Imperial National Wildlife Refuge

USFWSOn this page, you’ll find:

  1. General information about the Refuge
  2. Authorized species for hunting and fishing
  3. Summary of general regulations for the Refuge, plus those specific to hunting and fishing
  4. Maps of areas open or closed for hunting, Refuge boundaries, boat launches, and directions to the Visitor Center and information kiosk
  5. Links to legal summaries (e.g. regulations for seasons, bag limits and waterfowl zones)
  6. Links to federal and state government webpages (USFWS, the Refuge, and Arizona and California fish & game departments)

General Info:


I. Regulatory Summary

A. General Regulations

California rules and regulations for hunting ducks, geese, scaup, brant, Canada geese, dark geese, snow geese, white-fronted geese, specklebellies, white geese, and migratory game birds on national wildlife refuges, California wildlife areas, and California ecological reserves

Waterfowl hunting

Imperial is owned and operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services. In addition to our summary of Refuge-specific regulations below, link to our summary of general regulations from the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

B. Refuge-Specific Regulations

Beginning with Par. II and III below, you’ll find an alphabetical summary of legal topics that combine Refuge-specific rules and regulations from the following sources:

Warning shot!!! There may be additional rules located at the Refuge (e.g. check station window, entry permit, information booth, signs, permits, reservations).


II. Summary of Hunting Rules and Regulations

Warning shot!!! The regulations summarized below supplement the general refuge regulations.

A. General Hunting Regulations

Accidents: Report accidents or injuries to the Refuge Manager and State agencies. Report accidents or injuries to the Refuge Manager and State agencies. After hours, please call 911.

ADA: service animals are welcome

ATV’s: NOT allowed

Caution: Beware of desert heat, stinging insects, venomous reptiles, and thorny plants—

  1. Bring plenty of water
  2. Use sunscreen
  3. When possible, wear light colored clothes and a hat
  4. Don’t place your hands or feet under rocks or into crevices and plants
  5. Watch where you step!

Bag limits: see “Regulations” below

Image of campers, trailers and tents.

Use of Campers, trailers and tents

Camping & overnight: NOT allowed

Closed areas: see our Google map

  1. Game animals: possession is NOT allowed in closed areas 
  2. Martinez Lake: NO entry from Oct. 1 – the last day of Feb.
  3. Ferguson Lake: NO entry from Oct. 1 – the last day of Feb.
Dog and pet restrictions

Use of dogs

Dogs and pets: leash required except while actively engage in hunting

Firearms:

  1. Purpose: NOT allowed except while hunting
  2. Regulations: the possession, transportation, carrying, and/or discharge of firearms on national wildlife refuges must comply with federal, state, and local regulations (50 CFR § 27.42 and Part 32)
  3. Vehicles: all firearms in vehicles under power must be unloaded and cased or dismantled

Fires: open fires are NOT allowed

Firewood: collection is NOT allowed

California rules and regulations for the public use of horses and horseback while on national wildlife refuges, California state wildlife areas, and California ecological reserves while hunting for ducks and geese (scaup, brant, Canada geese, dark geese, snow geese, white-fronted geese, specklebellies, white geese); migratory game birds (doves, pigeon, snipe, waterfowl) resident small game birds (grouse, pheasant, ptarmigan, quail, turkey), resident small game (jackrabbit, rabbit, squirrel), big game (antelope, bear, deer, elk, pig, sheep), non-game (coyotes, crow, fox, raccoon) and fishing (bullfrogging, commercial fishing, crayfishing, crawfishing and sport fishing)

Use of horses

Horses: horseback is allowed in “Wilderness Areas” (see below)

Hunt area: hunting is allowed only is designated areas (see “Hunt Map” below)  Warning shot!!! The boundary between Arizona and California is not always obvious—consult fish & game (Arizona and California)

Imperial national wildlife refuge in California

Hunt Map

Hunt map: also see our Google map

License: a hunting license is required from Arizona and/or California, depending on which state is being hunted

Natural resources: it is unlawful to remove, deface, or damage rocks, minerals, semi-precious stones, Native American artifacts, paleontological objects, or objects of antiquity

Possession limits: see “Regulations” below

Protected species: except for legally taken game, it is unlawful to collect, possess, molest, disturb, injure, destroy, remove, or transport any animal or animal part, whether dead or alive (see “Authorized species,” Par. B – D below)

Shot: only steel or other non-toxic shot may be used or possessed in the field

  1. Ducks and Geese
  2. Coot and moorhen
  3. Doves and quail
  4. Cottontail rabbit

Warning shot!!!  Possession or use of lead shot while hunting on the Refuge is illegal; see 50 CFR § 32.2(k)

