Fish and Game cracks down on fishing rules

January 12, 2012 9:33:28 PM PST
A crackdown is underway in some of the Bay Area's protected marine areas where even those who have permits aren't allowed to fish. ABC7 went out with a team looking for violations.

The California Department of Fish and Game has one large boat to cover all of the California waters from the Bay Area to the Oregon border. However, when they take the boat out, they are serious.

Diehards will argue that even the worst day of fishing beats most others spent on shore, but for those who play fast and loose with the rules, Fish and Game's boat can ruin a good day real fast.

"They should know. We publish it. It's been on the books for this particular area for more than a year," said Lt. Andy Roberts from Fish and Game.

Fish and Game is undermanned out here, but do have a knack of knowing where to go and when.

On Thursday, Fish and Game had intelligence about illegal commercial crab pots out at the Montara State Marine Preserve. This time of year, hundreds, if not thousands of crab buoys bob on the water, but the marine preserve is off limits. Fish and Game has the right to pull any pot.

More than once on Thursday Fish and Game found what they were looking for -- a string of illegal pots from one boat. They came up with identification and laden with crab.

"It is set in the closure and it's being actively fished, it's got fresh bait in it, it's got crab in it," said Ian Baerry, a game warden from Fish and Game.

Baerry threw the crabs back after photographing him, but that wasn't all he did on this day. He had to also board a fisherman's boat.

Boardings are fairly routine in this environment and violations don't simply materialize. Inside the three-mile limit, Fish and Game goes looking for them.

When Fish and Game measured the fisherman's crab, that's where the crew's good day of fishing turned bad. Measurements showed that two of 20 crabs caught were undersized.

Boat owner Larry Roggasch told us he has fished all his life and that this is the first time Fish and Game ever cited him.

"There is no excuse for it. Somebody didn't measure crabs," said Roggasch.

Fish and Game let Roggasch keep most of the crabs he caught, except for the two that were undersized. Those two crabs were seized and frozen. The major good news for the fishing boat crew was that Fish and Game, which does play by the rules, found them just 50 feet outside the restricted area.

"Legal is legal. Just like short is short, legal is legal," said Baerry.

As for the violations, Fish and Game takes them seriously. The undersized crabs will result in a ticket that will be sent to the San Mateo County District Attorney. As for the pots, that's a bigger case also headed to the District Attorney. Fines for are at the judge's discretion.