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Russell Izor, 79; Salty Sportfishing Skipper Backed Artificial Reefs

October 16, 2002|Myrna Oliver | Times Staff Writer

Russell A. Izor, the developer of the braided Space Age fiber fishing line he dubbed "Izorline," colorful sportfishing boat captain, conservationist and occasional thorn in the side of the California Department of Fish and Game, has died. He was 79.

Izor died Saturday in Long Beach of pancreatic cancer. He had lived for many years in Torrance.

The veteran angler caught fish heavier than he was as a 10-year-old boy on the Hermosa Beach Pier and, in about 45 years on the water, estimated he had caught more than 2 tons of game fish.

By the 1970s, he was experienced enough to develop his own line of fishing tackle, including Izorline, and founded Izorline International in Gardena. He sold the company in 1993, but remained a consultant.

His lightweight braided fishing line was the first to employ Spectra, a trade name of Allied Chemical for its gel-spun polyethylene fiber that is also used to make bulletproof vests.

The line became known for its strength, durability and lack of stretch, and proved useful in catching big-game fish such as tuna and yellowtail.

Izor built and skippered seven boats for parties of sportfishermen, from the 36-foot Longfin he launched in 1949 to the 93-foot First String he completed in 1986.

Operating out of San Pedro, Long Beach and other Southern California ports, he became so popular with anglers for his knack for finding fish that he was asked to write columns for fishing publications, including Western Outdoor News.

He also had regular radio segments, such as his Friday appearances for a time on KMPC's Robert W. Morgan show to predict which fish might be available on a given weekend.

Catering to anglers, he also worked for fishery development and conservation, particularly in building artificial reefs near Long Beach and elsewhere.

In 1989, the Department of Fish and Game told The Times that the Long Beach reef Izor instigated was the most productive fish reef of about three dozen man-made ones along the California coast. The department named it Izor Reef.

"It has not only provided an amazing amount of recreational fishing for people from Newport Beach to San Pedro," Izor told The Times in 1994, "but it has also provided a habitat for big families of fish who were wandering in a void. A fishery needs a place to hang their hat like anyone else."

Izor's relationship with the Department of Fish and Game, however, had not always been so cozy.

As a popular skipper, he railed against regulations governing the sportfishing industry and the department's methods of enforcing them.

In the mid-1960s, he had the Northrop Rod and Gun Club aboard, catching tuna off Catalina, when Fish and Game wardens tried to board his boat to check the anglers' licenses.

"I told them they did not have the constitutional right to board our boat, were interfering with my ability to earn a living, and pushed their boat off with the boat hook, " Izor said.

The wardens accused Izor of attacking them with the boat hook. He had to post $1,000 bail in Avalon to keep from being arrested -- at the time, the highest bail ever set for a fish and game violation.

"I was so stinking idealistic that I went before a judge instead of a jury, sure that without probable cause to search my boat, the judge would have to rule I could not be invaded," Izor told The Times in 1981.

"But they saw me as a threat to the system," he said, "and I was found not guilty of assault, but fined $250 for resisting an officer, and told to behave."

At the request of the Department of Fish and Game, the Coast Guard also put Izor on probation for six months on the grounds that his actions might have endangered his passengers.

Anglers chuckled for years about the episode, and the sudden appearance afterward of signs at area landing sites reading, "Game Wardens and Dogs Keep Off the Docks." Izor denied any knowledge of the signs, but appeared regularly at Fish and Game Commission meetings to voice displeasure with various regulations.

In addition to helping to create artificial reefs offshore, Izor also worked to restore kelp beds off Catalina and the mainland.

Izor is survived by his wife, Lura Kuhlman; three daughters, Lorry, Kristen and Caryl Anne; and one granddaughter.

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