California rules and regulations for the use of boats while on national wildlife refuges, California state wildlife areas, and California ecological reserves while hunting for ducks and geese (scaup, brant, Canada geese, dark geese, snow geese, white-fronted geese, specklebellies, white geese); migratory game birds (doves, pigeon, snipe, waterfowl) resident small game birds (grouse, pheasant, ptarmigan, quail, turkey), resident small game (jackrabbit, rabbit, squirrel), big game (antelope, bear, deer, elk, pig, sheep), non-game (coyotes, crow, fox, raccoon) and fishing (bullfrogging, commercial fishing, crayfishing, crawfishing and sport fishing)

CA. Hunting Rules & Regulations

Regulations: except for “Upland Game Hunting” (see Par. ___ below), Arizona and California regulations apply, depending on which state is being hunting, to the following–

  1. Bag Limits
  2. Possession Limits
  3. Seasons

Retrieval: neither hunters nor dogs may enter Closed Areas to retrieve dead or wounded game (see our Google map)

Seasons: see “Regulations” above

Target shooting: NOT allowed

Vegetation: it is unlawful to collect, possess, disturb, destroy, remove, or transport any plant or plant part, whether dead or alive

Vehicles:

  1. License and insurance: required for all motorized vehicles, including ATV’s and motorcycles
  2. Roads: allowed ONLY on designated roads and routes (see “Hunt Map” above).  Warning shot!!!  Off-roading is strictly prohibited.
  3. Speed limit:  25 mph unless posted otherwise

Violations: report violations on the Refuge by calling (800) 637-9152, anytime day or night

Wilderness areas: access is ONLY by

  1. Foot
  2. Horseback

B. Migratory Game Birds

Authorized species:

Duck hunting in California

Duck Hunting

Goose hunting in California

Goose Hunting

American Coot hunting in California

Coot Hunting

Moorhen hunting in California

Moorhen Hunting

California rules and regulations for hunting snipe on national wildlife refuge, California wildlife areas, and California ecological reserves

Snipe Hunting

Dove hunting in California

Dove Hunting


 

Blinds:

  1. Permanent structures: construction is NOT allowed 
  2. Pit blinds: NOT allowed
  3. Temporary blinds: remove daily
California rules and regulations of boats while hunting and/or fishing

Use of Boats

Boats:

  1. Firearms: must be unloaded and cased or dismantled while under power
  2. Removal: take out daily
  3. Sport fishing: see “Section III” below
  4. Tubing: NOT allowed
  5. Wake: all backwaters are no-wake zones
  6. Water skiing: NOT allowed

Decoys: must be removed by the end of each day

Hunt areas: only on designated areas of the Refuge (see “Hunt Map,” Par. A above)


C. Upland Game Hunting

Authorized species:

Quail hunting in California

Quail Hunting

Rabbit hunting in California

Rabbit hunting

Gray fox hunting in California

Gray Fox Hunting

Coyote hunting in California

Coyote hunting



Archery
: crossbows and bow and arrows are allowed ONLY–

  1. Hunting: for the purpose of hunting AND
  2. Regulations: pursuant to state and local law (link to our summary of archery-specific regulations)

Hunt areas: only on designated areas of the Refuge (see “Hunt Map,” Par. A above)

Methods of Take: quail and cottontail rabbit hunting is restricted to–

  1. Bow and arrow
  2. Shotgun

Seasons:

  1. Cottontail rabbit: only  from Sept. 1 to the end of the State quail season (link to the California season)
  2. Coyote and fox: ONLY during State quail season

D. Big Game Hunting

Authorized species:


Archery: allowed (link to our summary of archery-specific regulations)

Hunt areas: only on designated areas of the Refuge (see “Hunt Map,” Par. A above)


III. Sport Fishing Regulations

Authorized and common species: bass (largemouth, smallmouth and striped); bluegill; carp (common); catfish (flathead and channel); crappie (black); sunfish (redear); and tilapia.

