Spear Fishing in the Parkway

Who Knew? Anyway, a cautionary note as reported by the article in the Sacramento Bee.

An excerpt.

“If you want to try spearfishing in the American River, don’t start by purchasing a spear gun, or investigating where to dive for the biggest bass. Instead, you may want to call your attorney first.

“New regulations approved by the California Fish and Game Commission in 2012 opened the American River to spearfishing for striped bass for the first time, and only downstream of Harrington Way, near Sacramento’s William Pond Recreation Area. The new rule took effect May 1 this year.

“Trouble is, the commission didn’t consult Sacramento County, which manages the American River Parkway as part of the county parks system.

“It classifies spears and spear guns as weapons, which are banned in the American River Parkway just like guns, and bows and arrows.

“In other words, if you drive to the parkway, pull your spear gun out of the trunk and walk over to the river, a county park ranger or a state game warden could cite you for a misdemeanor and confiscate your weapon.

“We received a lot of requests from the spearfishing community for an exception to be able to bring their spearfishing equipment across county property to the river,” said Jeffrey Leatherman, county parks director. “We decided not to issue that determination of an exception.”

“The county rule applies only on land. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife, which enforces fishing regulations, will support the county and enforce the ban – even though it does not consider spear guns to be weapons.

“We’re going to work with the county on that and we will be consistent with them in enforcing that regulation on the land part of the parkway,” said Tony Warrington, assistant chief of enforcement at Fish and Wildlife. “But not on the water.”

“This is where your lawyer may grin.

“For example, there may be places in the parkway where it is possible to walk into the American River without technically trespassing on county parkway land. From private property with river access, perhaps. Or within a public easement along the state Highway 160 and Interstate 80 bridges. Those easements exist in the annals of state law partly to protect public fishing rights.

“It’s not unusual to have these weird conflicts in laws,” said Douglas Whaley, a Sacramento County deputy district attorney who handles environmental crimes. “My recommendation is to be sure and talk to your lawyer before you go out and spearfish.”

“The only certain legal option is to arrive by boat, Warrington said. Licensed fishermen who follow all other regulations could maneuver boats from the Sacramento River into the American and legally spear fish from the water – as long as they return to their boats and leave the American River without setting foot on county parkway land.

“This necessarily limits the sport to spearfishermen who have boats. It also upsets traditional anglers who simply don’t want to see spearfishing in the river, said Joshua Russo, president of the Watermen’s Alliance, a statewide spearfishing and diving group.

“That’s where some of the confusion comes in, because anglers are trying to tell everyone it’s completely illegal,” said Russo, who lives in Fairfield. “So when they see a spearfisherman that’s legally fishing, they think he’s poaching.”

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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