Party Fishing isn’t for Fishing Parties
by: David Coulson 2/5/2011
Every now and then, the topic of party fishing comes up on the forum, along with its sister topic donating fish. Party fishing is the practice of two or more people working as a team to fill everybody’s limit. With a limit of 20 crappie per person and three fishers, the aim would be to take home 60 fish regardless of who caught them. Thus, a hot fisher might catch 35, and the other two 15 and 10, respectively. Thus, one caught over his limit (illegal in Colorado) to help the other fill their limits. I can understand how a group, especially a family group, might see this as an acceptable practice if they’re planning on sharing the bounty at day’s end. And this is legal in some states. However, in Colorado this practice is illegal, as it results in one or more fishers in the group exceeding their limit.
This is where the donation rule comes into play, as some might view it as a way to skirt the law. It is legal to donate your legal catch to another fisher. However, in doing so it does not erase your limit for the day. Just as eating part of your limit on the day caught, does not entitle you to catch and keep that many more fish. Simply, once you kill your limit of a given species you’re not permitted to kill any more that day, regardless of what you do with them. Not only that, the donated fish apply to the donee's limit for that day also.
The last time this came up, I posed the following question to CDOW. ” It has been brought up on the forum that it is alright to catch one’s limit, donate it, and then fill out again. As I understand the law, donated game is the equivalent of filling both the fisher's and donee's limit. Clarification would be useful.”
The response (abridged) from Bob Fischer, CDOW was, “It is not legal to catch ones limit, donate it, and then fill out again within a 24 hour period. . . . You can donate edible parts of fish to like-license holders anywhere or to anyone at the recipient's home. Donor and recipient subject to bag and possession limits. A "like license" is a Colorado fishing license. . . .”
I will readily admit catching folks engaging in party fishing, just like catching people who exceed their possession limits is difficult for CDOW to enforce, but not impossible. Spotting scopes will do it for the first, as will reports from honest fishers. The latter can also assist CDOW in stopping possession limit violations. I, for one, am not the person you should be bragging about filling your freezer. And I sure can’t recommend posting such activities on the forum either.
My points are. First, it behooves us all to try and understand the fishing regulations and to follow them as best we can. Second, our waters and the fish in them are a shared resource and as such it is our responsibility to do our part to protect them by informing others of the rules, and reporting violators.
Blog content © David Coulson
Nightstalker, CO 2/5/2011 11:41:45 AM
Agreed, great article!!
IceInTheVeins, CO 2/6/2011 12:06:31 AM
Colorado's fishing regs aren't complicated at all, that much I will give you.
IceInTheVeins, CO 2/6/2011 12:08:48 AM
This is what the CDOW needs to do at Blue Mesa. But they refuse to admit a poaching problem even exists with kokanee. Everyone says it goes on, except the CDOW.
David Coulson (Flyrodn), CO 2/6/2011 9:42:46 AM
There is no doubt people exceeding limits occurs to some degree. While it's CDOW job to enforce the regulations, the ratio of officers to hunters and fishers is low. So I do feel we all have to be proactive and make it our business to both express our dislike of rule breakers, and report them when we can.
birdman, CO 2/6/2011 9:48:20 AM
I for one totally agree with this and I have seen it happen, but what happens if you fill your limit but put anything else caught back (catch & release) is this still an illegal act?
David Coulson (Flyrodn), CO 2/6/2011 10:56:50 AM
Practicing C&R with a full limit in hand is legal. It's a question I posed to CDOW once and they confirmed it was legal. However, it could result in a situation where one could catch and unintentionally kill a fish, resulting in trying to get away with either releasing a dead fish or keeping one over the limit. Neither is acceptable in my view. So I recommend not keeping a full limit until you're ready to be done for the day.
Tbubb, CO 2/7/2011 9:44:13 AM
This is a good article and I'm glad that you wrote it.
I, for one, was confused by the regs as written and in fact until I read the explanation on this very forum was unaware of the way that the regs were interpreted.
So as of only last week I was one of the misinformed. I thought that prior to filling your limit, if you donated a fish to another fisherman who was not at his limit, that it did not count against you. Mind you this wasn't simple ignorance, this is how the law was explained to me by a guy checking my lisence once when I asked him point blank before giving a little kid a fish. (whose brother had one but who was empty handed himself).
Anyway, the point here is that there are probably a good deal of other people who also have a misunderstanding of the law, despite having asked LE or read the regs,
So sure, if you see someone doing this, try the educational approach first- let them know what the law is and how it is interpreted. There may well be an ignorance or misunderstanding. People like me, who only keep 3 fish for the day until the end, in case I gill one, may be thinking that they are following the rules.
As a sheriff I know once said (Bill Masters- Telluride) "There are over 200 pages of traffic law in the state of colorado... do you understand them all? I don't."
So if you see someone violating it, try assuming that they think that they are within the law, approaching the situation with as friendly as a tone as possible with the assumption that they are intelligent people, and explain the rule to them. Honey gets more flies than vinegar.
Tbubb, CO 2/7/2011 9:47:03 AM
PS: And sure, if when you tell someone the rules and they don't care about rules, then turn them in. Intentional deviance will continue if you don't.
David Coulson (Flyrodn), CO 2/7/2011 10:25:43 AM
I'm in full agreement that informing first is the best route, and then if you get grief, take the second approach, notify the authorities. You make a great point that there are so many laws, it is difficult, if not impossible to know them all. When I had a business I tried to comply with all the laws. In truth, I doubt there is any business that can't be found in violation of something. So when inspectors showed I always expected to get a warning and was pleasantly surprised those few times when I didn't.
Tbubb, CO 2/7/2011 11:45:04 AM
Well it was your comment on another forum that got me to go research this very matter last week as well.
With Party fishing being so common and observable, as well as legal in many other places, the rule might be read as different than it's intent by some. Past experience can color perception and interpretation.
The proper tone it was approached with made it a positive thing, and made it very easy for me to post the correction I did on the thread it came up on.
Cheers, and thanks again for addressing it then and now.
castingdonkey, CO 2/7/2011 9:20:19 PM
I hope someday the CDOW gets rid of ridiculous rules that would prevent me from legally giving my non fisherwoman mother a fish.
David Coulson (Flyrodn), CO 2/7/2011 9:30:17 PM
You can legally give her fish at her home, just not in the field while fishing, unless she has a license. You need a license while transporting game or a photocopy of the license and a certificate of donation per the regulations.
12. TRANSPORTING, EXPORTING FISH: Species in this brochure, or parts of game fish, transported
within or exported from Colorado, must be accompanied by license holder. Wildlife shipped by common carrier
must be accompanied by license or photocopy of license and donation certificate, if needed.
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