inside its mouth.
1.08. Artificial Fly.
Any fly constructed by the method known as fly tying.
1.11. Artificial Lure.
Any manufactured or man-made non-scented/flavored (regardless if scent is added in the manufacturing process or added afterwards) device complete with hooks, intended to attract fish. Artificial lures include, but are not limited to; spoons, spinners, artificial flies, and plugs, made of metal, plastic, wood, or other non-edible materials.
1.14. Authorization for Taking Fish.
Fish, amphibians, reptiles, mollusks and crustaceans may be taken only in the amounts, only during the open season and only with the gear authorized and shall not be taken otherwise.
1.17. Bag and Possession Limit.
No more than one daily bag limit of each kind of fish, amphibian, reptile, mollusk or crustacean named in these regulations may be taken or possessed by any one person unless otherwise authorized; regardless of whether they are fresh, frozen, or otherwise preserved. Exceptions: See Sections 7.00, 7.50(a), 27.60(c), and 195, Title 14, CCR.
Any natural or manufactured product or device which is used to attract fish by the sense of taste or smell, including any product or device to which scents or flavored attractants have been added or externally applied. Bait includes, but is not limited to; scented and flavored paste, scented manufactured fish eggs, and traditional organic baits such as worms, grubs, crickets, leeches, stink baits, insects, crayfish, human food, fish, fish parts, and fish eggs.
1.19. Barbless Hook.
A fish hook from which the barb or barbs have been removed or completely bent closed, or which is manufactured without barbs.
1.20. Black Bass.
Includes largemouth, small mouth, redeye and spotted bass.
1.23. Bow and Arrow Fishing Tackle.
Such tackle must have the arrow shaft or the point, or both, attached by a line to the bow or to a fishing reel (includes crossbow).
Includes only Rana catesbeiana.
Includes brown, black and yellow bullhead.
Includes channel, white, blue and flathead catfish.
Placing any material in the water, other than on a hook while angling, for the purpose of attracting fish to a particular area in order that they may be taken.
1.35. Closed or Closure.
Refers to waters or areas closed to all fishing unless otherwise authorized.
1.38. Closed Season.
That period during which the taking of fish, amphibians, reptiles, mollusks or crustaceans is prohibited.
Dates of seasons and closures are inclusive.
1.42. Dip Net.
Webbing supported by a frame, and hand held, not more than six feet in greatest dimension, excluding handle.
1.44. Dividing Line Between Lake and Stream.
The mouth of the stream at the existing level of the lake surface. Stream regulations apply to parts of streams in the exposed beds of partially empty lakes.
1.45. Filleting of Salmonids In Inland Waters.
Except as otherwise required, all salmon and steelhead taken in inland anadromous waters where a sport fishing license is required, must be kept in such a condition that species and size can be determined until placed at the angler’s permanent residence, a commercial preservation facility or being prepared for immediate consumption. Also when required, the presence or absence of a healed adipose fin scar must be able to be determined until placed at the anglers permanent residence, a commercial preservation facility, or being prepared for immediate consumption.
(1) Chinook salmon taken from July 1 through December 31 in the following areas:
(A) The main stem of the American and Feather rivers.
(B) The main stem of the Sacramento River between the Deschutes Road Bridge and Tower Bridge.
(1) Personal residence is defined as one’s principal or ordinary home or dwelling place, as distinguished from one’s temporary or transient place of residence or dwelling such as a cabin, tent, trailer house, recreational vehicle, or any hotel, motel or rooming house used during a fishing, pleasure or business trip.
(2) Commercial preservation facility is defined as any person who at their residence or place of business and for hire or compensation cleans or processes fish for another person, or any taxidermist, cold-storage facility or locker plant which for hire or other compensation processes or stores fish.
(A) Licensed fishing guides are considered a person at their place of business processing fish pursuant to this section and are required to maintain a guide trip log with client and catch information pursuant to subsection 745(e) of these regulations.
1.46. Finfish Defined.
Finfish are defined as any species of bony fish or cartilaginous fish (sharks, skates and rays). Finfish do not include amphibians, invertebrates, plants or algae
1.53. Inland Waters
Inland waters are all the fresh, brackish and inland saline waters of the state, including lagoons and tidewaters upstream from the mouths of coastal rivers and streams. Inland waters exclude the waters of San Francisco Bay and the waters of Elkhorn Slough, west of Elkhorn Road between Castroville and Watsonville. See Section 27.00 for the description of San Francisco Bay.
