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http://insidebayarea.com/sanmateocountytimes/localnews/ci_2840550
 
Salmon, salmon, salmon
Pillar Point fishermen reap the benefits of short commercial season
 
By Catherine Ho, CORRESPONDENT 7/6/05
 
PILLAR POINT HARBOR Eighty-one-year-old Harley Uttke has been dropping fishing lines all over the California coast since the 1960s, but he doesn't even eat salmon.

The Lodi native has fished out of Pillar Point Harbor near Half Moon Bay for more than a decade but prefers to divvy up his catches among members of his seniors golf club.

"This year has been good," he said. "The fish are much larger for this time of the year."

Uttke and other recreational fishermen have been able to fully enjoy the hearty salmon population partly because of a recent clampdown from the Pacific Fisheries Management Council on commercial salmon fishing.

The council, which sets fishing policies for the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington, decided in April to slash the commercial salmon season nearly in half, closing the area between Pigeon Point and Point Sur to commercial salmon fishing from June 1 to Monday.

The regulations have forced many commercial fishermen to make the two-hour trek to Santa Cruz to fish for salmon. Others went for crab and other species rather than making the costly trip south.

The absence of commercial fishermen on the waters has made the salmon population more available for those aboard recreational fishing boats.

"It affects us in a way that it helps the fish population," said John Paine, a veteran fisherman from Visalia, while aboard the party boat Queen of Hearts. "But I don't think they should regulate it out of business."

Cliff Reese, a sport fisherman who skippers his own boat out of Pillar Point, agreed.

"It certainly makes it easier on us," he said as he prepared to take his boat Stella out into the water. "But there's enough out there for everyone. The population this year is as good as it can be, anywhere in the world."

Regulations are especially stringent for commercial salmon fishing this season, but the recreational fishing industry has its own. Party boat fishermen are limited to two salmon per trip, and fish must meet size regulations.

"We can't catch anything smaller than 20 inches," Andrea Mizera, a deckhand for the Queen of Hearts, said. "It used to be at least 26 inches."

The council also blacks out periods for recreational fishing. This year, the rockfish season did not open until Friday.

In 1999, the season ran all year, and the regulations since then have varied by year, depending on how many tons of fish were caught, according to Tom Mattusch, captain of the party boat Huli Cat.

"It cuts into their fishing time," said Bob Ingles, captain of the Queen of Hearts, of the recreational fishermen. "People like to go once a week or once a month, and when the season's closed, they can't do it, they go do something else."

But these intricacies did little to dampen the spirits of those aboard the Queen of Hearts Thursday, as they netted a total of 22 salmon, the biggest weighing in at 21 pounds.

To them, just getting out on the open water is enough.

Despite 40 years of fishing experience and watching the price for party boat fishing quadruple over the decades Uttke said he never tires of the rolling waves and smell of freshly caught salmon

"Every trip is exciting to me," he said.

 

Catherine Ho can be reached at (650) 348-4341 or by e-mail at cho@sanmateocountytimes.com.

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Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:15 AM  Pacific


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