recreational fisherman caught 10X legal limit of rockfish in 2003

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Posted by Chris on April 29, 2004 at 20:14:06:

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (AP) - A good rockfishing season last year is cutting short the season this year.

Fish and Game officials say more recreational fisherman caught 494 tons of rockfish in 2003, or 10 times the legal limit.

The department set a limit of 10 near-shore rockfish a day for anglers and an annual limit of 44 tons for sportfishers. But Fish and Game didn't realize the restrictions had been exceeded until after the catch was in.

This year, anglers will still be able to stand on shore and reel in rockfish, often called red snapper. But party boat skippers and those who like to fish from boats are out of luck until Aug. 1.

The season was scheduled to open Saturday for two months, then close for two months, reopening Sept. 1 for another two months. Instead, it will open Aug. 1 and close Oct. 31, eliminating the most popular summer fishing months.

"There's generally a huge fishing effort and a huge amount of take in May, June and July," said Deb Wilson-Vandenberg, a research manager at state Fish and Game. "If we're going to make a change, we want to do it at a time of year it will actually have an impact."

Sam Lefkowitz of Cazadero fishes from shore and says the regulations won't affect him, but he has empathy for those who go out in little skiffs for a day of fishing.

"Look at Bodega Bay. Look at all the little boats people own. All they want is to catch rockfish within their range -- that's what's been lost," Lefkowitz said. "It hurts them bad, and there's a lot of them."

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