With just a few days before Christmas it looks like Californians might be receiving a lump of coal in their stocking, courtesy of the bureaucrats at the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG). The California Fish and Game Commission will be considering new regulations on fish stocking in public and private ponds, lakes and streams later this week that, at the very least, will severely impact the recreational fishing industry in California and could possibly destroy it.
Like many Californians, some of my fondest childhood memories include days on the shore of a stream or lake fishing with my Dad. It is a tradition I carried on with my own children and plan to continue with my grandchildren. Unfortunately, what is being proposed by the DFG threatens to destroy this family-friendly outdoor activity.
The DFG claims that planted fish (usually Rainbow trout) will possibly degrade a few native species located in certain high mountain areas of the State. Fish stocking has been going on in California for over 120 years without causing any type of environmental problems. In spite of the past success of fish stocking programs, DFG regulators seem to be basing the new regulations on a hunch rather than science.
Under the proposed regulations, owners of small lakes could pay in excess of $100,000 annually to comply with rigorous and unnecessary testing requirements. The regulatory costs alone would put most operators out of business. To make matters worse, DFG is also proposing that anglers fishing at these lakes be required to purchase a fishing license, even if the lake is privately owned, stocked and operated. Requiring a fishing license will more than double the cost of an entrance fee to most lakes, making fishing economically unreachable for most working class families. Gone would be the days of taking your kids out for an inexpensive afternoon of fishing.
These regulations will be catastrophic for most private fish hatcheries, as well as the many related industries that support the multi-billion dollar recreational fishing industry in California. The small cities of the Eastern Sierra mountains will feel the brunt of these unnecessary regulations as they are extremely dependent on the economic activity created by recreational fishing. Gas stations, restaurants, hotels, etc. would all see decreases in business. Have you ever traveled north from Southern California on Highway 395 in the summertime? It is bumper-to-bumper with RV’s, loaded with families headed for the mountains for a relaxing week of trout fishing. All that will be gone if the proposed regulations are adopted!
In Orange and Riverside Counties, the Santa Ana River Lakes and Corona Lake would be adversely impacted. For the past 35 years, the Elliott family has managed a small business that has operated these lakes where, for a small fee, you can enjoy a nice day of fishing. If the proposed regulations are enacted the cost to fish at these lakes will soar, customers will not show up and the Elliott’s will most likely have to close their small business, laying off 30-35 employees.
This unfortunate situation is a classic example of why California needs regulatory reform that will promote job growth, rather than strangling it dead. While the state is struggling to recover from one of the worst economic downturns in history and experiencing record unemployment, regulators at the DFG are busy devising and trying to implement regulations that, if adopted, could devastate a billion dollar industry, shut down a family business in Orange County that has been operating for decades and cause thousands of Californians to lose their jobs.
Regulations cannot be approved in a vacuum. We don’t need “job killer” rules and regulations that serve no purpose, are not founded on scientific evidence, and hurt small business owners like the Elliotts. These burdensome and unnecessary regulations will be considered for adoption at the California Fish and Game Commission meeting in San Diego later this week. I intend to testify at this hearing and urge the Commission to reject these unwarranted and dangerous regulations. I hope that many of my fellow anglers will join me.
May the wind be at your back and always remember to keep a tight line.