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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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