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SPORTS WEEKEND | THE OUTDOORS

End of Closure Has Fishermen in Mood to Rock 'n' Reel

March 02, 2001|PETE THOMAS

With the latest storm went a winter's worth of gloom. Gone on Thursday was not only a persistent rain that had kept boats at bay more days than not, but a two-month rockfish closure that had kept angler interest at an ebb.

"You know how many days we got out during the month of February? Three. We ran only three trips," said Mandy Hukkanen, office manager at Port Hueneme Sportfishing.

The January-February closure, in effect for the second consecutive year as part of a long-term effort to allow overfished stocks to recover, was especially hard on landings that target the northern Channel Islands and have fewer alternative species available during the winter.

Hukkanen said business at the landing this weekend alone--rain or shine--will surpass that of all of February. Three boats are chartered on Saturday and four on Sunday.

The situation is the same in Oxnard, Ventura and Santa Barbara.

"I'm just glad March is here," said Bob Heiney, spokesman for Cisco Sportfishing in Oxnard. "After two months of letting [the bottom fish] stack up like that with no pressure--it ought to be limit-style fishing, easy."

Adding to the excitement were reports by commercial squid fishermen of white seabass patrolling island shores.

"We've already had good reports from places [on Santa Cruz Island] like Gull Island and Chinese Harbor," Hukkanen said, "so we have reason to be optimistic."

*

The February rains put a damper on the sportfishing industry all along the coast, but veteran landing operators for the most part rolled with the raindrops.

"We were basically shut down--we ran, like, nine days," said Rick Oefinger, owner of Del Rey Sportfishing in Marina del Rey. "But if you've been in this business long enough, you know that's just the way it is. February is the slowest month so you just shrug your shoulders and ride it out."

Del Rey's Spitfire got out Thursday with 20 anglers, and at 10:30 a.m. Oefinger reported that all 20 were "well on their way to [10-fish] limits, catching mostly reds [vermilion rockfish], boscos [greenspotted rockfish] and chilipeppers."

The daily rockfish limit is 10, with only one boccacio allowed per angler. There is a no-take rule on cow cod.

WATER-DOGGED

Waterdogs are hardly man's best friend, but bass fishermen are extremely fond of them and thus barking mad that they won't be able to put them on their hooks anymore.

A ban on the sale, importation and possession of waterdogs--a nonnative subspecies of tiger salamander determined to be a threat to the smaller California salamander--goes into effect March 15. The California salamander is listed by the state as a species of special concern, and a candidate for the federal Endangered Species Act.

The ban was adopted by the California Fish and Game Commission, which acted largely on recommendations by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. More upset than fishermen are live-bait vendors, who say the ban will result in a huge bite out of their finances.

"We get them by the thousands and go through them in three or four days; that's how popular they are," complained Larry Merritt, owner of Vermont Tackle in Los Angeles. Merritt said he sells more than 10,000 waterdogs annually, for $1 to $1.25 apiece.

EAST WALKER OIL CLEANUP

Full-scale cleanup operations to recover oil spilled into the East Walker River near Bridgeport on Dec. 30 have resumed after delays caused by weather, according to the California Department of Fish and Game's Office of Spill Prevention and Response.

An estimated 3,600 gallons of low-viscosity fuel oil spilled into the river between Bridgeport and the Nevada border when a tanker truck overturned on the adjacent highway. More than 1,500 gallons had been recovered before the scaling back to only three recovery and containment personnel in mid-January. The crew last week was boosted to 19.

The DFG's OSPR unit has been criticized by conservation groups--primarily California Trout--for not resuming full operations sooner.

OSPR administrator Scott Schaefer said in a news release: "We intended to maintain the full-scale operation until the cleanup was completed. However, after two cleanup workers fell through the ice and into the river, we were forced to scale back cleanup operations due to safety concerns, until the weather improved."

It is not yet known what effect the spill will have on the inhabitants of the East Walker, a blue-ribbon trout fishery.

POWDER FILE

* So much snow has fallen on local slopes that skiers and snowboarders have had trouble identifying their usual landmarks.

"I'm actually getting lost on the mountain--I keep losing my bearings," said John Koulouris, a spokesman for Mt. Baldy, where three feet of snow fell this week. "People [this weekend] won't recognize the mountain."

Baldy's base is a Mammoth-esque 10 feet. Mountain High in Wrightwood is reporting eight feet and Mt. Waterman above La Canada seven feet. The Big Bear-area resorts are reporting slightly shallower base depths but equally fantastic conditions.

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