1.54. Inland Sport Fishing Districts.
Inland Sport Fishing Districts are defined in Sections 6.31 to 6.37 of these regulations.
Includes natural lakes or man-made reservoirs.
1.57. Landlocked Salmon.
Landlocked salmon includes kokanee and landlocked Chinook salmon.
Refers to daily bag limit and possession limit per person, or boat limit authorized in Sections 27.60(c) and 195, Title 14, CCR.
1.61. Non-Buoyant Artificial Lure.
Any artificial lure that sinks in freshwater.
1.62. Minimum and Maximum Size.
No fish, mollusks or crustaceans less than the legal minimum size or greater than the maximum legal size (total, fork or alternate) may be possessed, except as otherwise provided. Total length is the longest straight-line measurement from the tip of the head to the end of the longest lobe of the tail. Fork length is the straight-line distance from the tip of the head to the center of the tail fin. Tip of the head shall be the most anterior point on the fish with the mouth closed and the fish lying flat on its side. Alternate length is the straight-line distance from the base of the foremost spine of the first dorsal fin to the end of the longest lobe of the tail. Unless otherwise provided, all fish, mollusks or crustaceans less than the legal minimum size or greater than the maximum legal size must be returned immediately to the water from which they were taken.
1.63. Movement of Live Fish.
Except as provided in sections 4.00 through 4.30 and 230, live fin fish may not be transported alive from the water where taken.
1.65. Multiple Hook.
A hook with two or more points.
1.67. Native Reptiles and Amphibians.
Native reptiles and amphibians are those subspecies, and species, including all color phases, of the classes Reptilia and Amphibia indigenous to California. This definition includes all specimens regardless of their origin even if they were produced in captivity.
1.68. Open Season.
That period of time during which the taking of fish, amphibians, reptiles, mollusks and crustaceans is authorized.
1.70. Opening Date and Bag Limit for Boundary Waters.
Waters, exclusive of their tributaries, on the boundary between areas or districts with different opening dates or limits shall open on the earlier date and have the larger limit unless otherwise specified.
1.71. Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
The Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta includes all rivers, sloughs, canals, cuts, forebays, and flooded islands within the area south of Interstate 80 to its junction with Highway 50, and south of Highway 50 via the Pioneer Bridge to its junction with Highway 99, west of Highway 99, north of Interstate 580, 205, and Highway 120, and east of Interstate 680.
1.72. Stream (Includes Creeks and Rivers).
A stream is a body of water that flows at least periodically or intermittently through a bed or channel having banks and supports fish or other aquatic life. This includes watercourses having a surface or subsurface flow that supports or has supported riparian vegetation.
(a) Salmon includes Chinook, coho, pink, chum, and sockeye salmon.
(b) Any person in possession of a recreationally taken salmon with a missing adipose fin (the small, fleshy fin on the back of the fish between the back fin and tail) shall immediately relinquish the head of the salmon, upon request by an authorized agent or employee of the department, to facilitate the recovery of any coded-wire tag. The head may be removed by the fish owner or, if removed by the official department representative, the head shall be removed in a manner to minimize loss of salmon flesh and the salmon shall immediately be returned to the fish owner.
1.74. Sport Fishing Report Card and Tagging Requirements.
(a) Purpose. These regulations are designed to improve recreational fishing effort and catch information in some or all areas where the fisheries operate. Many of these species are of high commercial value, and therefore, additional enforcement mechanisms are needed to improve compliance with existing bag limits and other regulations, and to reduce the potential for poaching.
(b) Report card requirements apply to any person fishing for or taking the following species regardless of whether a sport fishing license is required:
(1) Salmon, in the anadromous waters of the Klamath, Trinity, and Smith river basins. Anadromous waters are defined in Section 1.04 of these regulations.
(2) Steelhead trout.
(3) White sturgeon.
(4) Red abalone. (This fishery is closed for 2018)
(5) California spiny lobster.
(c) General Report Card Requirements.