Sport fishing in California

Sport Fishing

Gigging for bullfrog in California

Gigging for bullfrog


ADA: fishing dock located at the Meers Point Recreation Area (see our Google map)

California rules and regulations of boats while hunting and/or fishing

Use of Boats

Boats:

  1. Backwaters: travel on the backwaters is “No Wake” only
  2. Hazards: see “Hazards” below
  3. Primitive boat ramp: near the northern boundary of Clear Lake by the Yuma Proving Ground on Red Cloud Mine Road. Warning shot!!! A 4-wheel drive with high clearance is highly recommended, and space is very limited.
  4. Ramp and dock: on the northern shore of Martinez Lake, there is a free, day use only, boat ramp and dock located at the Meers Point Recreation Area

Camping: NOT allowed

Closed Areas: the following areas are closed as identified with  buoys (see our Google map)–

  1. Headquarters: the ponds and inlets in and around the Refuge HQ’s/Visitor Center is closed in order to conduct research
  2. Ferguson Lake: the western portion is closed from Oct. through Feb. in order to protect migratory game birds
  3. Martinez Lake: the western portion is closed from Oct. through Feb. in order to protect migratory game birds

Fires: NOT allowed

Fish areas: only in designated ares of the Refuge (see “Hunt Map,” Par. A above)

Hazards: be alert for submerged hazards, which vary with water levels, such as sandbars, rocks, snags, and other river debris, Sandbars can be particularly hazardous. Changing water levels can hide them one day and make them visible the next. To avoid sandbars, watch ahead for “lines” on the river and go around them. “Follow the flow.” Sandbars can drop off suddenly so remember to watch children and pets as the strong currents can carry them away from shore quickly. Please be aware that cellular telephone service is weak or nonexistent on many areas of the refuge

License & stamps:

  1. Colorado River: fishing requires a Colorado River Special Use Stamp and a license from either a California or Arizona
  2. Lakes and backwaters: fishing requires a license from the State being fishing

Overnight fishing: NOT allowed

Regulations: fishing is regulated by the Arizona Department of Game and Fish or California Department of Fish and Game, depending on which state is being fished

Restrooms: there are facilities at the Meers Point Recreation Area, located on the northern shore of Martinez Lake (see our Google map)

Shore fishing: available at the Meers Point Recreation Area (see our Google map)

Vegetation: clearing is NOT allowed


IV. Regulatory Text

The following refuge units have been opened for hunting and/or fishing, and are listed in alphabetical order with applicable refuge-specific regulations.

***

IMPERIA NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE

Refer to § 32.22 Arizona for regulations


Imperial National Wildlife Refuge

A. Hunting of Migratory Game Birds. We allow hunting of mourning and white-winged dove, duck, coot, moorhen, goose, and common snipe on designated areas of the refuge subject to the following conditions:

1. Pits and permanent blinds are not allowed.

2. Temporary blinds, boats and decoys must be removed from the refuge following each day’s hunt.

3. You may possess only approved nontoxic shot while in the field.

B. Upland Game Hunting. We allow hunting of quail, cottontail rabbit, coyote, and fox on designated areas of the refuge subject to the following conditions:

1. Allowed methods of take for quail and cottontail rabbit are shotgun and bow and arrow.

2. You may possess only approved nontoxic shot while hunting quail and cottontail rabbit (see §32.2(k).

3. We allow cottontail rabbit hunting from September 1 to the close of the State quail season.

4. We allow coyote and fox hunting only during the State quail season.

C. Big Game Hunting. We allow hunting of mule deer and desert bighorn sheep on designated areas of the refuge.

D. Sport Fishing. We allow fishing and frogging for bullfrog on designated areas of the refuge subject to the following condition: We close posted portions of Martinez Lake and Ferguson Lake to entry from October 1 through the last day of February.


  • Refuge Hunting Brochure

Imperial national wildlife refuge in California

Imperial national wildlife refuge in California

Hunting Brochure, p. 2


  • Refuge Webpage Hunting Regulations

The following species may be taken on refuge lands during applicable state seasons: Gambel’s quail, fox, coyote, ducks, coots, geese, white winged dove, mourning dove, deer (archery and general season), and desert bighorn sheep. Cottontail rabbit may be taken from September 1 to the end of the state season.

The regulations listed below supplement the general regulations that govern hunting on wildlife refuges. Hunting is also in accordance with applicable state regulations and state seasons. For more information, visit Arizona Department of Game and Fish or the California Department of Fish and Game.

Hunting Regulations

All species not listed are protected and may not be hunted.

Hunting is permitted only on those portions of the refuge marked as such on the hunt map.

Nontoxic shot is required for hunting ducks, geese, coot, doves, quail, and cottontail rabbit. Possession or use of lead shot while hunting on the refuge is illegal.

All firearms in vehicles or in watercraft under power shall be unloaded and cased or dismantled.

Construction of permanent structures on refuge lands is prohibited. Temporary blinds may be used but must be removed at the end of each day.

Field possession of game animals is prohibited in closed areas of the refuge.

Neither hunters nor dogs may enter closed areas to retrieve dead or wounded game.

Decoys must be removed by the end of each day.

