'Angler Update' serves to highlight differences between California and Arizona game and fish
By JIM MATTHEWS
The headline read: “California Lands Three of the Top 10 Family-Friendly Fishing Spots in the U.S.”
My interest was piqued.
So of course I read the rest of the “Angler Update” and find out that the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation has a promotion for anglers/boaters across the nation to pick their favorite spots each year (after pre-selecting 300 locations). It’s part of the groups’ effort to promote fishing. This non-profit group’s goal is to get more people into fishing and boating to support fishery conservation programs. More boaters and anglers mean more money. All fishing license money in all states and a hefty federal excise tax on all fishing and boating equipment goes to support fisheries. So to drum up interest, the group publishes the top 100 spots each year.
California had three in the top 10, and nine places in the top 100.
All this seems pretty cool, and I guarantee you that this news will get pretty good play by the we-know-nothing-about-outdoors-but-love-outdoor-stories media all across California.
The few remaining fishermen in California will scratch their heads over the story and laugh. Let me tell you the top three places:
Clear Lake in northern California came in No. 5 nationwide. We’ve all heard of this tremendous fishery and this choice makes sense.
Brannon Island State Recreation Area was next at No. 6. Did you draw a blank? Don’t feel badly. I’ve been outdoor writing in this state for 40-plus years, and I’d never heard of this place on the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Let’s chalk this up to being from Southern California. Once you know this is a vote for “the delta,” you’d get it. The Delta is an amazing fishery -- so maybe this is where everyone who fishes the Delta launches.
But now it gets really weird.
In the No. 7 spot was finally a Southern California location -- Dockweiler State Beach which “features a three-mile long shoreline with a picnic area and concession stand. Surf fishers regularly catch halibut, corbina, croaker and surfperch from the beach. The beach is located at the western terminus of Imperial Highway in Playa del Rey,” said the DFW release.
My face is all scrunched up into a question mark. Not that Dockweiler is a bad place to fish, but there are a lot of other spots that are so much better and just as family-friendly.
(Some of the other six spots are equally as perplexing. They were: Lake Shasta, Doran Regional Park and Malaekahana State Recreation Area, both in the Bay area, Yosemite National Park, Lake Havasu State Park, and -- go figure -- Echo Park, a Los Angeles County Park Lake. But the DFW didn’t mention these winners in its story.)
But what do people with the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation in Virginia know about California.
The astonishing part is that the DFW simply regurgitated the national press release. The only link the DFW provides for more information on Dockweiler (and all the other locations) is the state park website. For Dockweiler, fishing is NEVER mentioned on the parks’ site. It’s also never mentioned on the Los Angeles County website that is referenced off the parks’ site (LA County runs the park).
The DFW information also doesn’t reference the DFW’s fishing portions of its website, where there is actually some pretty good surf fishing information.
So what was the point? To brag that three waters were in the top 10 without knowing that anglers in this state will giggle at the report?
The DFW could have used the “news” to really promote fishing throughout the state, creating its own top 10 by region to really give anglers a list of waters to fish, referencing all of the DFW’s own resources. The staff could have poked fun at the national list for the tremendous family-fishing waters left out (Crowley Lake, Lake Isabella, Silverwood Lake, and about 100 others come quickly to mind). It could have included detailed fishing information about the spots that did “win” nationally and point out nearby ones that were actually better.
Why didn’t the DFW do that?
The only likely explanation is that the PR staffers who did the “three in the top 10” story don’t fish. They didn’t know that Dockweiler would make us laugh. They didn’t know some of the listed waters were a joke, and they didn’t know enough about fishing to capitalize on this news. They didn’t know where else to send anglers. We have world class fishing in California, but if you relied on the DFW, you’d never know that.
A NOTE ON USAGE: A “fisher” is a member of the weasel family. It is never, never, never a word fishermen or anglers use to describe themselves. Ever. We giggle when we see the word in print because we know the story was written by someone who doesn’t fish. Oh, I suppose the writer could be so terrified about being politically incorrect and/or sexist, they use a word not in our vernacular. But anyone who actually is a “fisherman” (and that is a gender-neutral word) isn’t likely to be wound up so tightly about a bogus concern over political correctness.
THE ARIZONA CONTRAST: Normally, my rant would end here, but I want to contrast our DFW with the Arizona Game and Fish Department. First, the AZGFD has a statewide weekly fishing report. So do game and fish departments in Nevada and Utah.
That is an incredible public service those agencies provide for anglers fishing those states’ waters. Those states all have innovative stocking programs, do angler surveys and research on sport fish, and they go out of their way to help anglers. In blunt terms, those agencies pander to the license-buying public and provide bang for the fees fishermen pay. California is fine with taking money from anglers, but outside of a declining and decrepit trout stocking program, you’d be hard pressed to find much our state does for anglers.
Part of that is because we don’t learn about the cool things our state’s fishery biologists ARE doing. It’s almost as though the Sacramento PR office is afraid or ashamed to tell the incredible stories of Diamond Valley Lake or the evolving management of Crowley Lake, to give but two examples. But we get none of this.
The other part, equally as sad, is that there’s not a lot being done, especially compared to other states.
ONE FINAL SHOT: One final comparison shot. The Arizona Game and Fish Department sent out a press release this week about how it was “asking the Sierra Club to retract a fundraising letter that makes false statements about Arizona’s endangered condor population.”
Stop right there and think about that.
I don’t want to bore you with all the Arizona details, but the Sierra Club sent out a fundraising letter implying that uranium mines were reopening and that uranium was a hazard to condors. Both statements are false, so the AZGFD called them out on it. No mines are open or opening, and uranium has never been identified as a threat to condors. Ever.
Now imagine the our DFW taking to task Project Coyote or Humane Society or Center for Biological Diversity over ignoring the science when fundraising or lobbying. Imagine if our DFW called out all the groups raising money with condors using the lies and misrepresentations they have made recently about lead from hunter’s ammunition. Lead ammunition has been banned in the condor zone for over a decade and compliance has been about as close to 100 percent as possible. Yet condors continue to have high blood lead levels, and the groups continue to blame hunters. We know hunter lead was a problem, but that problem has been solved. Where is our DFW standing up for us? They never have. In fact, our DFW director said the facts don’t matter and supported the statewide legislative lead ban under the guise that would somehow help condors.
I understand, however, that the DFW director is a “fisher.”
[Jim Matthews is a syndicated Southern California-based outdoor reporter and columnist. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 909-887-3444.]