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SURFING : Wave Riders and Fishermen Are Still Poles Apart

April 22, 1993|Rick Fignetti and David Reyes | Rockin' Fig is Rick Fignetti, a Huntington Beach surfer/shop owner. Times staff writer David Reyes has reported on U.S. surf teams competing in Bali and Brazil. and

Competitors at the recent Katin Team Challenge had more to worry about than other surfers. While paddling out from beneath the Huntington Beach Pier, one competitor was snagged by a fishing hook, and others told of narrowly escaping the same fate.

Even the Figster has been a victim.

I've been hooked a couple of times, but it's been on my leash and on my wet suit, he said. I just grabbed the line with my hand and bit right through. That sets them off.

Well, fishermen have a right to be there, Fig. They can't be banned.

Sure they can. We can put a ban right at that middle section where the waves are breaking and put the fishermen out at the end of the pier where they should be.

Rockin' Fig. A drastic man for drastic times.

During the Katin contest, Jimbo Gaskin, advertising director for Surfing magazine, got hooked but was not seriously injured. Steve Hawk, editor of Surfer, was among those who said they nearly got skewered as they paddled out during their heats.

Fig credits city lifeguards with doing a good job of mediating surfer-angler disputes at the pier during the winter months. But with spring here and summer just around the corner, there is growing concern that someone will be seriously injured, Fig said.

In years past, frustrated surfers who have been hooked have rushed onto the pier and confronted the angler. Fig has heard in recent months that fistfights have erupted either on the pier or in the parking lot.

It's a traditional dispute, with both sides saying they have a right to be there, said Huntington Beach Marine Safety Officer Steve Seim.

We're getting all the tourists coming down, and a lot of them don't have respect for the surfers in the lineup or those paddling out, said Fig. They're setting their lines, letting them drift, and it's getting into a dangerous situation.

Seim said tensions were rekindled last July when the pier was reopened after a three-year closure for construction. The city has hired two "pier liaisons" as mediators, Seim said. He added that antagonistic anglers have been asked to move and have been removed from the pier.

But during the recent Katin contest, Seim said, he didn't hear of any complaints from competitors or contest organizers, although many contestants voiced concern on the sand below.

"I've seen people charge up on the pier. But the confrontation is mostly verbal, more along the lines of 'Like you hooked me!' and the fisherman saying, 'Well, you cut my line,' " Seim said.

Lifeguards have witnessed anglers aim at surfers when casting lines that include heavy lead weights. "We know, because they've even aimed at us when we're in our lifeguard boat. We've had sinkers thrown at us, too," Seim said.

For anglers, piers offer several hundred feet of good ocean fishing without renting a boat. At Huntington, surfers use a friendly rip current near the pier that carries them out beyond the breakers. At the same time, many anglers believe the surf line is the richest spot for corvina and surf perch.

In San Clemente, Lifeguard Capt. Lynn Hughes said that besides corvina, spotfin croaker and other surf fish come in close to the beach at that city's pier.

Hughes said surfer-angler tensions are not as bad in San Clemente because the pier doesn't attract as many people as Huntington's.

"This has been brought to my attention only once or twice in the last five years here," Hughes said. "But we don't have the heavy crowds like at Huntington, and most of the fishermen stay farther out on the pier, well beyond the surf zone."

Hey, realistically, what fisherman is going to take home a fish caught right in the surf zone area anyway? These fishermen can hurt you when they think they got something, and they start yankin' even more. Meanwhile, the hook's going deeper and deeper.

On a brighter note, Daylight Saving Time is giving us more light in the morning and later sunsets. That means, DOUBLE, even TRIPLE, sessions. Water temp is steady at 60 to 62.

Conditions: Last week saw some of the best conditions this year, with a big Southern Hemisphere swell that combined with a northwest swell and strong Santa Ana winds, to produce peaky, three- to five-foot waves with offshore winds. Fig said midweek was "nirvana time."

Contests: The Bro-Ham Pro-Am surf contest is scheduled for this weekend at Trestles. . . . U.S. surfer Todd Holland, of Cocoa Beach, Fla., won the ASP's Coke Classic surfing contest at North Narrabeen, Australia. Laguna Beach's Jeff Booth was knocked out in the quarterfinals by Australia's Barton Lynch. Second-round losers included Richie Collins of Newport Beach, Marty Thomas of Seal Beach, Dino Andino of San Clemente, and Kelly Slater, defending ASP champ from Florida.

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