Proposed Fishing Ban Another Limit on Public Access

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Boating and fishing are ranked the No. 1 way to spend quality family time together as shown by a national survey conduct by the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation.  A surprising 35% of American adults responded that boating and fishing are tops, with playing team sports a distant second at 21%, watching television at 18% almost tied with going to the movies at 16%, and only 4% preferring playing computer games.

Of those surveyed, 90% believe that their stress level is reduced, and 87% feel a very positive effect on family relationships by boating and fishing.

The survey shows that people are participating in outdoor activities and they love to be close to nature, with boating and fishing as their choice of a recreational pursuit. Estimates are that morethan half of the respondents have been boating or fishing in the past two years, outranking other sports such as golf, tennis, and badminton. Did you know there is a state-of-the-art badminton club in El Monte called the Los Angeles Badminton Club? And you thought I only knew about boats.

But I digress.

As popular as boating and fishing are to the American lifestyle, there is one huge hurdle that is growing bigger and bigger.  The public’s access to the waterways is decreasing, not only in Newport Harbor but across the nation.  Some cities and counties have seen the light and are trying to reverse this terrible trend and make the waterways easily accessible, but the Newport Beach Harbor Commission wants to tighten the restrictions to the waterfront.  The Commission voted to ban the No. 1 recreational activity in the nation, fishing, from six of the public docks in the harbor.  Did I mention the docks are publicly owned and paid for by public funds?

I have been boating in Newport Harbor for decades and I have only seen a handful of times when boaters and fishermen had a squabble about a fishing line in the way of a boat or a fisherman not moving for a boat to dock.  Realistically, only the mooring holders use the public piers, except at the Fun Zone where a boater can tie up to go to one of the stores nearby, and there is nowhere I can tie-up a 50 foot yacht on a public pier to visit a restaurant.

It was mentioned that fishing from the bay beaches is an option, and fishermen ruin the docks by stomping on mussels.  You have to be kidding me! Really, fishing off the bay beaches is a huge challenge because of the boats tied to the shore moorings and the limited casting area between the homes, and the mussels on the docks are from the sea birds. So let’s get to the real story why some want fishing banned.

It is well known that a lot of the fishermen are not locals, but from the inland cities.  Herein lies the real motive, and it cannot be ignored: Limiting access is limiting outsiders, and increasing utopia.  Newport Harbor already has very limited public boat access, with only one public launch ramp – at the Dunes – which is in the Back Bay, and sailboats cannot launch there due to the PCH bridge height.  So boating has been limited, and now it looks like it is time to limit those who fish off public docks that are in the backyards of waterfront homeowners.  The harbor has so much to offer to the public, and the city was and is created by the harbor, yet the harbor is becoming more privatized as public access decreases more and more.

There will always be a difference of opinion between those twho want access and the use of the waterways and those who want to limit access to the waterways, whether from an environmental or conflict-of-use motive.  I am excited that boating and fishing are the most popular family recreational activity, and that in Southern California, with our mild climate, boating is a year-round family activity.   However, I do not want to see our harbor become a playground only for the elite, and I am very surprised that the tackle shop owners, fishing boat charter companies, and the public in general is not speaking up on this very important issue.  Oh wait, people only have time for work, family responsibilities and recreation, so maybe they do not have the time to voice their opinion.

And don’t forget: Tune in to the No. 1 boating radio talk show in the nation, Capt. Mike Whitehead’s Boathouse Radio Show, broadcasting coast-to-coast on the CRN Digital Talk Radio syndicated network every Saturday at noon, Pacific Time.  Join Chandler Bell and me as we talk about “all things boating.”  You can find the station listings, cable TV channels, live streaming on the Internet, and now available are apps to listen to the show for your iPhone, Blackberry, iTouch, Android, Palm, and Windows Mobile at or

Until next week, Safe Voyages!


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