Perspective: 2015 – A promising year for recreational fishing?

BY DAVID DICKERSON/Special to Western Outdoor NewsPublished: Jan 15, 2015

As the New Year begins, will anglers catch more fish or more grief from government regulators? While everyone will hope for the former, our sources believe that the State of California will try to impose even more costly and onerous regulations and limitations on recreational fishing. This could be very apparent in just the first few months of the year, as the State will decide whether to begin a three-year process to determine the merits of imposing unprecedented regulations on common fishing gear, and an appeals court will rule on draconian fish stocking regulations.

Unlike the political battles to deny access to guns, efforts to restrict fishing is far more subtle, but equally calculating. Despite having one of the longest coastlines in the United States, and tens of thousands of lakes, reservoirs and streams, California now ranks dead last in the U.S. for fishing participation. All this as the number of annual fishing licenses declined nearly 55 percent since 1980. At this rate, anglers may become an endangered species!

Ironically, policymakers fail to recognize that as they accelerate the number of regulations imposed on fishing, they also bite the very hand that feeds their insatiable appetite for more tax revenue. Recreational fishing contributes over $4.9 billion to our State’s economy each year, supporting outdoor tourism and jobs!

California Sportfishing League’s 2015 “Top Five Watch List.”

1) Fishing Gear Ban: The Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC) has listed fishing gear among its list of consumer products potentially subjected to extremely costly regulations and ban. DTSC listed fishing tackle as an environmental threat without developing any scientific analysis, and many believe that it targeted fishing gear for purely political reasons. New regulations that ban products or drive up production costs will only incentivize manufacturers to flee the California market entirely. DTSC is expected to rule in January.

2) Fish Stocking Lawsuit: In 2010, the Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) introduced fish stocking regulations so costly that, if imposed, could put California fish farmers out of business and make stocking many lakes a thing of the past. Given that private fish farmers stock 100 percent of California’s warm water lakes and a significant number of cold waters too, the outcome of this case will greatly impact freshwater fishing and tourism in many parts of California. The 3rd District Court of Appeals is expected to rule any day.

3) Marine Protected Areas: Local government and environmental groups are aggressively lobbying the State to establish more MPAs that would limit recreational fishing. Most notably, the City of Manhattan Beach is asking the State to close fishing entirely along its shoreline by imposing a new MPA in a massive overreaction to an extremely rare shark attack.

4) Illegal Local Fishing Regulations: While only the state has the authority to regulate fishing, local governments have continued to pass illegal ordinances that limit or ban fishing from piers and jetties. These local ordinances create a fragmented and confusing regulatory regime, and inhibit access for anglers throughout the State.

5) Fishing License Fees and Programs: The DFW has reduced the size of trout stocked in California lakes and streams by half, from an average of ½ pound, to ¼ pound. As one of our Facebook Fans posted, these smaller trout are “chum for larger fish.” This will create a vicious circle. DFW will raise less money from fishing fees, leading to further cutbacks in conservation programs, and even more reductions in the quality, size and number of fish stocked.

The California Sportfishing League fights for anglers against such unneeded, unproductive government intrusion. CSL is the angler’s advocate in Sacramento, and thousands of fishermen have followed its lead to speak with a powerful voice to support their right to wet a line and spend time on the water. In 2015, we encourage California’s fishing community to go fishing, and more often. All the while, we will be manning the frontlines and protecting your right to fish.

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David Dickerson is President of the California Sportfishing League. Website www.sportfishingconservation.org; email the organization at at @casportfishing

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