Bay anglers facing new security zones

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Bay anglers facing new security zones

Tom Stienstra, SF Chronicle Staff Writer    

Wednesday, October 3, 2001

The two best fishing spots in South San Francisco Bay have been closed to all boats with the creation of federal security zones for San Francisco and Oakland international airports -- and any boater entering these areas can be arrested for a felony and have the boat seized.

The new security zones extend 1 mile into the bay from the shoreline of each airport.

"The Coast Guard is working with local law enforcement to enforce the security zones," said Barry Lane of the U.S. Coast Guard. "If we see someone within a mile of these airports, we'll contact them."

Lane said that marker buoys will not be positioned to cordon off the areas, but that it is Coast Guard policy to arrest any boater who "willingly and knowingly" enters a security zone without permission, with a minimum fine of $5,000 and seizure of the boat.

The first test of the new law reportedly occurred late last week when a fisherman entered the security zone off San Francisco International Airport, and then attempted to outrun a Coast Guard skiff. He was chased down at Oyster Point Harbor and then was seen being arrested and taken away, though the Coast Guard would not confirm the report.

"Sure, a lot of people saw it," said Mike Routson, who works at Oyster Point Bait. "He tried to get away and they caught him here and had him in handcuffs."

The new closed area off SFO is often considered by fishing experts as the best spot in the bay in spring and late summer for striped bass, especially at a spot called the "Birdcage."

The area off Oakland International Airport also is known to be outstanding for halibut in the spring, and for sturgeon in the winter. It has also been a tremendous site for commercial fishing for herring in the winter months, according to local anglers.

"I've seen as many as 150 boats this year off the Oakland Airport," said Art Roby, who captains the Play'n Hooky. "In the last eight years, these (areas) have been our mainstays for the spring halibut and winter sturgeon. If we don't have these spots, we'll be hurting."

That was affirmed by businesses that service anglers who have fished these areas.

"It will definitely have an impact," said Craig Stone, who works at Emeryville Sportfishing, which has a fleet of eight boats. "We certainly have had some years where the bulk of the halibut are down there."

"This is going to have a giant impact on my business," Routson said. "Some of the best fishing spots in the South Bay are now off limits."

E-mail Tom Stienstra at tstienstra@sfchronicle.com.
 

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