California Fish & Game Enforcement Penalties

Be certain you have the appropriate paperwork in order to stay out of trouble.
bass image by Dušan Zidar from

California Fish and Game take violations against the code quite seriously. From fishing without a license to taking animals from the wild illegally, you can find yourself paying hefty fines and even imprisoned if you do not follow regulations. It is important to know what the penalties are when considering something questionable.

Birds and Mammals

Birds and mammals taken in violation of the code are prosecuted as a felony. If you are a hunter, it is important to know when and where you may hunt. You also must be careful to acquire the appropriate licenses prior to going out. Part of getting this license is attending a hunter safety course.

If you take a mammal without the proper permit or seal, you will be issued a fine from $250 to $2,000 and can be imprisoned for up to one year, but only if the offense is not worthy of being charged as a felony. The felony markers change every year based on whether or not an animal is considered endangered.

Misdemeanor Rules

Unless specifically stated, such as for mammals and birds, breaking the code is a misdemeanor and can result in a $1,000 fine at most. But along with that fine, you can spend up to six months in the county jail. This is a general rule, and there are ever-changing types of exceptions, which cost significantly more.

Selling Illegal Acquistions

If you sell a fish you caught unlawfully, the fines significantly raise. The minimum you will pay is $2,000, and the most you will pay is $7,500. This law has been put on the books to discourage people from selling their fish illegally. If you include abalone with the sale or purchase, the lowest fine is $15,000 and the high mark is $40,000.

Commercial Fishing Punishments

To further complicate what might happen to you, if you are on a commercial boat when you violate a fishing regulation, your registration might be revoked or suspended. This seems like a relatively harsh option, but the game commission had to find a way to force those running commercial outfits to enforce the regulations for those who were aboard their boats. This also serves as a good back-up for those running a fishing outfit, because if someone makes an unreasonable request to break the law, they can easily state why they cannot allow that to happen on their craft. Commercial fishing crafts can have their fishing licenses permanently revoked their if they take or possess abalone out of season.

Lacking a License

Not having the appropriate licensure on your person can be deemed merely an infraction if you are doing something such as fishing but have not taken any animals. The fine is simply between $100 and $500, and if you produce the appropriate paperwork in court it can be reduced to $50.