More than half of Newport Harbor's public docks may be off-limits to fishing if the Newport Beach Harbor Commission's recommendations take effect.
The commission voted Wednesday night to ban fishing from six of the harbor's 11 public docks, which are also referred to as public piers.
The ban is intended to protect the piers — some of which were recently refurbished — from fishermen who stomp on mussels, cast their lines in the way of boat traffic, and who take up space where boaters could be docking. Many fishermen who use the public docks are from inland cities, and many of the boaters are from Newport, causing a sometimes tense situation that the city now seeks to defuse.
"We have to make sure that the public piers are open so the boaters can access them," said Harbor Commissioner Ralph Rodheim.
Some of the fishermen have refused to move when boaters want to dock, Rodheim said, and the boaters have had to call the Harbor Patrol to remove the fishermen in some instances.
"Most are respectful, others are not," Rodheim said.
At issue are 10 public piers throughout the harbor and one proposed pier where boaters dock temporarily to load passengers and supplies, or where they park dinghies overnight while they stay on land.
Fishing would be prohibited on the Balboa Peninsula docks at 15th and 19th Streets, near the Balboa Fun Zone at Washington Street and north of Newport Landing at Fernando Street. It would also be barred from the Opal Street dock on the south side of Balboa Island and from the proposed pier at the Rhine Wharf. Most of those locations have a lot of boat traffic.
Fishermen often cast from these docks, setting up a maze of lines for sailors and powerboaters to navigate.
Jimmy Decker, a local fishing guide and past president of the Balboa Angling Club, grew up fishing on docks around the harbor. He said public docks play an important part in the fishing community, especially for those just getting into the sport.
"I love the public docks being there for the kids to use," he said.
If more than half of the docks are restricted, the others would be too crowded, and disputes could break out over territory, said Decker.
Rodheim and other boaters say that fishermen can cast off from beaches as well, but many have grown accustomed to fishing from the docks.
"I'm against it because we grew up fishing on the docks our whole life," said Elliott Thacker, 24, who was fishing at 15th Street Thursday. "If you don't have a boat, and you don't have any way to get out there, where else are you going to go to fish?"