On fishing outside California’s waters

Feather Publishing

Off-shore fishing

Q: A group of friends and I are planning to take a trip on their yacht, basically sailing up and down the coast and visiting some of the small islands along the way. A couple of us like to fish but aren’t sure what regulations will apply if we’re fishing outside state waters.

Do we have to have a fishing license if we are fishing more than three miles from shore? I’ve heard something about the coastal three nautical mile limit but want to be sure we have our ducks lined up before we launch. Thanks for your help. (Randi L.)

A: Yes. California sport fishing licenses are required even when fishing outside of California waters if the vessel you’re fishing from is registered in California, or if your trip begins or ends in California waters.

The only time you will not need a California license is if your boat is not registered in California, your trip originates in another state or country and you never come into California waters to fish or to conduct commerce (e.g. purchase fuel, food or other goods.) This includes offshore islands that are considered a part of California (e.g. Farallon Islands, Channel Islands, etc.)

In addition, species that are illegal to possess in California are also generally prohibited from being imported into California. Fish and wildlife cannot be imported into California unless legally taken and possessed outside of the state (Fish and Game Code, section 2353).


Proper cat litter disposal

Q: What is the most responsible way to manage cat litter? Because of wildlife disease impacts from cat feces, biodegradable forms of cat litter disposal may be a bad idea if they are composted on site.

Yet, loads of litter in plastic bags in our overburdened landfills is not a good thing either. We know that keeping cats indoors is the best thing to do for wildlife (the number of birds and lizards killed by house cats each year is staggering. Outdoor cats defecate where feces can enter the ecosystem), but it’s hard to know how best to deal with litter. Any advice? I’m stumped and I have an indoor cat I want to be responsible about caring for it! (Becky S.)

A: Department of Fish and Game (DFG) Veterinarian Melissa Miller provides the following information from the Marine Wildlife Veterinary Care and Research Center in Santa Cruz:

“First of all, thank you for being such a responsible pet owner. I do agree that cats make wonderful pets, but their natural predatory behavior can significantly impact native wildlife.

“Animal feces, including cat feces, can also spread parasites, bacteria and other pathogens to sea otters, wildlife and humans. So, what can you do to prevent this?

“First, like you, I keep my cats indoors all of the time and provide sunny spots for them to hang out and watch the birds outside — they really enjoy that! It’s good to know that indoor cats commonly live longer and are healthier overall, so this is a win-win!

“Second, cats have very unique nutritional requirements, so I feed them a high quality commercial cat food and make sure that any special treats I give them are fully cooked, because raw meat can cause bacterial and parasite infection in your cats, and indirectly, you.

“Third, I prevent access to rodents, wild birds and their fleas, which could also be a source of infection. As for the cat box issue: I agree that there is no “perfect” solution.

“However, based on what we know at present, our recommendation is to clean the cat box every day, place the soiled litter in a plastic bag, seal it and place it in your regular trash where it will be disposed of in an approved landfill.

“We do not recommend composting of feline waste because of the potential human and wildlife health risks. Some of the pathogens that can be present in feline feces are extremely hardy and can survive for months to years in contaminated soil, and the infectious dose is very low.”

For more information on this topic and to learn more improper disposal of kitty litter and its dangers for sea otters, see:


Rod stamps and Free Fishing Day

Q: Is a second rod stamp required to fish with two rods on the two free fishing days when no license is required? (Melana H., Sacramento)

A: Yes! Free Fishing Day allows fishing without a California sport-fishing license, but other requirements for additional stamps and report cards still apply. Those items must be purchased and in anglers possession if they are required, even on Free Fishing Day. The next free fishing day will be Sept. 8.


Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game. While she cannot personally answer everyone’s questions, she will select a few to answer each week. Contact her at

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