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Santa Barbara Tackles Fishing Ordinance for Stearns Wharf

No municipal ordinance backs up the 'No Fishing' signs, but city staff plan to change that so they can enforce designated fishing areas at the popular waterfront destination

Nicolas Hosking, left, helps his friend Alex Hernandez remove a mackerel from a fish hook Monday at Stearns Wharf. Both of them support the city’s plan to enforce the “No Fishing” areas with signs in other areas of the wharf.
Nicolas Hosking, left, helps his friend Alex Hernandez remove a mackerel from a fish hook Monday at Stearns Wharf. Both of them support the city’s plan to enforce the “No Fishing” areas with signs in other areas of the wharf. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

More than a dozen "No Fishing" signs decorate Santa Barbara's Stearns Wharf, but it turns out those signs are merely suggestions.

The city doesn't have an ordinance that bans fishing from any area of the wharf so if people want to fish, even in front of the "No Fishing" signs, they can. The Harbor Patrol has no authority to ticket them or make them stop.

But that's about to end.

The City of Santa Barbara will tackle a designated fishing area ordinance at an ordinance committee meeting scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Tuesday at Santa Barbara City Hall, 735 Anacapa St.

Mick Kronman, Santa Barbara's waterfront director, said people casting lines near pedestrians, motorists and small children is unsafe, and a practice that needs to stop.

"It's a very small group of fishermen who ignore the 'No Fishing' signs, and unfortunately, when they say, 'Show us the no-fishing ordinance,' we can't," Kronman said. "Right now we have signs, but there's no teeth to them."

The city, Kronman said, plans to designate fishing zones and remove many of the existing "No Fishing" signs. The signs that remain will have a municipal code number to coincide with the directive.

Alex Hernandez catches a mackerel Monday afternoon off the end of Stearns Wharf, where fishing is allowed. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

A few of the fishermen thumb their nose at the signs, Kronman said, because they know there's a loophole. The Harbor Patrol has no authority to issue citations in these areas.

Nicolas Hosking, his sister Annabelle and his friend Alex Hernandez, all high school students from Santa Ynez, were fishing Monday on the edge of the wharf, in an area where fishing is allowed. They fish for mackerel and crab off the edge of the pier during the summer.

They said they have seen people fishing in front in front of the "No Fishing" signs.

"I think people probably fish there because it's less crowded," Nicolas Hosking said. 

Most of the fishing takes place toward the end of the wharf, where there is no railing and where there's no need to overhead cast. Anyone fishing in the "No Fishing" areas is doing so next to a railing, where an overhead cast is more likely. 

The city is planning to adopt an ordinance to stop people from fishing in the middle of Stearns Wharf, where "No Fishing" signs aren't enforceable now. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

Hernandez, who caught two fish within a span of five minutes off the edge of the wharf, said he supports a change.

"If it's a rule, it should be enforced," Hernandez said. 

City officials said they have tolerated the issue dating back to the 1980s, when they first painted "No Fishing" signs on the wharf. The signs have been generally effective in educating the public about where and where not to fish from Stearns Wharf, they said. 

Kronman said the city may alter the location of fishing in some areas for special events.

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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