Travel in wilderness areas is by foot or horseback only.

Report accidents or injuries to the Refuge Manager and State agencies.

Vehicles are permitted on designated routes only. Off-roading is strictly prohibited.

Target shooting, pit blinds, overnight camping, open fires, and collecting firewood are not permitted at any time.

It is illegal to remove, deface, or damage rocks, minerals, semi-precious stones, Native American artifacts, paleontological objects, or objects of antiquity.


  • Refuge Webpage General Regulations

Hiking, photography, and wildlife observation are permitted on the refuge, except within closed areas (e.g., waterfowl management units, staff residence area, and maintenance area).

Travel in wilderness areas is by foot or horseback only.

Hunting and fishing are permitted in most areas, according to state regulations. Learn more about visitor activities or contact the refuge for more information. Link

Pets must be on a leash, unless being actively used for lawful hunting purposes. Service animals are welcome.

Boating is permitted in most areas. Special regulations apply.

Water skiing and tubing are not permitted on the refuge.

Vehicles are permitted on designated roads only. All off-road vehicle travel is prohibited. All motorized vehicles, including all-terrain vehicles and motorcycles, and all operators must be licensed and insured for highway driving. Speed limit is 25 mph unless posted otherwise.

It is illegal to remove, deface, or damage rocks, minerals, semi-precious stones, Native American artifacts, paleontological objects, or objects of antiquity.

Collecting, possessing, molesting, disturbing, injuring, destroying, removing, or transporting any plant or animal or part thereof (alive or dead) is prohibited, except for legally taken game.

Camping, fires and target shooting are not permitted on the refuge.

Persons possessing, transporting, or carrying firearms on National Wildlife Refuges must comply with all provisions of state and local law. Persons may only use (discharge) firearms in accordance with refuge regulations (50 CFR 27.42 and specific refuge regulations in 50 CFR Part 32).

Possession or use of crossbows or bow and arrows is prohibited except when used for approved hunting purposes in accordance with all provisions of state and local law.


  • Refuge Webpage Fishing & Boating Regulations

The following sport fish species are found on Imperial National Wildlife Refuge: Flathead and channel catfish; largemouth, striped and smallmouth bass; bluegill; redear sunfish; tilapia; common carp; and black crappie.

Meers Point Recreation Area
Meers Point Recreation Area, located on the northern shore of Martinez Lake, includes a free boat ramp, boat dock, and ADA accessible fishing dock. You will also find two shoreline fishing locations, covered picnic tables, and restroom facilities. No potable water is available. All facilities are offered on a first-come, first-served basis. Please remember that Meers Point is a day-use only area.

Clear Lake
Imperial National Wildlife Refuge has a primitive boat ramp located at Clear Lake, near our northern boundary with Yuma Proving Ground on Red Cloud Mine Road. To launch from this ramp, it is highly recommended that you have a high clearance, 4-wheel drive vehicle. Space is very limited at this location.

Fishing Regulations
Fishing at Imperial National Wildlife Refuge requires either a California or Arizona fishing license as long as you have a Colorado River Special Use Stamp on your license. This is necessary for any Colorado River fishing you plan to do. If you plan on fishing lakes and backwaters on just the California or Arizona side, you will need the required license for that State. All fishing on Imperial National Wildlife Refuge is in accordance with applicable state laws. More information is available from the Arizona Department of Game and Fish or California Department of Fish and Game.

Closed Areas
The Imperial National Wildlife Refuge is managed for the benefit of wildlife. To protect wildlife and the habitat they depend upon, several areas on the refuge are closed to fishing, including:

The western portion of Martinez Lake and the northern portion of Ferguson Lake. These areas are closed October through February to provide protected resting and feeding areas for migratory birds.

The ponds and inlets in and around the refuge headquarters are closed as they play an important role in research conducted on native fish populations, including the razorback sucker and the bonytail chub.

All closed areas are marked by buoys.

Hazards
Be alert for submerged hazards such as sandbars, rocks, snags, and other river debris. Visibility of hazards varies with water level fluctuations. Sandbars can be particularly hazardous. Changing water levels can hide them one day and make them visible the next. To avoid sandbars, watch ahead for “lines” on the river and go around them. “Follow the flow.” Sandbars can drop off suddenly so remember to watch children and pets as the strong currents can carry them away from shore quickly. Please be aware that cellular telephone service is weak or nonexistent on many areas of the refuge.

Keep In Mind:

No camping, campfires or overnight fishing are allowed on the refuge.

Clearing of vegetation is not permitted

Travel on the backwaters is “No Wake” only.

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