Parimal M. Rohit
SANTA BARBARA — Anglers could soon be told exactly where they can drop a line from Stearns Wharf as the Santa Barbara Ordinance Committee backed a proposal on July 14 to designate specific fishing zones on the harbor-adjacent pier.
Committee members unanimously backed a Harbor Commission recommendation to establish “designated fishing areas” on Stearns Wharf to help ensure the safety of anglers and pier visitors. The ordinance, if approved by the Santa Barbara City Council, would help the Harbor Department and waterfront staff better manage crowds at Stearns Wharf.
“While the ‘No Fishing’ signs have been generally effective in educating the public about where and where not to fish from Stearns Wharf, waterfront staff occasionally has difficulty redirecting fishermen who choose to disregard the signs because the Santa Barbara Municipal Code is silent on this issue,” city staff said. “This matter has come into sharp focus in recent months, as a few fishermen have refused to vacate (informally designated) ‘no fishing’ areas, stating there is no law designating such no-fishing areas.”
Harbor Patrol was never granted authority to cite anglers who fished in “no fishing” areas.
The new ordinance will designate specific areas where anglers can fish and allow the waterfront department to alter fishing areas during special events or other unique situations.
Santa Barbara Harbor Operations Manager Mick Kronman said the current signage is outdated.
“We’ve investigated the nature of the ‘No Fishing’ signage out there and it needs [to be redone]. It’s all stenciled all over the rails,” Kronman said, adding his department hopes to reduce the number of “No Fishing” signs currently up by half. “It’s over-signed, quite frankly. We want to reduce sign pollution.”
City staff claimed the establishment and enforcement of designated fishing areas would benefit anglers and visitors alike.
“With one million pedestrians and 250,000 vehicles visiting Stearns Wharf every year, staff believes it important to help enhance the safety of fishermen and the public by designating permitted ‘Designated Fishing Areas’ on Stearns Wharf, areas traditionally used for this purpose,” city staff stated in its report to council members.
A destructive fire caused Stearns Wharf to be shut down in 1973. The pier reopened in 1981. Several informal fishing areas propped up on its seaward and shoreward fingers, including Plank Park. City officials helped promote the unofficial fishing areas by installing fish cleaning stations on each finger.
“By the mid-1980s, however, waterfront staff noticed that fishing was taking place well outside those areas, including behind buildings, at the Passenger Loading Ramp, at the Harbor Restaurant’s valet parking lot, at the wye between the main roadway and the shoreward finger and along the pedestrian right-of-way adjacent to the main roadway,” city staff stated. “As fishing proliferated beyond the informally designated areas, staff initiated a signage program, painting ‘No Fishing’ notices in areas throughout the Wharf (mostly on railings and on old piles used for sitting benches), to help ensure the safety of fishermen, pedestrians and vehicles.”
The Harbor Commission recommended the established designated fishing areas in April. The Ordinance Committee reviews proposed codes or laws ahead of a City Council deliberation. Council members Frank Hotchkiss, Cathy Murillo and Randy Rowse serve on the committee.