(1) Any person fishing for or taking any of the species identified in this Section shall have in his immediate possession a valid non-transferable report card issued by the department for the particular species. See special exemption regarding possession of report cards for lobster divers in Section 29.91 of these regulations.
(2) All entries made on any report card or tag shall be legible and in indelible ink.
(3) A report card holder fishing with a one, two, or ten-day sport fishing license, may replace the expired fishing license without purchasing a new report card so long as the report card is still valid.
(4) Report cards are not transferable and shall not be transferred to another person. No person shall possess any report card other than his own.
(5) A person may only obtain one abalone report card and one sturgeon report card per report card period.
(6) Any report card holder who fills in all available lines on his steelhead, salmon or lobster report card shall return or report the card to the department pursuant to subsection 1.74(e) prior to purchasing a second card.
(7) Data recording and tagging procedures vary between report cards and species. See specific regulations in sections 5.79, 5.87, 5.88, 27.92, 29.16, and 29.91 that apply in addition to the regulations of this Section.
(d) Report Card Return and Reporting Requirements
(1) Report card holders shall return or report their salmon, steelhead, sturgeon, or abalone report cards to the department pursuant to subsection 1.74(e) by January 31 of the following year.
(A) Any report card holder who fails to return or report his salmon, steelhead, sturgeon, or abalone report card to the department by the deadline may be restricted from obtaining the same card in a subsequent license year or may be subject to an additional fee for the issuance of the same card in a subsequent license year.
(2) Report card holders shall return or report their lobster report cards pursuant to subsection 1.74(e) by April 30 following the close of the lobster season for which the card was issued.
(A) Any report card holder who fails to return or report his or her lobster report card by April 30 following the close of the lobster season specified on the card shall be subject to a nonrefundable non-return fee specified in Section 701, in addition to the annual report card fee, for the issuance of a lobster report card in the subsequent fishing season.
(e) Report Card Return and Reporting Mechanisms:
(1) By mail or in person at the address specified on the card. A report card returned by mail shall be postmarked by the date applicable to that card as specified in subsection 1.74(d)(1) or 1.74(d)(2).
(2) Online through the department’s license sales service website by the date applicable to that card as specified in subsection 1.74(d)(1) or 1.74(d)(2).
(3) If a report card is submitted by mail and not received by the department, it is considered not returned unless the report card holder reports his or her report card as lost pursuant to subsection 1.74(f).
(f) Lost report cards.
(1) Any report card holder who loses his report card shall submit an affidavit, signed under penalty of perjury, in person to a department license sales office containing all of the following information:
(A) A statement containing the report card holder’s full name confirming that the originally issued report card cannot be recovered.
(B) A statement containing the report card holder’s best recollection of the prior catch records that were entered on the report card that was lost.
(C) A statement describing the factual circumstances surrounding the loss of the card.
(2) An affidavit for a lost report card shall be presented at a department license sales office, by the date applicable to that card specified in subsection 1.74(d)(1) or 1.74(d)(2) to be considered returned.
(3) Notwithstanding subsection 1.74(c)(5), any report card holder who loses his report card during the period for which it is valid may replace the lost report card by submitting an affidavit as described in subsection 1.74(f)(1) and payment of the report card fee and replacement processing fee specified in Section 701.
(A) Based on the information provided in the written affidavit for abalone and sturgeon report cards, the department shall issue only the number of tags that were reported unused on the previously issued report card.
1.75. Salmon Spawning Areas.
No salmon may be taken or possessed on any salmon spawning area when it is closed to salmon fishing.
The taking of fish by spear or hand by persons who are in the water and may be using underwater goggles, face plates, breathing tubes, SCUBA or other artificial underwater breathing device.
Includes bluegill, green sunfish, redear sunfish, pumpkinseed, warmouth, and Sacramento perch.
Hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill fish, amphibians, reptiles, mollusks, crustaceans or invertebrates or attempting to do so.
Trout includes all trouts, chars, steelhead, and grayling.
1.87. Waste of Fish.
It is unlawful to cause or permit any deterioration or waste of any fish taken in the waters of this state.
Any object directly or indirectly attached to a fishing line with the purpose of casting or sinking a lure or bait.