Fisherman says he's shocked by charges

Bodega Bay captain arrested in statewide Fish and Game
sting over illegal sport-fishing practices

August 23, 2002
Michael Coit
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

The Bodega Bay skipper arrested in a statewide crackdown on illegal fishing said he was surprised but declined further comment on the charges filed against him.

"I'm pretty much shocked," said Rick Powers, who was arrested outside his business by state fish and game wardens Monday. "I'm just trying to sort through this thing and get a handle on the charges."

Powers, 48, was arrested with deckhand Atsushi Yamashita, 33, on suspicion of conspiracy and four misdemeanors. Both men face arraignment in Sonoma County court Sept. 3.

The conspiracy charge is a felony, and alleges illegal fishing practices over the past year. It carries a potential three-year prison sentence.

The misdemeanors allege exceeding limits on catches, taking undersize fish, taking salmon on illegal hooks, and failing to keep accurate fishing records to be filed with the state Department of Fish and Game. Yamashita doesn't face the records charge.

Powers has been fishing out of Bodega Bay for more than 18 years and is a leader in the fishing industry. He takes sport fishermen out on his two boats, New Sea Angler and Predator.

Powers is vice president of the Golden Gate Fishermen's Association, a nonprofit organization representing passenger fishing boat owners and operators that was founded in 1948.

He also is a member of an advisory committee to the Pacific Fisheries Management Council, the federal agency that regulates ocean fishing.

There are 408 party boats licensed by the state Department of Fish and Game.

The investigation was launched in response to complaints fishermen made to state fish and game officials and the federal fisheries management agency.

Wardens posing as fishermen went on 18 boats from San Diego to Fort Bragg and found violations on 14.

North Coast party-boat captains, including Powers, have said they were aware wardens have gone undercover to watch for illegal conduct.

"I knew that in certain situations that tactic had been implemented in the past," Powers said in a brief interview.

You can reach Staff Writer Michael Coit at 521-5470 or