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Topics / ENVIRONMENT : New Fishing Regulations Let State Agency Cast a Wider Net : Recreation: Law requires anglers to display license on upper body. Fine can be up to $1,000 for not wearing $25 permit.

March 17, 1994|ANDREW LePAGE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

After dangling worms off the banks of Irwindale's Santa Fe Dam for two hours Saturday, fisherman Don Carroll still had an empty stringer. But he felt lucky.

That's because the Valinda resident had been caught by Department of Fish and Game warden Frank Milazzo, who noticed Carroll was angling without a state fishing license displayed on his upper body, as required by a state law that took effect March 1.

Carroll had a 1994 fishing license in his wallet and a reasonable attitude, so Milazzo decided to let him go with a warning rather than a ticket that would have shattered Carroll's lazy lakeside afternoon with a possible $1,000 fine or six months in jail.

"It's the law and from now on I'll go with it," said Carroll, 55.

Like several other fishermen Milazzo checked that day, Carroll said he hadn't gotten around to buying a plastic case to protect his fishing license while pinned to his torso. The law requires fishing licenses to be affixed to an angler's outer clothing at or above the waist. Many stick them on their shirts or fishing vests, if not their hats.

Though thankful he had skirted a potentially whopping fine, Carroll said the state's "wear-your-license rule" is "a big nuisance."

But that's not the way many avid fisherman see it.

Take Brent Hunsaker, whom Milazzo checked early last Saturday as Hunsaker hiked--fishing pole in hand--along the stream running through the Upper Big Tujunga Canyon near Colby Camp. Hunsaker proudly pointed out the license pinned to his fishing vest.

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"I think they should have had this law a long time ago," Hunsaker said. "It separates the poachers from the sportsmen. I saw some kid fishing without a license this morning. I asked him where it was and he took off running."

"That's exactly what we want to hear," Milazzo said after chatting with Hunsaker. "Most fishermen I've talked to this month are in favor of the new law. They know that, as licensed fishermen, they're paying for services for unlicensed people."

There's no set date to begin strict enforcement, but state game wardens will likely be less lenient in coming weeks, as the public has a chance to learn about the new law. More and more San Gabriel Valley anglers are dusting off their rods and reels this month as the Department of Fish and Game begins regular plants of rainbow trout in selected areas.

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Normally, the department stocks local lakes and streams with 100 or more pounds of rainbow trout about every other week between February and May. Most of the fish weigh one-third of a pound and measure 6 to 10 inches.

In addition to Santa Fe Dam and Puddingstone Reservoir in San Dimas, the state plants rainbows in the stream running through the upper and lower Big Tujunga canyons, the Arroyo Seco and the east, west and north forks of the San Gabriel River.

During a six-hour shift last Saturday, Milazzo checked about 20 anglers fishing along the alder-lined shores of the Upper Big Tujunga stream, the Arroyo Seco and Santa Fe Dam. Of those, most wore their licenses, and a few had licenses in their wallets. Milazzo let them go with a warning.

Two other fish and game wardens patrolling West San Gabriel fishing holes last Saturday cited three El Monte men caught fishing without licenses along the upper Arroyo Seco near the Switzers picnic area.

"We need a license to fish in a little creek like this?" asked one. He had just tossed his line in the water when the wardens walked out from behind an oak tree across the stream.

The young man sighed when one of the wardens explained the potential fine for fishing without a $25 license: a minimum of $250 and a maximum of $1,000. The judge can add up to 170% for court costs.

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