DFG MAY PUT SPORT ANGLERS ON THE HOOK TOM STIENSTRA EXAMINER OUTDOORS COLUMNIST Sept. 12, 1999 WHAT IF you went to a doctor about a headache, and to your surprise, the doctor ordered more studies. Then, the next day, you woke up and found that your right arm had been amputated? Makes no sense, right? That is exactly what the fish doctor is proposing in California. While rockfish and lingcod populations are under siege from overfishing by commercial netters and longliners, the Department of Fish and Game is proposing that the sport limit be dropped from 15 to 10, and the limit perhaps to zero for lingcod and bocaccio. According to one insider with the DFG, the proposal may be changed in the next month to reduce the rockfish limit for sport anglers to as low as four. It's like cutting off your arm because you have a headache. The headache is the overfishing by the commercial fleet, comprised of longliners that use fishing lines miles long with 5,000 to 6,000 hooks, and drag boats that tow giant nets like vacuum cleaners through the fishing grounds. They not only dominate the coastal fishery, but with their sole mission to turn fish into cash, are out to kill every fish they can get their mitts on. The right arm is the sport fishing public, whose desire is to maintain abundant, healthy fisheries, and who pay for resource management through license and tag fees, as well as special taxes on equipment. They wish never to harm a fishery, but like a lucrative bank account, to take only the interest and never cut into the capital. But the draggers and longliners are breaking the bank. According to one report, 87 percent of the coastal rockfish catch is taken commercially, 13 percent by sport anglers. According to another, a single commercial boat with a drag net catches more bocaccio than the entire sport fleet in California. In another, longliners hook and kill unbelievable thousands of juvenile fish, that is, fish that never have a chance to spawn. Yet the science is not available to document the status of rockfish on the California coast. According to the Monterey office of the DFG, of 50 rockfish species in the ocean, 43 are listed as "Status Unknown," which means that not a single federal or state scientist has a clue what's going on out there. The first rule of wildlife management is to have a species census, from which you can track population gains and declines, and identify limiting factors. So where is this proposal coming from? It's coming from Oregon. The Pacific Fisheries Management Council is using data from Oregon for lingcod and bocaccio as a model for rockfish on the California coast. From that model, they have determined the rockfish limits for sport anglers need to be drastically cut in California. That's how the fish doctor has done it. Can you imagine any other doctor working like this? As word has circulated about this proposal, the DFG has just started getting hammered for it. So much so that a special meeting has just been scheduled by the Fish and Game Commission for Oct. 20 in Sacramento, to allow public comment and review of the entire proposal. In addition, by then the latest data from Oregon is supposed to be available. Like, wow. To provide your comment to the Fish and Game Commission, send an e-mail to email@example.com or write Fish & Game Commission, Room 1320, 1416 Ninth Street, Sacramento, CA 95814.